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The Washington Report: January 22, 2021 … “Democracy Has Prevailed”

22 Jan 2021

The Washington Report: January 22, 2021 … “Democracy Has Prevailed”

Democracy Has Prevailed … and other insights.
Best,
JR
Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners
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“Democracy Has Prevailed”

The Story
The United States of America has a new president.
Historic.
It is. Wednesday, the world watched as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took their oaths of office, promising to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” With that, Biden is the oldest president in US history. And Harris is the first woman, first Black person, and first South Asian American to take on the second-highest office in the land. It all happened against a backdrop of masks, social distancing, and no crowds to limit the spread of COVID-19. And as tens of thousands of troops stood ready for any potential threats on the Capitol. Despite it all, Biden and Harris marked the beginning of a new era.
Go on.
After his swearing in, the 46th president addressed the nation. Following years of division and misinformation, a contested election, and an attack on the government, Biden said that “democracy has prevailed.” He urged for unity and called for an end to the “uncivil war” that divides Americans. And he reached out to the 47% of voters who didn’t choose him, promising to be “a president for all Americans.” While making his plea, the president acknowledged the challenges before him, including a raging pandemic, a struggling economy, systemic racism, and persistent threats of white supremacy and extremism. Biden also took the wide lens, mentioning the need to confront the climate crisis and warning countries who may pose a national security threat. And he said the US will lead “not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”
Lady Gaga made sparks (and doves) fly for the national anthem. JLo reminded everyone this land is our land. And Garth Brooks had amazing grace. Eugene Goodman – the officer credited with diverting a mob of attackers during the Capitol siege – was honored by escorting Harris to the ceremony. Treasury Sec nominee Janet Yellen brought a blanket. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) brought mittens. And purple was the color du jour. But the one who really stole the show was Amanda Gorman.
Tell me.
She was the country’s first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017. And yesterday, at age 22, she became the youngest poet to recite at a presidential inauguration. Gorman finished “The Hill We Climb” the night after the Capitol riots. And she knew she an important message to share: “to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.”

Wednesday marked the end of a long and winding road for Biden. And the beginning of a new one that’s got a number of bumps ahead. But if history has shown anything, it’s that America does and can move forward. (theSkimm)

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AP: “On the very spot where President Joe Biden delivered his inaugural address, an insurrectionist mob had tried — and failed — to overturn his election just two weeks before. … And from the podium, the starkest sight of all: a National Mall mostly empty, dotted with troops, the usual crowd of spectators replaced by a silent field of American flags.
There had never been a ceremony quite like this, in the still-fresh aftermath of a violent challenge to the peaceful transition of power that the inaugural is designed to celebrate.

Kamala Devi Harris Broke The First Executive Office Glass Ceiling

Despite the long history of women running for the executive office, both as presidential and vice presidential nominees, Kamala Harris is the first to achieve the goal in the 172 years since the first woman ran.
On Wednesday, … Vice President Harris achieved what many women throughout U.S. history have attempted: breaking the glass ceiling of the executive branch.
In her acceptance speech on November 7, 2020, then Vice President-Elect Harris said of the women who paved the way, “I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision, to see what can be, unburdened by what has been. I stand on their shoulders.”
And of the women watching her historic success: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” (MSMag)
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President Biden’s swearing-in and inaugural address drew nearly 40 million viewers (not counting streaming) … according to preliminary Nielsen figures. Roughly 24.6 million tuned into the star-studded event in prime time hosted by Tom Hanks. Why it matters: The figures, which don’t include data from households that may have streamed the event, show that despite all of the drama in Washington, the country was still eager to watch its new president be sworn in. (Axios)
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   How They See Us…

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There Is A New Sheriff In Town

DAY 1

First Tweet: @POTUS TWEET, at 12:36 p.m.: “There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face. That’s why today, I am heading to the Oval Office to get right to work delivering bold action and immediate relief for American families.”
OR, PUT ANOTHER WAY … 
It didn’t take long for President Biden to get to work. He signed at least 17 executive directives on things like COVID-19, the economy, climate change, and racial inequality. Here’s what was on 46’s first to-do list (theSkimm):
  • COVID-19…He placed a mask mandate requiring people to wear them on federal grounds. And plans to encourage Americans to meet his 100-day mask challenge to mask up for (you guessed it) 100 days. Biden also halted the US’s departure from the World Health Organization, which was supposed to go into effect July 6. Dr Anthony Fauci will now lead a US delegation at today’s executive board meeting.
  • The economy…He also ordered agencies to extend moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures. And extended the Trump admin’s pause on federal student loan payments. Here’s what that could mean for you.
  • Climate change…Biden rejoined the Paris climate deal. He also withdrew the permit allowing the construction and use of the Keystone XL pipeline. And reinstated an Obama-era rule that doesn’t allow oil and gas drilling in Arctic waters and the Bering Sea
  • Equality…He rescinded Trump’s controversial 1776 Commission intended to go against the 1619 Project. And ordered each federal agency to do an equity assessment and report within 200 days to address obstacles in place that hold back underserved communities.
  • Immigration…Biden ordered his Homeland Security Secretary (pending confirmation) to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) with help from the attorney general. He took steps toward stopping the construction of former President Trump’s border wall. And ended the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries.
  • On other issues…He ordered changes to the Census – think: including unauthorized immigrants in the count. And like some past presidents, Biden also ordered all of those appointed to his admin to sign an ethics pledge.

