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Wake Up To Politics - April 28, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Biden makes his Joint Session debut
Wake Up To Politics - April 28, 2021

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 559 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,287 days away.

Biden to unveil $1.8 trillion package in debut speech to Congress

President Joe Biden will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m. Eastern Time tonight, using the grandiose setting to announce a $1.8 trillion spending proposal aimed at assisting American families and lifting millions out of poverty.

Here are the major provisions in the “American Families Plan” that Biden will describe tonight:

  • Free universal pre-school for all three- and four-year olds ($200 billion)
  • Two years of free community college for all Americans ($109 billion)
  • Increased investment in child care to ensure that child care costs low and middle-income families no more than 7% of their income, improve the quality of care, and offer a $15 minimum wage for all early childhood staff ($225 billion)
  • Creation of a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program, providing workers up to $4,000 a month for twelve weeks of paid parental, family, and personal leave ($225 billion)
  • Expansion of summer lunch programs for low-income families and school meal programs ($42 billion)
  • Extension of expanded tax credits for Affordable Care Act premiums from the American Rescue Plan
  • Extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit from the American Rescue Plan through 2025

How will this vast expansion of the federal safety net be paid for? Biden will propose financing his plan through the first major federal tax hike since 1993, calling for an increase in the marginal income tax rate (from 37% to 39.6%) for the top 1% of earners, undoing the cut to the top tax rate implemented by President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax reform package,

Biden will also propose increasing capital gains and dividend tax rates for Americans earning more than $1 million a year, while calling for an $80 billion investment in the IRS to increase the agency’s enforcement capabilities. The Biden Administration believes this investment will net $700 billion over the next 10 years.

Biden speaks at a ceremony at the Capitol earlier this month. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Biden’s unveiling of the sprawling package tonight will mark the completion of his evolution from moderate presidential candidate to progressive president. As the Washington Post wrote this morning, Biden has “refashioned himself as a transformational leader — a president prepared to fundamentally overhaul the role of government in society on behalf of the nation’s working men and women.”

The American Families Plan is the complement to the American Jobs Plan, the roughly $2 trillion infrastructure and climate package he unveiled last month. Together with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which Biden signed into law in March, the three proposals would plunge about $6 trillion into the American economy, a possibly unparalleled level of U.S. government spending.

As the Post noted, although the Americans Families and Jobs Plans go far beyond the coronavirus pandemic, much of Biden’s policy evolution can be attributed to the public health crisis he inherited. As such, the new realities of the pandemic will be on full display tonight in the House chamber when Biden delivers his address.

While the chamber is normally packed with about 1,600 people when the president addresses Congress, there will only be about 200 attendees there tonight. Only select members of Congress will be able to attends, as opposed to all 535 lawmakers, and none will be able to bring guests. While much of the Cabinet, Supreme Court, and Joint Chiefs of Stuff are normally on hand as well, only Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Joint Staff Chairman Mark Milley will be in attendance from those institutions.

As is traditional, Biden will be flanked by the Vice President and the Speaker of the House behind him. However, even that custom will take on a historic flavor, as the two positions are held by women — Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi, respectively — for the first time in the nation’s history.

Biden’s address will be followed by a Republican response, which will be delivered by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the lone Black Republican in the upper chamber.

Even if they will mostly not be in attendance  the president’s address will be aimed at two critical audiences: Congress and the American public. Biden has yet to indicate whether he plans to use the partisan reconciliation process to push the Families Plan and the Jobs Plan through Congress, or whether he will seek to foster a bipartisan compromise — likely out of reach — in the vein of his unity promises from the campaign trail.

In any event, due to the party’s razor-thin majorities, Biden will require almost universal Democratic support of his proposals. Democrats also sought to tag the American Rescue Plan as bipartisan (despite its lack of Republican support in Congress) by citing public opinion polls that showed its widespread popularity in the United States. If the Biden administration attempts to use that strategy once again, public opinion will likely be central to his push for the spending proposals, elevating the stakes for this address as his first opportunity to pitch the sweeping programs to the American electorate.

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The Rundown

Some more headlines to know this morning.


  • “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its guidelines Tuesday on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers.” (Associated Press)BIDEN ADMINISTRATION
  • “President Biden is expected to begin naming his choices for high-profile ambassador postings in May or possibly as soon as this week, several people familiar with White House plans said, revealing winners [including Cindy McCain and Rahm Emanuel] among a pecking order of Biden friends, donors and aides that spans decades.” (Washington Post)POLICING IN AMERICA
  • “The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday it has opened a civil-rights investigation into the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown, a Black man, by sheriff’s deputies serving drug-related search and arrest warrants in North Carolina last week.” (Wall Street Journal)

Global Roundup

Top stories from around the world, written weekly by Miles Hession.

