Move Fast & Fix Things … What’s Keeping Congress Busy … Teamwork Makes The Dream Work, Baby … Tax Rates … Climate … Liz Chaney v. MAGA … George [We Will Remember] Floyd … Next Gen Loves Joe … and other news of the week.
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I did not expect him to be as big and bold as he’s been.”
– Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn
In Five Days …
President Biden will address Congress as president for the first time. He’s waited a lifetime to do this. Biden sat in the crowd for dozens of these speeches as a senator in his 36 years in Congress. He sat on the dais behind Barack Obama for another nine. But this time, he gets to be center stage. Coming nearly 100 days after his inauguration — another severely scaled-down affair due to the Covid-19 pandemic — Biden gets the star treatment during the biggest annual set piece in American politics.
> FIRST TIME EVER, TWO WOMEN — VP Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi — will be sitting behind the president during an address to Congress. That’s an amazing visual. It was only 14 years years ago that Pelosi was the first woman to sit behind the president for a joint session.”
DC Statehood Bill. Yesterday, the Democratic-controlled House passed legislation to make Washington, DC, the 51st US state. In the federal district, DC’s residents can vote in the presidential election. But they have no representation in the Senate – despite having a larger population than Vermont and Wyoming. For years, DC residents (86%) have wanted to get equal representation in Congress and expand voting rights to a population that’s 46% Black. But Republicans say ‘this isn’t in the Constitution’ and argue the bill’s a ploy for Dems to get more congresspeople on their side (DC’s largely blue). Now, the bill heads to the Senate, where it’s expected to fail for the second year in a row.
Anti-Asian Hate Crime Bill. Politico “The measure, which would create a Justice Department position focusing on the issue and beef up state and local hate crime reporting, soared through the chamber by a 94-1 vote. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the only vote against the bill. The bill gained traction after six Asian women were killed in the Atlanta area last month. And as a report showed major US cities saw a 150% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes last year – partly attributed to former President Trump’s xenophobic language during the pandemic. Now, the DOJ could be asked to review coronavirus-related hate crimes, and the measure would help fund states and local govs to identify hate crimes. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who sponsored the bill, said it “sends a clear and unmistakable message of solidarity” to the AAPI community. The bill heads to the House, where it’s expected to pass on to President Biden for his signature.
What’s Next For Police Reform? The DOJ has opened a sweeping probe of Minneapolis policing practices and there’s legislation on the table in Washington. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harrisalso called on the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Meanwhile, “Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) plans to reintroduce his counter-proposal and has discussed a potential compromise with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). (Axios)
Punchbowl “Yesterday … in the Capitol we noticed how many substantive bipartisan policy conversations were going on at once, and how many seem to be making modest progress. It’s too early to tell whether there will be any actual deals from these discussions. But after a year — really a presidency — that saw virtually no such interactions, there’s suddenly bipartisan confabs springing up everywhere. The sudden spirt of chatter is in four main areas: infrastructure, police reform, China and immigration. Reaching agreement in any one of those areas would be a big achievement. The other major topic — what to do about gun violence — remains bogged down in a partisan stalemate, as it has for essentially the last 20 years.”
Politico “Black Democrats urge party to shift its voting rights push …“With that Senate logjam in mind, a group of Black Democrats is pressing to elevate a more targeted voting rights bill — named for and championed by the late Rep. John Lewis — that they believe could be a more successful sell on Capitol Hill. The reality for Democrats is that the Lewis legislation won’t be much easier to pass … “Their sense of urgency is in part because states will start receiving redistricting data over the summer from the Census Bureau to use for drafting new maps for House districts. If Democrats’ Lewis bill — which would restore key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act — is not passed by then, certain states will not have to get preapproval for their electoral maps affirming an absence of racial discrimination.”
Axios “President Biden in the next few days will unveil eye-popping new tax rates for the wealthiest Americans (Biden defines $400,000/year as wealthy, representing 1.8% of taxpayers) — a top marginal income tax rate of 39.6% and a capital gains rate of 43.4%, Axios’ Hans Nichols reports. “For New Yorkers, the combined state and federal capital gains rate could be as high as 52.22%. For Californians, it could be 56.7%,” Bloomberg News reported.
Why it matters: The proposal, to be announced ahead of Biden’s address to Congress next Wednesday, is an opening bid for Hill negotiations.
Between the lines: Democrats close to the White House believe that the amount of revenue that the IRS can collect on capital gains actually decreases past a certain point, probably in the low 30% range. Officials haven’t yet made clear whether the capital gains rate would apply in 2022 — or in 2021. Goldman Sachs sent out a research note last evening: “We expect Congress will pass a scaled back version of this tax increase.”
What we’re watching: Biden also is likely to raise more revenue from the wealthy by making changes to estate taxes. Biden wants to impose so-called “stepped up basis” for accounting purposes, and value assets when they are passed on to an heir, not at their original cost.”
