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The Washington Report: April 16, 2021 … “Corporations Are People Too”

16 Apr 2021

The Washington Report: April 16, 2021 … “Corporations Are People Too”

Headaches … Infrastructure … Semiconductors … Earmarks  … Healthcare … Gaetz-gate … ‘It’s Time To End The Forever War’ … Corporations Are People Too … and other news of the week.
Best,
JR
Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners
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Pelosi’s Latest Headache

Politico “Which is a hotter ticket: Beyonce’s first post-pandemic concert or President Joe Biden’s first address to Congress? Washington is about to find out. Even as life slowly returns to normal on Capitol Hill amid the shrinking threat of Covid, strict safety protocols will remain in place for Biden’s April 28 joint address inside the House chamber. That means only 200 … will likely be allowed to attend the distanced and heavily sanitized event, a far cry from the typical crowds for a prime-time presidential speech.

“Such tight limits mean Democrats are already jockeying to score one of the precious few seats. … Jockeying” is one word for it. We’re told the situation surrounding Biden’s speech is already downright contentious.”

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Senate Explores An Infrastructure Deal

On Thursday, Biden ally Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) floated a two-pronged approach to infrastructure: a bipartisan bill on core infrastructure spending, followed by a second bill that includes all the other stuff Biden has proposed in his American Jobs Plan and the forthcoming American Families Plan.The two parties might be able to agree on spending. House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) sounded pretty bullish about the $600 billion to $800 billion number floated by Sen. Shelly Moore Caputo (R-W.Va.). But it’s prudent to be skeptical. Democrats want infrastructure spending that addresses climate change and racial equity goals, which are not GOP priorities. But even if they can agree on what highways, bridges and airports to fix, the two sides are miles apart on how to pay for it. Meanwhile several Republicans are balking at the Coons two-step, noting that they are not interested in a bipartisan deal if it means Democrats will then pass a giant reconciliation bill. On the flip side, several Democrats don’t like the two-bill option because they fear the second bill may never happen.”
Bottom line: The prospects for a bipartisan bill are a little higher now, but the most likely scenario remains a very large reconciliation bill that is essentially too big to fail — because of the damage it would do to the Biden presidency — that every Democrat, including Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), feel obligated to support.

Semiconductor Moonshot

WSJ “President Biden’s expansive infrastructure proposal includes $50 billion for the American semiconductor industry, … amid a global chip shortage and fears that China might be overtaking the U.S. in a critical technology. Mr. Biden’s plan, released Wednesday, seeks to leverage bipartisan support on Capitol Hill to subsidize domestic manufacturing and chip research. The $50 billion will go toward production incentives and research and design, including the creation of a National Semiconductor Technology Center, administration officials said. Mr. Biden has broad bipartisan support for aiding the semiconductor industry, including from Republican lawmakers.”
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Earmark Hustle

 “Senate Republicans at war over earmarks” Politico “The battle is pitting a group of prominent earmark-hating Republicans, many of whom are weighing a presidential run, against supporters of a return to the past. GOP fans of such congressionally directed spending count an influential supporter in the former president still trying to control their party. … [S]everal senators said privately it was unclear where the majority of the conference will be next Wednesday when the party casts its deciding votes on earmarks. Moreover, the ballots may be cast secretly, making a return to earmarks more likely to pass. [Sen. Ted] Cruz will offer an amendment to make the vote recorded, rather than secret ballot, and also will seek to bar earmarks related to family, staff and political organizations, according to a list of proposals provided by a GOP source.”
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COVID: The Next Phase

“Biden administration investing $1.7B to better track Covid-19 variants,” “The money, from the last pandemic relief package, will go toward sequencing the genomes of coronavirus samples, creating six new new genomic epidemiology centers and building a national bioinformatics infrastructure to unify how sequencing data is shared and analyzed. The first tranche of money — $240 million — will go to boost states’ genomic sequencing of virus samples with the aim of better understanding of how Covid-19 variants are circulating in communities.”
Meanwhile … Vice “Federal health agencies have recommended that states pause their rollout of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine after six women developed “a rare and severe type of blood clot” within about two weeks of getting vaccinated.” Perspective: The risk of blood clots from birth control pills is 1 in 1,000 and is considered a low-risk side effect,” tweeted Rebecca Wind, a reproductive health advocate. “The risk from the J&J vaccine is 1 in 1,000,000.”
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Biden Aims Big On Health Care

Axios “Democrats hope to add a huge array of health spending to upcoming legislation, including ACA subsidies and allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription prices. Why it matters: The next few months may give Democrats the opportunity to walk the walk after campaigning extensively on health care for years, and to plug some of the glaring holes in the system that were exposed by the pandemic. President Biden is preparing a giant package of family-related policies, including health care. Speaker Pelosi is pushing the White House to prioritize a permanent expansion of the ACA’s premium subsidies, the WashPost reports. The last coronavirus package expanded them through 2022. More info coming.
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America (Not Even Recognizable As America) First Caucus

Punchbowl “[The] America First Caucus” in Congress — linked to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) has been distributing materials calling for a “common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and a return to architectural style that “befits the progeny of European architecture.”(Yes, you read that right.) Reps. Barry Moore (R-Ala.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) have also agreed to join the group, according to an email invitation obtained by Punchbowl News.
 We’ve been covering Congress for a long time, and this is some of the most nakedly nativist rhetoric we’ve ever seen. (Define nativist — someone who stands for the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigration.)

