BIG DEAL – Earmarkers Unite … Highlights of Agreement … Pandemic Relief To Pass House Tonight … No On $15 (for now) … Amtrak Joe Moment … Whatsup Next Week … Johnson & Johnson Vaccine … .What You Don’t Know About Absentee Voting in 2020 .. and other news of the week.
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Punchbowl “…Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations committees respectively, have reached a deal on the ground rules for earmarks in this year’s spending bills.
This is a big.
BGOV “Earmarks are coming back for Congress’s next round of annual funding bills, but for-profit companies will be excluded and the money available will only be a small slice of appropriations.
House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) announced on Friday her panel’s plan to solicit lawmakers’ requests for earmarks, the system of designating funds for specific local projects that’s been banned for a decade. Lawmakers responsible for government funding, including many Republicans, have called for a renewed system, with limitations and transparency requirements.
“Members want Congress to help their communities, particularly now as the pandemic exposed so many inequalities and needs,” DeLauro said in a statement. “Community Project Funding (NOTE: Looks Like Earmarks Have A New Name) will allow Members to put their deep, first-hand understanding of the needs of their communities to work to help the people we represent.”
House and Senate Republicans have yet to decide if they’ll participate in the new system. House and Senate Republican rules ban earmarks, but key members have said those rules could be changed. Senate Democrats have yet to detail their own rules.
- Total earmark spending (House & Senate) will be capped at 1% of discretionary spending. The fiscal 2021 discretionary spending total is about $1.3 trillion, meaning the cap could be around $13 billion.
- Each subcommittee will vet earmark requests. All earmarks have to comply with the full committee spending cap.
- Earmark requests will follow the 2010 standards. Including … earmarks are filed online, members cannot have a financial stake in the entity receiving the earmark, etc.
- GAO will review some of the fiscal year 2022 earmarks to ensure they are in compliance with standards.
- For-profit companies will be excluded under House guidelines
There’s likely to be a limit on how many earmarks each member can get across the 12 spending bills, but that’s still a moving target. However, there’ll be a limit on which programs earmarks can be used for, according to sources familiar with the issue.
Remember: Republicans and Democrats say that earmarking will make legislating easier. This will shift power in Washington back toward appropriators, who have been on the outs for the last dozen or so years.
“I have always believed that members of Congress have a better understanding of their communities than Washington bureaucrats,” Leahy said. “We are in good faith negotiations with the House and my Senate colleagues to bring back Congressionally directed spending in a transparent and responsible way, and those discussions are ongoing.”
Rep. Kay Granger (Texas), the top Republican on House Appropriations, also supports the use of earmarks, as long as there are safeguards in how these provisions are included in spending bills. “From my understanding, there are numerous improvements in what earmarks looked like before,” Granger said on Friday. “I hope we give it a chance.”
‘House Set To Pass Biden’s $1.9 T Pandemic Relief Package’.
No, On $15.
Playbook “For progressives who care about income inequality above all else, the minimum wage hits a sweet spot that few other policies do: It is both highly popular and highly redistributive. In Florida last year, a $15 minimum wage passed with 61% of the vote as Trump cruised to victory there. Hiking the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 and indexing it to inflation would redistribute an enormous amount of income from the richest to the poorest Americans, according to the CBO.
That makes the Senate parliamentarian’s decision to exclude the proposal from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan because it doesn’t meet the stringent budgetary requirements of reconciliation an especially tough blow for progressives — even as it may help Biden pass his Covid relief bill. But the left is not giving up.
WHERE DO DEMS GO FROM HERE ON THE MINIMUM WAGE?— ALL EYES ON MANCHIN/SINEMA … @burgessev: “Schumer is considering adding language to Dems’ covid bill that would penalize big companies that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour, per senior Democratic aide. Similar concept to what Bernie proposed last night after minimum wage was tossed from reconciliation.”
Senate Finance Chair RON WYDEN’S (D-Ore.) office released his proposed Plan B this morning: Wyden wants to slap a 5% penalty on corporations’ payrolls if their workers earn less than a certain threshold. “At the same time, I want to incentivize the smallest of small businesses—those with middle-class owners—to raise their workers’ wages. My plan would provide an income tax credit equal to 25 percent of wages, up to $10,000 per year per employer, to small businesses that pay their workers higher wages,” Wyden said.
