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Wake Up To Politics - April 22, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Biden’s climate diplomacy
Wake Up To Politics - April 22, 2021

Good morning! It’s Thursday, April 22, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 565 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,293 days away.

Time is running out to be a part of the exclusive Zoom meeting with me and WUTP legal contributor Anna Salvatore on Sunday! All you have to do is make sure three of your friends use your unique referral link to sign up for Wake Up To Politics! Looking forward to seeing you there.

Diplomacy in the virtual era: Biden participates in a virtual EU summit last month. (Photo: European Council)

President Joe Biden will convene leaders from around the globe today for a virtual summit on climate change, the first major meeting he will host on the world stage.

Some big names will be in attendance. According to the White House, all 40 heads heads of state who were invited will be taking part, from U.S. rivals like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping to allies like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The leaders of Canada, Mexico, France, India, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Israel will also be among the attendees, as will Pope Francis and billionaire Bill Gates.

The two-day summit will be held entirely virtually; Politico called it “the world’s most interesting Zoom meeting.” According to the Associated Press, Biden has privately lamented that he can 0nly hold virtual meetings with his global counterparts, telling aides “how much he misses the in-person interactions and friendly asides that typically happen on the sidelines of international meetings, moments that can often lead to foreign policy breakthroughs.”

Biden will open the summit with a sizable climate commitment of his own. He is expected to announce that the U.S. will aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

“Achieving that goal would require that roughly half of the country’s electricity come from renewable energy,” according to NPR. “Electricity from coal would need to all but disappear. Transportation would also need to change dramatically, with more public transit and electric cars and trucks.”

According to the Washington Post, Biden “will not spell out precisely how it plans to meet the new target or how much individual sectors of the economy would have to reduce their emissions.” It is possible that passage of new legislation would be necessary to reduce emissions to the level Biden is promising, a process Biden is hoping to jumpstart with his $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, which has an uncertain future in Congress.

Biden marks Earth Day with global climate summit

Biden’s promise approximately doubles the goal set by the Obama administration, which was to cut emissions by 26 to 28 percent compared to 2005 levels. Obama made that pledge in 2015 as part of the Paris climate accords, which former President Donald Trump withdrew from but Biden rejoined on his first day in office.

The Paris agreement calls for each of its 195 signatories to set their own target for slashing greenhouse gas emissions; Biden’s new goal of a 50 to 52 percent reduction by 2030 will become the new U.S. commitment as part of the accords.

Each country’s commitment is formalized in a document known as a Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC. Part of the goal of this week’s climate summit is to encourage other countries to issue more aggressive NDCs as well; on Wednesday, the eve of the summit, the European Union announced it would set a new target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030.

The summit — and new emissions target — are designed to send the world a clear message: America plans to restore its place as a climate leader. “America is back,” Biden declared in an address to allies in February, a point he will attempt to drive home today. But it remains to be seen whether he will be able to persuade allies to trust the U.S. again, after former President Trump bashed many of them and almost completely abandoned climate diplomacy.

According to the New York Times, more than one country is asking the same question ahead of the climate summit: “Is America’s word still any good?”

And perhaps none of those countries is more consequential than China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, which the U.S. is hoping to extract a emissions new commitment from. But, the Times noted, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed Biden’s efforts last week — saying that they could be just as transient as America’s original commitment to the Paris deal, which was reversed in short order.

“The U.S. chose to come and go as it likes with regard to the Paris agreement,” Zhao Lijian, the Chinese spokesman said. “Its return is by no means a glorious comeback but rather the student playing truant getting back to class.”

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The Rundown

CORONAVIRUS: “Biden calls for businesses to give paid time off for employees to get vaccinated as he touts 200 million shots” CNN

  • “U.S. sees significant drop in vaccinations over past week” Washington Post
  • “India records world’s biggest single-day rise in coronavirus cases” Reuters

POLICING: “Justice Department launches investigation into Minneapolis policing practices” NBC News

  • “Chauvin verdict injects a fresh jolt of momentum into police overhaul efforts” Washington Post

REFUGEES: “An early promise broken: Inside Biden’s reversal on refugees” New York Times

Legal Roundup

This section is by Anna Salvatore, WUTP’s legal contributor.

In oral arguments on Tuesday, the Supreme Court seemed likely to uphold a government restriction on green cards. Under a policy formalized during the Trump administration (and maintained by President Biden), the government has barred immigrants who are in the U.S. for humanitarian reasons from apply for green cards if they crossed the border unlawfully.

