Eye-On-The-Prize Strategy … Return To Normalcy … Romney’s Award … We Plan, God Laughs … Goldilocks & The 3 Filibusters … Minimum Wage … AUMF … This Week, Boulder … What’s A Red-flag Law? … An Assault on Civil Rights & Democracy, Your Move Democrats … Guy With A Digger @Suez Canal … and other news of the week.
The Senate and House are on recess through April 9th.
Best, JR Joyce Rubenstein Capstone National Partners
Politico “If there were a one-sentence takeaway from President JOE BIDEN’S first press conference, it might be “It’s a matter of timing.“
Over and over in the East Room, the president made it clear Thursday that he’s in control of the timing of his legislative priorities and that he would not allow events to overtake his plans. Guns, immigration, voting rights, filibuster reform — the big issues that have intervened recently and that dominated questioning by reporters — would have to wait.
Axios “[He] revealed in vivid display this week the thinking animating his 100-day plan: Do not allow outside events to take his eye off the make-or-break imperatives of virus eradication and economic growth.
Translation: Biden made it crystal clear that his plan — hatched months ago during the campaign — for a one-two punch of a Covid relief bill followed by an infrastructure bill will not be derailed by events.
The big picture: He dispatched Vice President Harris to handle the brewing crisis at the border. And, in yesterday’s press conference, he made plain gun control and other topics may need to wait. On gun control: “It’s a matter of timing. [S]uccessful presidents — better than me — have been successful, in large part, because they know how to time what they’re doing — order it, decide and prioritize what needs to be done.”
Zoom out: … Biden has been shockingly disciplined, with a robot-like focus on the virus and the economy. It is a no-brainer strategy because absent growth or total defeat of the virus, his presidential power wanes. This gives him a narrow band to focus his mind and time. You saw this in his 62-minute press conference. He’ll continue to push the idea of compromise — until he doesn’t, which aides tell us is inevitable.
He will detail his plans on a potentially $3-4 trillion infrastructure bill in a speech next Wednesday in Pittsburgh, and that will remain the top White House priority for weeks to come.
“Here’s the deal, I’m a fairly practical guy. I want to get things done,” the president said in explaining why he’s not pushing now to eliminate the legislative filibuster, even though he sees it as a Jim Crow-era relic. “Successful electoral politics,” Biden said, “is the art of the possible.”
MEANWHILE Biden made some news: He intends to have troops out of Afghanistan by year’s end, he will likely run for reelection, and he may go “beyond” his current view on filibuster reform “if there’s complete lockdown and chaos.” But he did his best to tamp down expectations on the trio of issues that reporters and many activists are obsessed with this week because of recent events (guns, immigration and voting rights).
Return To Normalcy
” … after four years of Mr. Trump’s free-for-all, fact-challenged news conferences. At one, Mr. Trump mocked a reporter for wearing what he called “the largest mask I think I’ve ever seen” and at another claimed that injecting disinfectants into the human body could help combat the coronavirus. Reporters shouted to be heard, and Mr. Trump appeared to relish the chaos.
Mr. Biden, in contrast, offered an early glimpse of the man who inhabits the Oval Office and how he is approaching the presidency so far. [He] was the sober political veteran comfortable with thinking out loud, talking personally and conversationally, and showing occasional impatience before a roomful of reporters.” (NYT)
“… reality keeps intruding on Biden’s best-laid plans — namely his plan [this week] to celebrate his Covid relief bill triumph. “In less than a week, two mass shootings have overshadowed President Joe Biden’s ‘Help is Here’ tour at which he planned to herald the ways his administration is helping Americans recovering from the pandemic.”
“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”
Hive “Mitch McConnell expresses shock that his party’s nationwide effort to restrict voting would be seen as voter suppression.”
Emboldened by Trump’s Big Lie, Republicans have proposed more than 250 bills to curb voting.
