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Wake Up To Politics - April 20, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: How Mondale paved the way for Biden and Harris
Wake Up To Politics - April 20, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 567 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,295 days away.

All U.S. adults are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. I just got my first dose yesterday, and I’m pretty excited about it. If you’re still looking for somewhere to get your shot, go here to find appointments near you.

How Mondale paved the way for Biden and Harris

Walter Mondale, a fixture of Minnesota politics who rose to be nominated to the nation’s two highest offices, died on Monday at the age of 93.

Mondale had a long and storied career on the American political scene, starting out as an organizer for his fellow Minnesota statesman Hubert Humphrey and later serving 12 years in the U.S. Senate, a term as Vice President under Jimmy Carter, and a stint as U.S. ambassador to Japan under Bill Clinton.

He contributed to several major policies during his time in the executive and legislative branches, from shepherding through the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to leading the most recent successful charge to lower the Senate filibuster threshold.

But perhaps Mondale’s largest contribution was to the institution of the vice presidency itself, a remaking of the role that paved the way for both members of the Biden-Harris ticket that now occupy the White House. “In a very real sense, President Biden and Vice President Harris are heirs of his political contributions,” leading vice presidential scholar Joel Goldstein told Wake Up To Politics, adding that Mondale “was one of the great public servants of his generation.”

After they were elected in 1976, Mondale penned Carter a now-famous memo outlining his vision for their relationship in office.  Mondale asked for, and received, a level of access that no previous VP had received, transforming the job from that of a figurehead to an influential presidential adviser. (Carter signed on to the memo without any changes.)

Carter and Mondale. (Owen Franken/Corbis via Getty Images file)

He became the first vice president to have a White House office, a daily invitation to the president’s intelligence briefings, and a weekly lunch with the president. In a statement last night, Carter called Mondale “the best Vice President in our country’s history,” crediting him with turning the vice presidency “into a dynamic, policy-driving force that had never been seen before and still exists today.”

Mondale’s fingerprints could be seen in the Obama-Biden administration, when the two running mates continued the weekly lunch tradition — and the tradition of a close, impactful relationship between them. “When President Obama asked me to consider being his Vice President, Fritz was my first call and trusted guide,” President Biden said in a statement marking Mondale’s passing, referring to his former Senate colleague by his lifelong nickname. “I took Fritz’s roadmap,” Biden said at an event with Mondale in 2015.

On the 2020 campaign trail, Biden invoked Obama and his contributions to their administration so much that it became a running gag on “Saturday Night Live.” Without the Mondale model of the vice presidency, due to which he could credibly claim to have played a key role under Obama and boast close ties with him, it is possible Biden would not have been able to leapfrog from the Naval Observatory to the Oval Office. (Sidenote: Mondale was also the first VP to live at Number One Observatory Circle, which has been the vice presidential residence ever since.)

Mondale’s influence extends to the Biden-Harris partnership as well. One of Mondale’s chief demands from that landmark 1976 memo was that he wanted to be “a general adviser” to Carter, not pigeonholed into specific assignments. In that tradition, Vice President Harris has had as broad a portfolio as any of her predecessors. Until being assigned to oversee the crisis at the southern border — one of the hottest issues facing their administration — Harris had resisted taking on specific tasks, instead appearing with Biden at nearly all of his public events to showcase her role as a full partner, Mondale style.

Biden and Mondale. (William Atkins/GW Today)

Mondale also laid the groundwork for the Biden-Harris ticket in another major way: As the Democratic presidential nominee in 1984, he tapped Geraldine Ferraro as his VP, making her the first woman to join a national ticket. Mondale and Ferraro may have lost in one of the most lopsided elections in presidential history (they won just 13 electoral votes to Ronald Reagan’s 525), but that puncture in the glass ceiling set a precedent for Sarah Palin’s place on a presidential ticket in 2008, Hillary Clinton’s in 2016, and Harris’ in 2020.

Goldstein told Wake Up To Politics that Harris “represents the fulfillment of Mondale’s historic initiative in 1984,” when his vice presidential selection process “included qualified people from traditionally excluded groups — women, Blacks, Hispanics, and Jews — and produced the first major-party woman vice presidential candidate.”

