The Guardian’s Nina Lakhani reports:
Legislation to cancel utility debts for millions of low-income households and bail out struggling utility companies is to be introduced in the US Senate on Thursday.
Jeff Merkley, a Democratic senator from Oregon, will propose a $30bn low-interest loans program for electric, water and sewage and broadband providers as part of the Maintaining Access to Essential Services During the Covid Emergency Act of 2021.
The loans would allow utilities to recoup money in order to stay afloat without resorting to fines and shutoffs. Utilities have long justified using disconnections as a way to force people to keep up with bills.
“We cannot rebuild the strength and resilience of America from the ground up if millions of families lose electricity, water and broadband, we have to keep these essential services turned on if people are going to get back on their feet,” Merkley told the Guardian. “This is like PPE for utilities. If we can get the concept in place, we can later add more funds if needed.”
It’s unclear how much is owed to utility companies nationwide, though it is probably significantly more than the $30bn earmarked in the bill.
Senator Bernie Sanders has argued for the necessity of his resolution opposing a US sale of weapons to Israel, which he is expected to introduce today.
“I believe that the United States must help lead the way to a peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians,” the progressive senator said on Twitter in response to a story about his planned resolution.
He added, “We need to take a hard look at whether the sale of these weapons is actually helping do that, or whether it is simply fueling conflict.”
Sanders’ language mirrors that of a separate resolution he introduced yesterday, which emphasized the importance of Israeli and Palestinian lives.
“Whereas every Palestinian life matters; and whereas every Israeli life matters: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate … urges an immediate cease-fire,” Sanders’ resolution said.
The resolution was in response to a separate measure from Republican senator Rick Scott affirming US support for Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene his security cabinet in a couple of hours to discuss a possible ceasefire in Gaza, according to a correspondent at Walla News.
Biden called on Netanyahu to work toward a ceasefire yesterday, but the prime minister then said Israeli is “determined” to continue the Gaza airstrikes until their aims are met.
However, Israeli military leaders have now signaled they believe the attacks have already achieved their “goals”.
Gaza attacks ease after Biden calls for ‘significant de-escalation’
The Guardian’s Oliver Holmes and Julian Borger report:
Israel and Palestinian militants halted their fire for several hours early on Thursday as efforts to reach a truce appeared to gather momentum, a day after Joe Biden called publicly for progress towards a ceasefire.
It was not immediately clear if the eight-hour quiet – the longest since the attacks began 11 days ago – was part of an agreement or a temporary lull in the violence.
The brief calm was broken later on Thursday when air-raid sirens sounded in Israel near the Gaza frontier, and Israel’s military said a fighter jet had struck a rocket launcher.
However, previous ceasefires have been preceded by similar hours-long halts in fighting, which are seen as a trust-building measure. A Hamas official had earlier said a ceasefire was in reach, and Israeli media reports suggested the military believed its “goals” had largely been met.
Sanders to introduce resolution disapproving of arms sale to Israel – reports
Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.
Progressive senator Bernie Sanders plans to introduce a resolution today disapproving of the US selling $735 million of weapons to Israel, according to multiple reports.
The Washington Post reports:
The resolution aims to halt the planned sale to Israel by the Biden administration of JDAMs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and Small Diameter Bombs, as the worst hostilities in years continue between Israel and Hamas. The resolution needs only a simple majority to pass the Senate; but if it were to be vetoed by President Joe Biden, it would need a two-thirds majority in both chambers to take effect.
Sanders told the Post: “At a moment when US-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children, we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a congressional debate.”
The resolution comes a day after Biden called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make immediate progress toward “de-escalation” in Gaza. A ceasefire appears to be within reach after days of violence that have killed hundreds of people, most of them Palestinian.
The blog will have more details on the resolution and the potential ceasefire coming up, so stay tuned.