There are 400,000 of these immigrants with “temporary protected status”; they come from El Salvador, South Sudan, and ten other countries with unsafe living conditions. However, the justices pointed out that green card applicants must be “inspected and admitted” into the U.S. under federal law. If a couple enters the country illegally, said Justice Thomas, then they “clearly were not admitted at the borders.”

Also on Tuesday, the Biden administration said that it would “strongly support” Washington D.C. becoming the 51st state. The statehood movement has come a long way in the past few decades. According to the Washington Post, more than 100 Democrats joined with Republicans in 1993 to reject statehood legislation for D.C. Now nearly every Democrat in the House has co-sponsored the new statehood bill, H.R. 51, on the grounds that the 700,000 (largely Democratic) people of D.C. deserve representation in Congress.

H.R. 51 is expected to pass the House today but faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The bill would need 60 votes to overturn a filibuster, and Senate Republicans are largely united in arguing that D.C. statehood is unconstitutional.

An advocate for D.C. statehood during a recent rally. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court rejected the last of Pennsylvania Republicans’ challenges to the 2020 presidential election on Monday. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “the ruling means the state can count about 10,000 mail ballots that had arrived after Election Day — far too few to change President Joe Biden’s 81,000-vote victory in Pennsylvania.”

Although the Supreme Court has tosses out the challenge, the ramifications of President Trump’s false claims of voter fraud are far from over. In states across the country, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona, legislators are still proposing measures to limit access to the ballot box.

More legal headlines, via Anna:

  • The 11th Circuit ruled that Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers lack standing to sue his financial partners.
  • Civil-liberties groups are seeking access to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s secret orders for surveilling Americans — a probe that could soon involve the Supreme Court, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • A new study by law professors has found a significant uptick in “negative depictions of the press by the Supreme Court.” Adam Liptak of the New York Times explains that this is an important shift for the institution, because the justices used to extol the press as an important check on the government.
  • In a surprising move, the Court declined to hear three cases this week about lifetime gun-ownership bans for people convicted of nonviolent crimes.


In Wednesday’s newsletter, I conflated the qualified immunity doctrine with the low number of police officers who are criminally prosecuted for fatal shootings. Qualified immunity protects police officers from most civil lawsuits, making it difficult for individuals to successfully sue officers for excessive use of force.

Separately, but not as a result of qualified immunity, it is also exceedingly rare for government prosecutors to bring criminal charges against police officers, and for those officers to be convicted, as the data cited in Wednesday’s newsletter shows.

Also, from last week: On April 12, I referred to the “post-election deaths of Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” which should have been “pre-election.” And on April 16, as many of you pointed out, I repeatedly used “less” while comparing statistics from the Trump and Biden presidencies, when the correct term was “fewer.”

Thank you very much to the readers who pointed each of these errors out. For transparency and to correct the record, it is my promise to always include corrections in the newsletter for significant errors. I appreciate your understanding when I slip up and all of your helpful notes!


All times Eastern.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will host the Leaders Summit on Climate. At 8 a.m., they will deliver remarks to open the summit and then Biden will participate in the first session, on “raising our climate ambition.”

At 10 a.m., Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief, while Harris will convene a roundtable of foundation leaders on the Northern Triangle (the Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador). At 12 p.m., Biden and Harris will have lunch together. At 3:45 p.m., they will receive a briefing on COVID-19 and the state of vaccinations.

First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation. At 7 p.m., she will participate in a welcoming ceremony with Navajo Nation President Jonathan New and First Lady Phefelia Nez. After the ceremony, she will deliver a radio address to the Navajo Nation.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 1:30 p.m. She will be joined by Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and allow for remarks from the party leaders. The chamber will then resume consideration of S. 937, the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act. At 11:30 a.m., the Senate will vote on three amendments to the bill offered by Republican senators, followed by a vote on the legislation itself.

The bill, which would expedite Justice Department review of Covid-related hate crimes against Asian-Americans, received bipartisan support in a procedural vote last week.

The House will convene at 9 a.m. and allow for one-minute speeches from five members of each party. The chamber will then hold one hour of debate on H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act. After the debate, the House will vote on the bill, which would admit Washington, D.C. into the union as the 51st state.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. on “the evolving landscape of voting discrimination.” Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R-NC) will be among the witnesses.

The House Oversight Subcommittee on the Environment will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on “the role of fossil fuel subsidies in preventing action on the climate crisis.” Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg will be one of the witnesses.  

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m.

The Supreme Court may release opinions at 10 a.m.

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