Barriers preventing access to the Damascus Gate, a popular fast-breaking site, have been removed in Jerusalem following nights of violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. Access being restored to the gate was an attempt to ease hostility that had increased throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Tensions rose at the start of Ramadan after videos shared on TikTok showed Palestinian youths attacking Israelis, which resulted in response videos made by Israeli youths attacking Palestinians in the annexed predominantly-Palestinian East Jerusalem.

Then, clashes between Palestinians and the police over barriers at the Damascus Gate flared up, culminating in a nighttime march through East Jerusalem by supporters of the extremist Jewish supremacist group Lehava, where supporters chanted “Death to Arabs.” Violence broke out, which left 100 injured in the worst night of fighting and the international community urging for “responsible voices” to restore calm to the city. While the removal of the Damascus Gate barriers was celebrated by Palestinians and marked a crucial deescalation, arrests were still made and scuffles with the police still occurred.

India’s Covid crisis reached new heights as countries around the world offered resources and support. Makeshift funeral pyres and hospitals turning away patients because of a lack of beds and supplies have become the norm throughout India as daily deaths continue to climb. The World Health Organization pointed to a “perfect storm” of low vaccination rates, mass gatherings, and new variants that have led to the massive uptick in cases and deaths that have quickly overwhelmed the Indian health sector.

India mass produces vaccines for much of the world but has ceased exports in an attempt to prioritize vaccinating Indians to stymie the surge in cases. Countries like Australia, the U.K., and France have sent over medical equipment, including oxygen supplies which have become extremely scarce, whilst the U.S. has pledged to export vaccine resources to aid in domestic production. This may be too little too late, though, as experts predicted that daily cases will peak in mid-May, a worrying projection as the Indian health sector continued to buckle.

A hospital in India treating the surge of Covid patients. (Rafiq Maqbool/AP)

The president of Somalia has agreed to abandon plans to extend his term following violence in the capital and months of international and domestic pressure. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajoo, had pushed for a 2-year extension of his term last February purportedly to prepare the country for elections in the face of widespread condemnation. Violence broke out in the capital Mogadishu last Sunday between opposition and pro-government forces which many feared would lead to a breakdown of the country. Farmajoo was backed into a corner as the U.S., a key ally, threatened sanctions and more Somali political figures peeled off. The final blow was delivered by the prime minister, who rejected the term extension and told parliament to prepare for elections soon, leaving Farmajoo with no other option but capitulation.

More global headlines, via Miles:


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern.)

President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10 a.m. Later, at 9 p.m., he will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will attend Biden’s address. The first lady will also host a virtual reception at 4 p.m. for the guests who would have joined her in the House chamber for the president’s speech but will instead be watching remotely.
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. to discuss monetary policy and the economy.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will proceed to consideration of S.J.Res. 14, which would undo a Trump administration rule that put limits on the EPA’s ability to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The rule would be repealed by the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to rescind regulations issued by the executive branch within the past 60 legislative days.

The chamber will hold a voice vote on the motion to proceed to the resolution, followed by up to 10 hours of debate on the measure. At 12:30 p.m., the Senate will hold a cloture vote to advance the nomination of Samantha Power to be Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The Senate is also expected to vote on Power’s confirmation and hold a final vote on the Congressional Review Act resolution later in the day.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its first confirmation hearing for federal judges nominated by Biden at 10 a.m. The committee will question five Biden nominees, including D.C. Circuit Court nominee Kentaji Brown Jackson, who is widely believed to be a potential future Supreme Court pick.

The House will convene at 6 p.m. for a brief pro forma session.

  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing at 11 a.m. on “forging a path through the lingering effects of Covid-19.” NIH Director Francis Collins and a trio of “long haul” Covid patients will testify.
  • The House Administration Committee will meet at 12 p.m. to consider a resolution that would dismiss Republican congressional candidate Jim Oberweis’ challenge of his loss to Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL).

The Supreme Court will hear virtual oral arguments at 10 a.m. in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. “This is the most important case about students’ First Amendment rights in fifty years,” WUTP legal contributor Anna Salvatore explains. “In Tinker v. Des Moines, a famous decision from 1968, the Supreme Court ruled that schools can regulate their students’ speech if that speech will disrupt the school environment. But that ruling came down in an era before social media. This morning, the justices will decide whether a Pennsylvania high school can punish a student for Snapchat messages she sent off of school grounds. Their decision will not only have implications for students’ free expression rights, but also for schools’ ability to punish cyberbullying that happens off-campus.”

The court will hear virtual oral arguments at 11 a.m. in PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey. “Do states have veto power over interstate pipeline projects?” Anna writes. “The Supreme Court will consider today whether the private Penneast Pipeline Company — which had its project certified by the federal government — can now force New Jersey to comply with the planned pipeline.”

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