And On Day 2

Axios “President Biden will continue his executive action blitz today, issuing two more orders in an attempt to provide immediate relief to struggling families without waiting for Congress.
Why it matters: In his second full day in office, Biden is again resorting to executive actions as he tries to increase payments for nutritional assistance and protect workers’ rights during the pandemic.
Today’s first executive order primarily focuses on directing the departments of Agriculture, Treasury and Veterans Affairs to consider administrative changes to how they calculate payments under various federal programs. One goal is to have the Department of Agriculture readjust the formula for families whose children are missing meals due to school closures — and increase their benefit by approximately 15%, which could mean another $100-per-month for families with three children.
Biden is also asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to consider pausing federal collections on overpayments and debts, potentially helping some 2 million veterans.
The second executive order is designed to protect workers and increase wages and also revokes three Trump executive orders. The order directs the Labor Department to lay the groundwork to require federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage.
The bottom line: The operative word in these executive actions is “consider.” Biden is putting his own departments on notice that he expects them to interpret regulations broadly to help families. But Biden will need congressional action to get the trillions of dollars his economists say is required.
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Bipartisanship Or Bust

Playbook “The success of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda could well be determined by whether Senate Democrats do away with the filibuster. Yet, so far at least, the president and his team appear to be keeping distance from those discussions, even as McConnell demands that filibuster reform be taken off the table before the Senate begins its business.
Democratic sources … say Biden wants to be seen as standing wholly apart from these Senate deliberations. Better to reap the potential benefits if it happens without suffering the costs of looking like he’s pushing for it, the thinking goes. Aides say Schumer already knows where Biden stands on the matter and, as such, doesn’t need guidance from him.

But only three days into Biden’s presidency, there’s little unity to be found. Still, Biden isn’t ready to quit Republicans. For now, it’s bipartisanship or bust.”

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The Biden Cabinet … We Have A SECDEF

Lloyd Austin is now the Secretary of Defense. He is the first Black man to lead the Pentagon. The retired Army general cleared the Senate 93-2. The two who voted against him are Republicans Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Mike Lee of Utah. Austin is at the Pentagon already today. OTHERS … “Janet Yellen’s Treasury secretary nomination was voted out of Senate Finance unanimously. The initial plan was confirming Yellen Monday, Antony Blinken for State Tuesday and Pete Buttigieg as Transportation secretary sometime in the middle of next week. Impeachment may mess all of this up.”
Also, The Senate confirmed Biden’s pick for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, on Wednesday. Haines’ confirmation as the first woman to lead the US intelligence community,  was approved in the Senate by 84 to 10.”
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Making Covid-19 Moves

The Biden admin has launched its COVID-19 plan. For over a year now, the coronavirus has upended American lives. Former President Trump had left the majority of pandemic relief plans up to states (think: vaccine distribution, mask mandates). But President Biden is taking a more hands-on approach that he says is “based on science, not politics.” Yesterday, he introduced a 200-page long “full-scale wartime” plan. And signed 10 executive orders.
And Then There’s THIS … “Biden is inheriting a nonexistent Covid-19 vaccine plan from Trump administration, sources say”: “CNN [I]n the immediate hours following Biden being sworn into office on Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the new administration’s Covid-related work told CNN one of the biggest shocks that the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy under former President Donald Trump, even weeks after multiple vaccines were approved for use in the United States. ‘There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch,’ one source said.”
‘Biden’s Plan For Federally Run Mass Vaccination Sites Takes Shape’  WaPo: “The plan is already taking shape in the form of a draft ‘Concept of Operations,’ which was obtained by The Washington Post. ROLE FOR FEMA The document envisions FEMA, previously enlisted piecemeal in pandemic response, fully unleashed. … Shots administered at these sites are expected to draw on the vaccine supply made available to individual states and territories, and some large cities, rather than relying on a new federal allocation stream. A lack of abundant vaccine supply will remain the most pressing problem, probably through March. Enlisting FEMA, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, is among the clearest signals that Biden intends to involve the federal government more directly in the administration of vaccines.”

