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Wake Up To Politics - December 7, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Biden’s highest-stakes call
Wake Up To Politics - December 7, 2021

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, December 7, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 336 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,064 days away.

Today is the 80th anniversary of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor — “a date which will live infamy,” as Franklin D. Roosevelt declared in an address to Congress the next day calling on lawmakers to approve a war declaration against Japan, which sent the U.S. into World War II.

Biden, Putin to discuss Ukraine in high-stakes video call

President Joe Biden is facing more than just rising inflation and rising Covid cases: he also may have a foreign policy crisis on his hands.

Russia has been amassing troops near the Ukrainian border, triggering worries that the Kremlin might be planning an invasion. Russia has already sent more than 90,000 troops to the border, and is reportedly preparing a “multi-front offensive” for early next year involving as many as 175,000, according to an intelligence document obtained by the Washington Post.

Per NBC News, U.S. officials say Moscow’s rhetoric is sending signals that this massive deployment — unlike one the Kremlin sent and then withdrew in the spring — “might be for real, and the start of a conflict that could drag in Europe and even the U.S. itself.”

Biden will address the troop buildup head-on today in a secure video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which the New York Times is calling “perhaps [his] highest-stakes leader-to-leader conversation since he took office more than 10 months ago.”

Biden and Putin meeting in Geneva earlier this year. Photo via the Kremlin

According to the Times, Biden will warn Putin “that if he orders the Russian forces poised at the border to invade Ukraine, Western allies may move to cut Russia off from the international financial system and seek direct sanctions” against Putin’s closest associates.

A senior Biden administration official told reporters in a conference call on Monday that Biden and top European allies are preparing sanctions that would “impose significant and severe economic harm on the Russian economy,” while the U.S. is also prepared to increase its military aid to Ukraine and its troop presence there if Russia continues down the path toward invasion.

Ahead of his call with Putin, Biden spoke to the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom on Monday to coordinate on the package of sanctions.

According to the Post, Putin will set an ultimatum of his own in the call, demanding a written guarantee that NATO — the Western military alliance — will not expand east and accept Ukraine as a member, and threatening to invade Ukraine if NATO does so.

How will Biden respond to that? “We’re not going to operate according to the logic of accepting anyone’s red lines,” the senior administration official said Monday.

Another photo of the last Biden-Putin showdown in Geneva. Photo via the Kremlin

What else you should know

→ Diplomatic boycott. “The United States will not send President Biden or any U.S. government official to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February to protest China’s human rights abuses, the White House announced Monday, in a pointed snub to a country seeking to use the Games to enhance its global standing.” Washington Post

→ Omicron update. “The Covid-19 virus is spreading faster than ever in South Africa, the country’s president said Monday, an indication of how the new Omicron variant is driving the pandemic, but there are early indications that Omicron may cause less serious illness than other forms of the virus.” New York Times

→ From Congress to Trump Inc. “Rep. Devin Nunes, a close ally of former President Donald Trump and the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, will resign from Congress later this month to run Trump's new social media company.” Politico

→ A hot primary in Georgia. “Former Georgia Republican Sen. David Purdue on Monday announced a primary challenge against GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, setting off what will be a bitter and competitive primary between former President Donald Trump’s close ally and the sitting incumbent.” ABC News

→ Jan. 6 committee. “Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, is cooperating with the January 6 committee, a significant development that will give investigators insight from one of the highest-ranking Trump officials, according to three sources with knowledge of the committee's activities.” CNN

Devin Nunes is leaving Congress to become the CEO of Trump’s new social media company. Photo by Greg Skidmore

Reporter’s Notebook

Taking you behind the scenes in Washington.

Former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visited Georgetown on Monday to present a women’s rights award named in her honor.

After the speech, Clinton made a few impromptu remarks to a throng of students waiting for her outside. I was in the crowd; click the image below to watch a video of what Clinton said.

Later, I also caught a video of the 2016 presidential nominee exiting the Georgetown library (where she had toured a special exhibit tied to the awards presentation). “Good luck on your exams,” she told the assembled students that time. (With finals coming up next week, I just might need it.)

Policy Roundup: Education

Every Tuesday, Wake Up To Politics contributor Kirsten Shaw Mettler offers a briefing on the week’s top education headlines.

A school shooting in Oxford, Michigan, last week has prompted questions of accountability and prevention for this kind of crime. The attack was the deadliest shooting on school property this year in the United States, with 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley killing four students. Prosecutors are making unusual charges that may change how school shootings are legally processed in this country.

Crumbley’s parents are both facing charges of involuntary manslaughter. The couple allegedly gave the shooting weapon to their son as a Christmas present, but both parents pleaded not guilty to this accusation, saying that the weapon was secured and locked.

It is incredibly unusual for the parents of suspected shooters to face charges due to very high legal standards, but experts believe that if a case is successfully brought against the Crumbley’s, more parents could face legal consequences in the future.