Republicans in almost every state in the country have proposed more than 250 bills that would make it harder for people to vote. One, in Arizona, would even allow a state legislature to throw out any election result it doesn’t like—like, for instance, a Joe Biden victory over Donald Trump. Some in the GOP have even been explicit about the reasoning behind the blitz of legislation: If some of the bills go through, one county-level election official in Georgia said at a GOP meeting in January, Republicans “at least have a shot at winning.”
The whole crusade has been incredibly brazen … so it would seem impossible for a member of party leadership to claim, with a straight face, that they have no idea where people are getting this idea that their voting rights are under threat. And yet, that’s precisely what Mitch McConnell did Wednesday morning as the Senate Rules Committee opened discussion on the For the People Act, the Democrats’ answer to the GOP’s assault on democracy.
As Chuck Schumer asked his GOP colleagues on Wednesday, “Why are you so afraid of democracy?”
‘Jim Crow In The 21st Century’
“Sweeping Changes To Georgia Elections Signed Into Law” Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed a vast rewrite of Georgia’s election rules into law Thursday, imposing voter ID requirements, limiting drop boxes and allowing state takeovers of local elections after last year’s close presidential race.
Among other restrictions … “Absentee voters will be required to submit driver’s license numbers or other documentation … Over 200,000 Georgia voters lack a driver’s license or state ID number.” … “Members of the public will be prohibited from distributing food or water to voters waiting in line.”
Axios “President Biden is putting Vice President Harris in charge of fixing the growing border crisis. Harris will lead efforts with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to manage the flow of unaccompanied children and migrant families arriving at the border in numbers not seen since a surge in 2019.”
Politico “If you haven’t noticed, there is a bit of the Goldilock divide occurring over whether Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is maneuvering toward killing the legislative filibuster or not.
Hot: Senate Republicans are adamant the New York Democrat is moving to gut the procedure as he looks to move forward with key bills that are central to the Democratic agenda — like voting rights and gun control — but which lack GOP support to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to pass most legislation.
Cold: Schumer’s own Democratic colleagues are a bit cool this idea, especially as some moderates remain firm in their opposition to nixing the filibuster.
Somewhere In The Middle: Schumer has not said that he personally supports killing the filibuster but he also has promised not to let the GOP stand in the way of “bold” legislation from Democrats, stating that “everything is on the table.”
Meanwhile, Schumer announced yesterday a big to-do list when the Senate returns from recess next month, including legislation on hate crimes against Asian Americans, background checks for gun buyers and Dems’ massive voting rights package.” Stay Tuned.
Politico “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer convened a meeting on the topic Tuesday afternoon that includes the eight Democratic caucus members who opposed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) $15 hourly wage plan … Sanders requested the meeting … [A]ttendees expected a collision between the uncompromising liberal wing of the party and the centrist wing that recently voted down one of the party’s longtime goals.
“But the meeting was promising, Democrats said. Manchin described it as a ‘wonderful conversation … in the meeting, Manchin seemed steadfast about his support for an increase to $11 an hour, according to one attendee. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) suggested that if the wage was raised to $11 now and was indexed at a rate faster than inflation, it wouldn’t be far off from Sanders’s goal of $15 an hour by 2024.”
Politico “A day after Biden called for an assault weapon ban in the wake of 18 people dying in a pair of back-to-back mass shootings, the political needle on guns hasn’t moved on Capitol Hill. Here’s what you should know about this week’s debate in Congress:
An assault weapons ban is out. Biden might be pushing for this, but no one is talking about it on the Hill right now — at least not seriously.
Even background checks are a long shot. Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER will bring the pair of House-passed universal background check bills to the Senate floor soon. But, three critical swing votes — Manchin, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) — have voiced opposition.
Could there be a compromise? Possible but unlikely.
What’s more likely: executive action. Biden promised he would take executive action to reduce gun violence … the White House “has been privately exploring various executive orders related to firearms, such as strengthening background checks and community anti-violence funding … They declined to provide a timeline.”