I’ve Got That [Liberating] Feeling

Axios “Dr. Anthony Fauci, joined White House press secretary Jen Psaki during her briefing yesterday, on the contrast with Trump administration briefings: “[I]t was very clear that there were things that were said — be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that — that really was uncomfortable because they were not based on scientific fact. The White House released a 198-page COVID-19 strategy.”
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“Americans Have A New President But Not A New Country”

Playbook “… A leading European think tank delivered that  bracing message as world leaders welcomed President Biden with open arms and the Delaware Democrat vowed to immediately start repairing frayed relationships with American allies.  The message is this: Global skepticism about the United States, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) warned this week, runs deeper than concerns about Donald Trump and can’t be fixed solely by the long-standing affection for his successor. Biden told Washington’s partners in his inaugural message he’s taming the tumult of the past four years and they have a more reliable friend. That is one who does not interpret the NATO alliance as a bad bargain for the United States or accuse the European Union of treating the United States “worse than China,” much less side with Russian President Vladimir Putin over American intelligence agencies.

But things might not go entirely as planned as America’s allies are still reeling from Trump and wondering if he was truly an aberration or a warning.  … Trump’s “disdain” for allies and “warmth” for autocrats like Putin, as well as his encouragement of the Jan. 6 riot in which his supporters attempted to overthrow the November election results, have eroded America’s standing, former Senator, Bob Corker (R-TN) said. “It doesn’t surprise me that people feel distrustful of America today. Here we had our own president undermining democracy here in the U.S.”

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And Biden looks broadly popular abroad. The Pew Research Center found that most Germans (79 percent), French (72 percent) and Britons (65 percent) say they are confident Biden will do the right thing in world affairs.
Images from Across the World … 
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Impeachment

Playbook “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on the Senate floor this morning that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will send the articles of impeachment over Monday. The Trump impeachment trial will start the week of February 8th (WaPo).
Cook Report “… a just-released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 registered voters conducted Jan. 10-13 showed that this narrowly divided country is also narrowly divided on impeachment, with 50% in favor of the Senate impeaching and removing Trump from office, and 49% against it.

Should Senators Be Held Accountable?

A group of Senate Democrats filed an ethics complaint against Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. … Hawley, R-Mo., and Cruz, R-Texas, had announced in the days before the riot that they would object to accepting the votes from states that former President Donald Trump falsely claimed to have won during the Jan. 6 electoral vote count, which “amplified claims of election fraud that had resulted in threats of violence against state and local officials around the country,” the letter said.

“The question the Senate must answer is not whether Sens. Hawley and Cruz had the right to the object to the electors, but whether the senators failed to ‘[p]ut loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or Government department’ or engaged in ‘improper conduct reflecting on the Senate’ in connection with the violence on January 6,” said, in a letter to the Senate Ethics Committee.

It noted that both voted to reject electoral votes even after the violence at the Capitol disrupted the counting process.”

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In The House

CHENEY STARES DOWN A MUTINY: House Republican Conference Chair Liz Chaney is having a rough week, to put it mildly. After joining nine other House Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment, the No. 3 House Republican is facing a mutiny from more than 100 House Republicans who want her gone from leadership. Also: A primary challenger announced his bid and a local county Republican Party in her district voted to censure her. The upshot: Trump may be gone, but this is still his party — at least for now.” Just listen to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy after the riots vs. now. McCarthy on Jan. 13: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on congress by mob rioters.” McCarthy on Thursday: “I don’t believe he provoked, if you listened to what he said at the rally.” (Politico)
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The New Senators

CNN “Vice President Harris formally swore in three new, barrier-breaking Democratic senators on Wednesday afternoon following her own inauguration, officially giving Democrats control of the Senate for the first time since they lost the chamber in the 2014 elections. Earlier this month, Georgia elected two Democrats — the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff — to the US Senate, flipping the chamber. Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and Ossoff were joined on Wednesday by Harris’ successor, Alex Padilla, the former California secretary of state appointed to the Senate by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The swearing-in of the three new senators was groundbreaking. Warnock and Ossoff are respectively the first Black and first Jewish senators representing Georgia, while Padilla is California’s first Latino senator. Ossoff, 33, is also the youngest senator in the chamber, and the youngest Democrat to serve in the Senate since President Joe Biden, who was sworn into the chamber at the age of 30 in 1973.”
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Clean Tech

Axios “After booming in 2020, stocks of clean-energy companies are poised to keep going up under President Biden’s policies.”
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RIP Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron who faced down racism as he eclipsed Babe Ruth as baseball’s home run king, hitting 755 homers and holding the most celebrated record in sports for more than 30 years, has died. He was 86.
Playing for 23 seasons, all but his final two years with the Braves in Milwaukee and then Atlanta, Aaron was among the greatest all-around players in baseball history and one of the last major league stars to have played in the Negro leagues.

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