According to Axios, two of Mondale’s last acts this week before he died were calls to Biden and Harris. And his final goodbye email to staffers from throughout his political career included a nod to the president whose rise he helped make possible: “Together we have accomplished so much and I know you will keep up the good fight,” the former VP wrote to aides in his farewell. “Joe in the White House certainly helps.”

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The Rundown

CORONAVIRUS: More than half of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and everyone 16 and older is now eligible to be vaccinated in every state. The vaccines are working — but as some Americans wait to receive them, Covid-19 cases are rising in parts of the country.

  • Cases are rising globally as well; fueled by a surge in India, more new infections have been reported in the past seven days — 5.2 million — than in any other week since the start of the pandemic.

POLICING IN AMERICA: Lawyers on both sides of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with killing George Floyd, closed their arguments on Monday as the jury began their deliberations. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) sparked a controversy this weekend when she told Minnesota demonstrators “to get more confrontational” if Chauvin is found not guilty.

  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has introduced a resolution to censure Waters for the remark; the judge in the Chauvin trial suggested on Monday that her comments may have created grounds for Chauvin’s lawyers to appeal a possible guilty verdict.

More headlines to know:

  • “Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who engaged rioters, suffered two strokes and died of natural causes, officials say” Washington Post
  • “Ohio GOP lawmaker to resign, giving Republicans one fewer vote in the House” CNN
  • “Smaller corporate tax increase floated at White House infrastructure meeting” Wall Street Journal
Coronavirus cases are rising worldwide, especially in Asia. (Chart via Axios Visuals)


All times Eastern.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. Then, at 11:15 a.m., they will meet with 10 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, all of them Democrats.

At 2:45 p.m., Biden will participate (from the White House) in a virtual tour of a Proterra electric battery facility in Greenville, South Carolina, and deliver remarks on the American Jobs Plan, which would invest $45 billion in zero-emission buses. At 6 p.m., Harris will sit for an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12:30 p.m.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of S. 937, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would expedite Justice Department review of hare crimes related to the coronavirus pandemic. At 12 p.m., the Senate will hold a cloture vote advancing the nomination of Gary Gensler to be chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The chamber will then recess for weekly caucus meetings. At 2:15 p.m., the Senate will return and vote on Gensler’s confirmation. At 3 p.m., senators will receive a briefing on Afghanistan from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, and other officials. The Senate is also expected to vote on confirmation of Lisa Monaco to be Deputy Attorney General later in the day.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on voting rights. Witnesses will include Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT), and Fair Fight Action founder Stacey Abrams.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing at 10:30 a.m. on the American Jobs Plan. Witnesses will include Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

The House will convene at 10 a.m. and allow for 15 one-minute speeches from each party before voting on H.R. 2523, the Training in High-demand Roles to Improve Veteran Employment Act.

The chamber will then vote on the rule providing for consideration later in the week of H.R. 1333, which would prohibit future presidents from issuing orders similar to former President Donald Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban”; H.R. 1573, which would require lawyers to be provided for migrants facing risk of deportation; and H.R. 51, which would grant statehood to Washington, D.C.

The House will also vote on 16 additional pieces of legislation.

The House Judiciary Committee will meet at 10 a.m. to mark up H.R. 1483 (the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act) and H.R. 2383 (the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act), which would both address the recent rise in hate crimes, especially against Asian-Americans.

The Supreme Court will hear virtual oral arguments in two cases. At 10 a.m., the court will hear Greer v. United States. “When circuit courts review a lower court’s decision, they typically check the trial record to see if the lower court erred,” WUTP legal contributor Anna Salvatore explains. “But can the circuit court look at evidence that wasn’t presented to the jury? In other words, can it look outside the trial record? That’s the question before the justices in this case.”

At 11 a.m., the court will hear United States v. Gary. “In 2017, Michael Andrew Gary was arrested, charged, and sentenced for possessing a firearm as a felon,” Anna writes. “But while one of his appeals was pending in 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that defendants like Gary must 1) know that they possessed a gun and 2) know that they are a felon. Gary now claims that the lower court didn’t instruct him of his felon status. The Supreme Court will decide whether the lower court’s error means that Gary is automatically entitled to an appeal.”

The Hennepin County District Court will hold the 16th day of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who has been charged with the death of George Floyd.

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