Here are some eye-popping sections of the literature…

  • Under the “Immigration” section: “America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”
    More: “History has shown that societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country. While certain economic and financial interest groups benefit immensely from mass immigration, legal as well as illegal, and the aggregate output of the country increases, the reality of large segments of our society [,] as well as the long-term existential future of America as a unique country with a unique culture and a unique identity being put at unnecessary risk [,] is something our leaders can afford to ignore no longer.”
  • Under the “Infrastructure” section: “The America First Caucus will work towards an infrastructure that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom.”
  • In the “Education” section: “[O]ur education has worked to actively undermine pride in America’s great history and is actively hostile to the civic and cultural assimilation necessary for a strong nation.”
  • In the “Election Fraud” section: “Across the country federal elections have been undermined by using voting machines that are readily compromised and illegally accessed whereby results appear manipulated, voters are disenfranchised, and faith in our system eroded. “Mail-in voting, long recognized as subject to fraud, has become normalized. We will work towards an end to mail-in voting, implementation of national voter ID and substantive investigations into mass voter fraud perpetrated during the 2020 election.”
The group says that they are trying to carry out the tradition of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Who Are These People?

Gosar repeatedly spread false conspiracy theories about the November elections, and he recently spoke at a white nationalist conference. He once suggested the 2017 Charlottesville riots was a “false flag” operation. Greene has been at the center of national controversy since last year’s campaign. Politico “uncovered hours of Facebook videos in which she expresses racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic views.” In February, Democrats kicked Greene off her House committees over her past comments and rhetoric.” Stay Tuned.
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Gaetz-Gate

HOW IT UNFOLDED — “How the Justice Department came to investigate Rep. Matt Gaetz,” WaPo: “The allegations against [Orlando-area preparatory school teacher Brian] Beute — who was running in a local tax collector’s race — federal investigators concluded, had been fabricated by his incumbent opponent, Joel Greenberg, in a bid to smear him. But when authorities arrested Greenberg and sifted through his electronic records and devices — according to documents and people involved in the case — they discovered a medley of other alleged wrongdoing, leading them to open an investigation of possible sex trafficking involving a far more high-profile Florida Republican: Rep. Matt Gaetz. Greenberg, initially charged in a two-count indictment related to his alleged effort to smear Beute, now faces 33 federal charges, including sex trafficking of a child, aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and bribery. He has pleaded not guilty, but at a court hearing in Orlando last week, his attorney and a prosecutor on the case said they are in plea negotiations. Greenberg, according to a person familiar with the matter, has been providing investigators information about Gaetz since last year in a bid for leniency — a potentially ominous sign for the congressman, though any account Greenberg offers will face significant questions because of the crimes of which he is accused. They include fraud and fabricating evidence against a political rival.”
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Sanctions

Yesterday, the US announced new sanctions against Russia (again) for hacking into several US gov agencies and meddling in the 2020 election. Last year, Russia hit 18,000 gov and private computer users with a software virus, allowing spies to reportedly sift through and steal files from 250 fed agencies and companies including Justice, State, Treasury, Energy, and Commerce Depts. All the while, the Kremlin also kept busy by trying to undermine the 2020 election in favor of former President Trump. Gov officials have said there’s no evidence the Kremlin altered any votes, but they did deploy their proxies to push fake news in the media about then-candidate Joe Biden. Now, the US is expelling 10 Russian diplomats from the US and sanctioning dozens of companies and individuals. And cutting access to US banks. In retaliation, Russia, will now expel 10 U.S. diplomats.”
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Ending Two Decades Of Sacrifice

“It’s Time To End The Forever War”
Axios “It’s time to end America’s longest war,” President Biden declared today from the Treaty Room of the White House. The U.S. will fully exit Afghanistan by Sept. 11 of this year, regardless of the conditions on the ground. Why it matters: Biden said waiting for the “right moment” was “a recipe for keeping American troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.”
“I am now the fourth United States president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats,” Biden said “I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
After 20 years — 7,130 days — from 2001 through yesterday, the Afghanistan War will end.”
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Corporations Are People Too

WaPo “And some of those people want to beat back a wave of GOP-driven legislative proposals imposing new restrictions on voting, risking a backlash from a party still largely in Donald Trump’s hands. The former president’s falsehood that he was cheated out of a second term has led Republicans to push more than 360 elections bills setting new voting restrictions in 47 states, according to the Brennan Center. Where GOP officials characterize those efforts as safeguards against systemic fraud, for which there is no evidence, Brennan calls them voter suppression. Those proposals, in turn, have fueled a backlash from corporate America, and then a backlash-to-the-backlash from Trump-aligned Republicans, deepening a political rift between the GOP and traditional allies in a cash-rich constituency, with unpredictable results for the party’s future fundraising. [Last] Saturday, more than 100 chief executives and corporate leaders met online to plot a strategy to fight those proposals, including the new law in Georgia prompting Major League Baseball to move its All-Star Game from the Peach State.