A student-led protest against gun violence in 2018. Photo by Fibonacci Blue

Prosecutors are also looking at the school’s actions, a similarly difficult case to make. In past incidents, schools have been largely shielded from liability. But the decisions made in Michigan may reach the negligence standard. Teachers allegedly kept Crumbley in school despite disturbing warning signs: he was caught researching ammunition in class and had a drawing on his desk of a shooting victim that said, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”

Administrators then met with Crumbley’s parents and attempted to send him home, but the parents refused. Apparently, no school officials searched the student’s backpack, which had a semiautomatic handgun stashed inside. Within hours of meeting with the parents, Crumbley was shooting his classmates. Experts say that it may have been the school’s responsibility to remove or isolate Crumbley if they feared for student safety.

More education policy headlines:

  • President Biden plans on instituting universal pre-K, but will it be possible amid teacher shortages?
  • K-12 schools and higher education institutions are both struggling to make plans given the unknowns of the Omicron variant.
  • Billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged $750 million to funding charter schools.


All times Eastern.

→ President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 8:30 a.m. and hold a secure video call at 10 a.m. with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

According to the White House, “the leaders will discuss a range of topics in the U.S.-Russia relationship, including strategic stability, cyber, and regional issues” and Biden will “underscore U.S. concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine and reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

→ Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks at 10 a.m. to discuss the Biden administration’s efforts to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. At 11:10 a.m., she will participate in a livestreamed discussion on maternal health with five-time U.S. Olympian Allyson Felix, the most decorated Olympic track and field athlete of all time.

→ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 2 p.m.

→ U.S. public health officials will hold an audio-only press briefing at 12:30 p.m. on the COVID-19 response. Participants will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director; and Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator.

→ The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. (Under the provisions of S.Res.470, it will be “as a further mark of respect” for the late Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who died on Sunday.)

At around 11:30 a.m., the chamber will vote on confirmation of Jessica Rosenworcel to be the first female permanent chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), followed by a cloture vote on the nomination of Dierdre Hamilton to be a member of the National Mediation Board.

After the Hamilton vote, the Senate will recess for weekly caucus meetings during lunchtime. At around 2:15 p.m., the chamber will vote on Hamilton’s confirmation, followed by a cloture vote on the nomination of Chris Magnus to be Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The chamber will then vote at around 5:30 p.m. on Magnus’ confirmation.

The chamber may also consider S.J.Res. 31, which would block the Biden administration’s $650 million sale of air-to-air missiles to Saudi Arabia.

→ The House will convene at 12 p.m. Votes are possible on several pieces of legislation related to end-of-year deadlines, including the National Defense Authorization Act, raising the debt ceiling, and reversing automatic cuts to Medicare and other programs that are set to take place due to the Budget Control Act of 2011. (Not all, or even any, of these measures will necessarily received votes today, and some of them might be merged together.)

The chamber may also vote under “suspension of the rules” on up to 14 pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 2355, the Opioid Prescription Verification Act
  2. H.R. 2364, the Synthetic Opioid Danger Awareness Act
  3. H.R. 3743, the Supporting the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the Food and Drug Administration Act
  4. H.R. 3894, the CARING for Social Determinants Act
  5. H.R. 897, the Agua Caliente Land Exchange Fee to Trust Confirmation Act
  6. H.R. 2074, the Indian Buffalo Management Act
  7. H.R. 3531, the Women Who Worked on the Home Front World War II Memorial Act
  8. H.R. 4706, the Blackwell School National Historic Site Act
  9. H.R. 5677, to make technical amendments to update statutory references to certain provisions classified to title 2, United States Code, title 50, United States Code, and title 52, United States Code
  10. H.R. 5679, to make technical amendments to update statutory references to certain provisions classified to title 7, title 20, and title 43, United States Code
  11. H.R. 5695, to make technical amendments to update statutory references to certain provisions which were formerly classified to chapters 14 and 19 of title 25, United States Code
  12. H.R. 5705, to make technical amendments to update statutory references to provisions reclassified to title 34, United States Code
  13. H.R. 5961, to make revisions in title 5, United States Code, as necessary to keep the title current, and to make technical amendments to improve the United States Code
  14. H.R. 5982, to make revisions in title 51, United States Code, as necessary to keep the title current, and to make technical amendments to improve the United States Code

→ The Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth will hold a hearing at 9:30 a.m. on “promoting competition, growth, and privacy protection in the technology sector.”

→ The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

→ The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing at 2:30 p.m. on U.S.-Russia policy, featuring testimony from Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland.

→ The House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security will hold a hearing at 9:30 a.m. on “the worldwide threat of al Qaeda, ISIS, and other foreign terrorist organizations.”

→ The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. to conduct oversight of the U.S. Capitol Police following the January 6 attack, with testimony from Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton.

→ The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at 10 a.m. in United States v. Taylor, which hinges on the question of whether an attempted — but unsuccessful — robbery qualifies as a “crime of violence” under the Hobbs Act of 1946 and 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).