MEANWHILE … Costco will raise its minimum wage to $16 per hour.
Historic LGBTQ Rights Bill Passes
Politico “The House passed sweeping legislation on Thursday to ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity … The Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to provide protections for LGBTQ individuals, garnered unanimous support from House Democrats on its way to approval on a 224-206 vote. Three Republicans crossed party lines.”
Amtrak Joe Moment
Axios “Passenger rail could be the big winner if Congress moves ahead with President Biden’s ambitious infrastructure plan. Why it matters: Under Biden, the infrastructure focus has shifted to sustainable projects that fulfill his climate and equity goals. Rail advocates see a rare opportunity to go big with “Amtrak Joe” in the White House. Jockeying has already begun among backers of various high-speed rail projects.”
Garland Gets His Hearing … For AG
Axios “Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland sounded the alarm on the threat of domestic terrorism at his confirmation hearing Monday, saying the U.S. is “facing a more dangerous period” than after the Oklahoma City bombing. The big picture: Garland drew a line between the bombing — for which he supervised the prosecution during a stint at the Justice Department — to a recent “enormous rise in hate crimes.” He compared the effort to curb the violence with the “battles of the original Justice Department against the Ku Klux Klan.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday plans to vote to consider Garland’s nomination as attorney general. Garland received broad bipartisan backing at his confirmation hearings this week.”
Whatsup Next Week In The House
BGov “The House plans to vote next week on two bills aimed at enacting sweeping national changes to elections and policing.
Election & Ethics Package:House Democrats are preparing to pass legislation to revamp U.S. election and campaign finance rules next week on a party-line vote that portends an uphill battle in the Senate, where it faces stiff GOP opposition. Supporters of the bill (H.R. 1) announced that all 221 House Democrats signed on to the almost 800-page measure that would ease voting rules and strengthen restrictions on money in politics, including guarantees on voting by mail and automatic voter registration.
George Floyd Justice in Policing Act: It would be easier to sue police for alleged rights violations under the bill (H.R. 1280) named for George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis while restrained by police. It would also criminalize chokeholds and lynching, and bar transfers of military equipment to police departments. The measure is based on a bill the House passed last June with bipartisan support. Efforts to advance a similar Senate measure, which would have encouraged police departments to revise their practices, collapsed the same month.”
Crown Prince Guilty
Politico “The JAMAL KHASHOGGI report is out. The summary: “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.” Subsequent new policy from the administration is expected later.The policy guidelines will lay out consequences for future attacks on journalists working for U.S. outlets. It will put foreign governments in the U.S. government’s crosshairs if they target journalists like Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post contributing columnist and U.S. resident.”
Didn’t Get The Memo
Axios “All three of the former top officials responsible for security on Capitol Hill testified Tuesday that they didn’t get the FBI memo warning of violence and “war” on Jan. 6. Why it matters: The testimony came during the first in a series of congressional oversight hearings on security and law enforcement failures before and during the insurrection. Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said a member of the intelligence division at USCP did review the memo — but that “it didn’t go any further than that.”
Speaking Of State Security
Politico “The Capitol Police is keeping its security high in response to intelligence that indicates some extremists who joined the Jan. 6 insurrection have discussed plans to attack the building during the State of the Union, Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said today.
SO, WHEN IS THE STATE OF THE UNION? USAToday “While the U.S. Constitution says the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient,” it does not set a timeline. And currently, there is no date set.
Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Endorsed By FDA Advisory Committee
WaPo “An expert committee unanimously recommended Friday that the Food and Drug Administration authorize a coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, making it all but certain there will soon be a third vaccine in the United States, the first to require just a single shot. The positive vote, after hours of scientific discussion, paves the way for a decision this weekend. If the vaccine is authorized, the first few million doses of a shot that is relatively simple to store, handle and administer could be distributed next week.”
The prospect of a third vaccine arrives the same week the United States marked the grim milestone of 500,000 deaths and at a crucial moment in the pandemic. After weeks of declining new cases, the downward trend has stalled — a change that makes many experts uneasy that officials are relaxing restrictions and people are letting their guard down just when variants capable of spreading faster or slipping by some aspects of immunity are poised to take off.