Leaders from dozens of companies such as Delta, American, United, Starbucks, Target, LinkedIn, Levi Strauss and Boston Consulting Group, along with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, were included on the weekend’s Zoom call, according to people who listened in.”

Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of the call … “Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express Co., and Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co., urged the leaders to collectively call for greater voting access, according to several people who attended. Messrs. Chenault and Frazier cautioned businesses against dropping the issue and asked CEOs to sign a statement opposing what they view as discriminatory legislation on voting, the people said.”

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Joe’s 59% Approval Rating

As Mr. Biden nears his 100th day in office, his approval rating stood at 59 %, according to a Pew Research Center poll, with 39 percent of respondents disapproving of his performance in office. That’s a small but meaningful uptick from his 54 percent approval in a Pew poll last month. In the most recent survey, two-thirds of the country approved of the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 aid package that Mr. Biden recently signed … The president got particularly high marks with regard to managing and distributing coronavirus vaccines. Seventy-two percent of Americans said his administration had done this well, including 55 percent of Republicans and independents who lean toward the G.O.P.

And Whatabout Congress?

Americans’ increasingly positive views about the politicians in Washington extended to their representatives in Congress. For the first time in almost two decades, half of Americans expressed approval of the job that congressional Democrats were doing. Americans’ views of their representatives in Washington have long been rather dismal, and for congressional Republicans, public approval remains deeply negative: Just 32 percent approved of their performance. Over all, just 36 percent of the country expressed a generally favorable opinion of Congress. Still, that was as high as it has been at any point in the past decade.”
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U.S. Economy on Spending Surge

WSJ “The U.S. economic recovery is accelerating as stimulus money, Covid-19 vaccinations and business re-openings spur a spring surge in consumer spending, a sharp pullback in layoffs and a bounceback in factory output. Retail sales—a measure of purchases at stores, at restaurants and online—jumped 9.8% in March, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The gain in consumer spending—the biggest driver of economic activity—came as the government began distributing hundreds of billions of dollars of stimulus funds to households. It was the largest monthly gain since last May, during the initial recovery from lockdowns early in the Covid-19 pandemic.”
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A Chicago police officer shot and killed a 13-year-old boy.  A child.

theSkimm “Late last month, a police officer fatally shot Adam Toledo – a seventh grade Latino boy – in a predominantly Latino neighborhood of Chicago, IL. Yesterday, Chicago officials released body cam footage of his last moments. Police said they were responding to reports of gunshots in the area when they allegedly saw Toledo and 21-year-old Ruben Roman in an alley. The officer began chasing Toledo who ran away. About 20 seconds into the foot pursuit, an officer identified as Eric Stillman yells “stop right f***ing now” as he catches up to him. Toledo complies. Then Stillman shouts “show me your f***ing hands.” Toledo (again) complies, turning around with his hands up. Immediately after, Stillman shoots Toledo in the chest, killing him.
Axios “Bodycam video, released more than two weeks after the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago, shows the young boy ditching a handgun during an alley chase before turning toward the officer with his empty hands raised.
“[T]he city’s focus inevitably turned toward the crucial split second showing the shooting itself — the grainy, graphic end to the life of the youngest person fatally shot by Chicago police in years,” the Chicago Tribune reports. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot described the footage as “excruciating,” and urged the public to remain calm.

Case Enters Final Phase …

Derek Chauvin’s. Yesterday, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right and chose not to take the stand, ending testimony of his murder trial. Chauvin’s facing murder and manslaughter charges for the killing of George Floyd last year. Both sides are scheduled to deliver closing arguments on Monday. And then comes: deliberation. Jurors will reportedly be able to take as long as they need to either convict or acquit. The verdict must be unanimous. If not, the judge could call a mistrial. When: A decision could come as soon as early next week. And Minneapolis is reportedly ramping up security amid concerns of civil unrest. (theSkimm)

Justice For Daunte

Sunday’s shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, was just 10 miles from where George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last year. … In graphic body camera footage shown to reporters on Monday, one officer can be seen pointing a handgun at him and shouting “Taser.” After the car pulls away, the officer yells an obscenity and says, “I just shot him” to two other officers, according to the video.The car traveled several blocks and struck another vehicle. The police and medical workers pronounced Mr. Wright dead at the scene.
Context: Kim Potter, the former police officer was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, according to Minnesota law. The big picture: Police said at a press conference the day after the shooting that Potter appeared to have inadvertently pulled out her gun instead of a Taser during a traffic stop. Both Potter and Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon submitted their resignations on Tuesday. A New York Times review of 15 so-called “weapon confusion” cases of police shooting people found that only five were indicted and three ultimately convicted.”

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