This Week, Boulder
Axios “If not in their classrooms, or their movie theaters, or their churches — and now their grocery stores — where can Coloradans feel safe? … Coloradans are fighting the fear of moving about their daily lives, as the country mourns 10 lives lost in Boulder:
‘Maybe it’s the fact we’re emotionally weary from the pandemic. Maybe it’s because grocery shopping remained one of the few essential routines in the past year. Maybe it’s because this is a different venue for violence, and we weren’t prepared.’
WaPo: “On Capitol Hill, lawmakers discussed red-flag laws in a hearing this week on the gun violence epidemic, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she would soon introduce red-flag legislation. A bipartisan group of lawmakers recently floated a similar proposal, and several state legislatures are weighing whether to pass legislation or expand existing policies.
“Connecticut passed the country’s first red-flag law in 1999 , followed by Indiana and several other states. A flurry of similar legislation passed in the wake of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., where a gunman killed 17 people. Currently, red-flag laws are on the books in 19 states and the District of Columbia.”
*Red-flag Law Defined: Merriam-Webster … “The way red-flag laws work is straightforward. After hearing a petition from a family member or a law-enforcement officer with knowledge that someone is a credible danger to themselves or others, a judge can issue an order allowing for the temporary seizure of firearms belonging to that individual.”
House Votes To Repeal 19-year old Iraq War Authorization (AUMF) “The panel’s action, which sailed through with support from Democrats and Republicans alike, scraps the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against Iraq, which at the time was led by Saddam Hussein. A similar push is already underway in the Senate, where Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) have proposed repealing the 2002 AUMF, in addition to a 1991 measure that also authorized military force in Iraq during the first Gulf War. … “In response, the White House said Biden supports getting rid of the outdated AUMFs and working with Congress on replacement measures, though talks are in the very early stages.”
Axios “There’s a growing push among federal lawmakers for a road user fee to fund highway repairs, but how it would work — and who would end up paying — are unclear. Why it matters: The Highway Trust Fund, which pays for road and transit systems, is going broke. The existing federal gas tax isn’t enough to meet rising costs, and the budget gap will only grow wider as cleaner cars burn less fuel. Electric cars don’t even need gas, which is why finding an alternative to the current 18.4-cent per gallon fuel tax is inevitable.
One area of potential agreement between the parties is a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) system that would charge drivers a penny or two for each mile logged behind the wheel. Drivers would report their mileage electronically, using a plug-in device in their cars or a smartphone app. Supporters say it’s a way to ensure that electric vehicle owners — who currently pay no fuel taxes — chip in their fair share for road maintenance.
YES, BUT: There are technical and privacy challenges, and some environmentalists worry new fees would slow the adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs).
A VMT would do nothing to curb carbon dioxide emissions either.
SUVs with the worst miles per gallon ratings would end up with a tax break, while fuel-sipping cars would pay more than they do today. The Washington Post has a cool interactive tool to visualize the potential impact. CLICK HERE.
Axios “The flood of online misinformation about COVID and vaccines finally pushed tech companies to take strong action. Why it matters: Political misinformation can sway elections. COVID misinformation can kill. Tech firms are wary of judging the veracity of users’ posts. But the significant public health harm wrought by COVID-19 misinformation was a tipping point in pushing them to take stronger action.
CONGRESS SENDS A MESSAGE TO TECH Axios “During a virtual hearing, House members warned the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google that a legislative hammer is about to land. Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee told the CEOs that their businesses prioritize ad revenue and engagement over rooting out content that harms users, especially children. Why it matters: The relatively consistent lines of questioning, sometimes crossing party lines, displayed a new unity among members of Congress in their concern about the companies — and a stronger likelihood that they might pass punitive laws.”
A skyscraper-sized cargo ship Ever Given — one of the largest in the world with space for 20,000 shipping containers — is wedged in Egypt’s Suez Canal, blocking +237 other vessels in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes (estimates of oil and consumer goods unable to move through the canal at a value of nearly $10 billion).
BTW, it took 10 years to build the Suez Canal in the 1800s, and one day and one giant ship to clog it in 2021. … The shutdown of the vital waterway and its impact on trade underscore the world’s reliance on global supply chains.