Nursing Homes See 80% Drop in Virus Cases
Axios “The number of coronavirus cases in nursing homes and assisted living facilities has drastically declined over the last two months — almost certainly an effect of vaccinations. Why it matters: Long-term care facilities have been responsible for 35% of all coronavirus deaths in the U.S., despite accounting for less than 1% of the population.
What you Don’t Know About Absentee Voting
Sabato’s Crystal Ball – Assessing the Electoral Impact of 2020’s Absentee Vote
“The 2020 presidential election was remarkable in many respects. First and foremost, despite taking place in the midst of a deadly pandemic that would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, the 2020 election resulted in the highest rate of turnout in over a century. According to Michael McDonald of the University of Florida, 159.7 million Americans cast ballots in 2020 — an increase of roughly 20 million over the 2016 presidential election. The estimated 66.7% turnout of eligible voters easily eclipsed the post-World War II record of 63.8% set in 1960…. According to a survey of over 18,000 registered voters conducted by MIT political scientist Charles Stewart III, between 2016 and 2020, the percentage of votes cast by absentee ballot in the United States increased from 21% to 46%.
The evidence presented in this study leads to two clear conclusions.
- First, the dramatic increase in absentee voting in 2020 contributed to increased voter turnout. Even after controlling for 2016 turnout and swing state status, the prevalence of absentee voting in a state was a significant predictor of turnout in 2020. Eased absentee voting rules were not the only reason for increased turnout in 2020, but they did make a difference.
- Second, increased absentee voting did not favor Joe Biden’s candidacy. After controlling for 2016 Democratic vote margin, the prevalence of absentee voting in a state had no effect at all on 2020 Democratic vote margin.
These findings suggest that efforts by Republican legislators in a number of states to roll back eased absentee voting rules and make it more difficult for voters to take advantage of absentee voting in the future are unlikely to benefit GOP candidates. Not only is there no evidence that absentee voting leads to widespread fraud, there is also no evidence that it favors Democratic candidates.”
“The Logical Outcome Of Someone Like Trump Leads To Someone Like Marjorie Taylor Greene”
LIKE WATCHING A TRAINWRECK Politico “Marjorie Taylor Greene, Donald Trump’s outrage-bait heir, is back at it. Just a few weeks after she was stripped of her committee assignments by her colleagues in the House for her lengthy record of bigoted comments and confrontational tactics, the freshman Republican lawmaker from northwest Georgia has reinjected herself into the lowlight limelight. In the wake of debate about the Equality Act, Democratic Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois, who has a transgender daughter, put up a flag expressing transgender pride outside her office. Greene responded by putting an affront of a sign on her wall across the hall from Newman. “There are TWO genders,” it said. “MALE & FEMALE.” Peers from both parties were appalled. And the fray that played out on Twitter quickly and obviously went viral.
The reality is that Greene is in Congress not in spite of stunts like this but because of them. A linchpin of her origin story is her yearslong search for affirmation and attention — a roving craving for an audience that found its ultimate outlet in right-wing online commentary and eventually in real-world, face-to-face provocation.
What Trump did to get to the White House provided a template for what Greene did to get to Capitol Hill, as if his needy, publicity-greedy political ascent activated in her a smoldering set of latent genes. Greene, like her beloved ex-president, willed herself into the role of a star in 21st-century American politics’ round-the-clock, social-media-shared, ill-tempered, pick-a-side spectacle.
YOU CAN’T LOOK AWAY … Brian Robinson, an Atlanta-based Republican consultant who worked on last year’s leading primary campaign against Greene, said. “She’s got presence, and there’s something that draws you to her. You never, never get bored — it’s always something interesting, and you might think it’s absolutely bonkers, but …”
Greene declined to comment for the story, but Nick Dyer, her communications director, responded in an email by saying, “You are a scumbag, Michael.”
It’s incredibly unprofessional, but the people who like Greene? They’ll love it. This week’s antics from Greene are simultaneously simply more of the same and also a sure sign of more of what’s to come. Greene, as I say in the piece (Politico Magazine: Click Here), literally wears her grievance on her face. And there she was today on the House floor. “The Equality Act is not about stopping discrimination. It’s about causing discrimination — against women and religious freedoms,” she said. “THIS MASK IS AS USELESS AS JOE BIDEN,” blared her black mask.