Axios “President Biden’s virtual climate summit [this week] highlights a White House approach that blends diplomacy, executive power, salesmanship — and a few threats. Politico “The U.S. government finds itself in an unfamiliar position midway through President Joe Biden’s global climate summit: struggling to deploy the moral authority and financial heft needed to assume global leadership. Washington’s history of backing out or failing to ratify climate commitments now jeopardizes widespread support for Biden’s just-announced plans to cut U.S. carbon dioxide output between 50 and 52 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. Surface-level positive feelings from foreign leaders toward Biden belies fundamental tensions around how both the U.S. and its allies and competitors can achieve such cuts, and who should pay.”
AGGRAVATING ENVIRONMENTALISTS Politico [T]he White House hasn’t set any specific targets yet for agriculture, which accounts for 10% of all U.S. emissions. … “So far, the Biden administration is leaning heavily toward awarding financial bonuses for farmers, ranchers and foresters who retool their operations to suck carbon from the atmosphere. … An especially thorny topic that could draw huge resistance from farmers and ranchers is what to do about methane emissions from cows and other livestock.”
NYT Magazine: “The Wyoming congresswoman challenged Republicans to turn away from Trump after Jan. 6. Instead, they turned on her.”
— The line that everyone’s talking about on the Hill: “Others argued that her announcement a day before the impeachment vote had given the Democrats a talking point to use against the rest of the Republican conference. … Likening the situation to a football game, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania lamented, ‘You look up into the stands and see your girlfriend on the opposition’s side — that’s one hell of a tough thing to swallow.’”
He’s talking about the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress! Yikes!
-message to jury from prosecutor Steve Schleicher in his closing arguments Monday, referring to the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly ten minutes. Hive “Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on all three counts of murder and manslaughter in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, whose death touched off protests across the globe and a reckoning over systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. “I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. “But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice.” With his convictions, Chauvin now faces potentially decades in prison.”
theSkimm “India’s COVID-19 cases are at an all-time, worldwide high. That’s not good. Today, India reported over 332,000 cases – setting another global record for the highest daily increase of infections since the beginning of the pandemic. For reference, the US’s highest record surpassed 300,000 in January. India is the second-most populous country in the world and the coronavirus has caused its health care system to break down. Hospitals are at capacity, there aren’t enough ambulances, and people are dying as the country’s oxygen supply for ventilators runs out. On top of that, PPE is scarce – reportedly leading many to resort to the black market for used gloves, masks, and even drugs. And that’s not all. New variants are stoking fears things could get worse. India’s detected several COVID-19 variants, including the UK, Brazil, and South Africa strains. And B1617, the “double mutant” variant first detected in India, is raising alarms. Note: It’s common for a virus to change and mutate. But scientists say this could make the variant more contagious and weaken a vaccine’s effectiveness. Right now there’s reason to be hopeful that some vaccines (like Pfizer’s) can combat the India variant. But India’s got its own vaccines. And those would be? Covaxin and Covishield. The gov rolled those out in January. And recently it approved Sputnik V – Russia’s vaccine. But despite being home to the biggest vaccine manufacturers in the world (and producing 60% of the world’s vaccines), less than 2% of India’s population is fully vaccinated. That’s in part due to vaccine hesitancy. And the international community is worried. China said it would step in to help. And an Indian vaccine manufacturer is pleading for the US to lift its ban on exports so that the country can receive raw materials to create more vaccines. Meanwhile, several countries (like the US, UK, and New Zealand) added India to its travel ban list.”
The Harvard Institute of Politics is out this morning with a new poll of 18- to 29-year-old Americans, and some of the results are fascinating: Biden has the highest favorability among this group of any first-term president over the 21 years this poll has been conducted. … Fifty-six percent of young Americans are hopeful about the country’s future, including 72% of Black people and 69% of Hispanic people. … Young Americans are more politically active than they used to be, and there’s been a big increase in progressive views.
More findings: Three-quarters of young Americans say they want more open-mindedness in politics. … They rank Facebook as the least trustworthy of 16 major institutions, and half want more Big Tech regulation. … Only 26% of young Republicans think Biden won fairly. … About one-third of young Americans have seen politics get in the way of a friendship.”
Axios “Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is seriously considering running for president in 2024, three people familiar with his thinking told Axios. While Christie, 58, isn’t saying anything publicly about his thinking — besides telling radio host Hugh Hewitt he’s not ruling it out — people close to him have an early sense of the rationale and outlines of a potential candidacy.
Facebook’s independent Oversight Board will vote soon on whether to allow Donald Trump back on Facebook and Instagram — a monumental decision that has policymakers on edge around the world. Whatever Facebook decides, its next move in the Trump case will mark a monumental shift in the company’s policies and reputation. As media critic Jay Rosen noted, “This is going to be a global moment.”
Axios “Sales of U.S. homes fell in March for the second consecutive month because so few are on the market. For the listings that exist, fierce competition is pushing prices to new highs, AP reports. Homes typically sold in 18 days — a record low. The U.S. median home price surged 17.2% from a year earlier to $329,100, an all-time high.”