Good morning! It’s Thursday, January 28, 2021. In today’s newsletter: The latest fallout from the January 6 riot, more answers to your impeachment questions, and details on the executive actions on health care Joe Biden will take today.
Need to Know
The Department of Homeland Security issued its first-ever national terrorism bulletin about domestic extremists on Wednesday. The bulletin warns about the “heightened threat” posed by “ideologically-motivated violent extremists” angered by the 2020 election results, COVID-19 restrictions, and other issues. “Emboldened by the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol Building,” these extremists “could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the advisory added.
- Nearly 140 police officers were injured during the January 6 attack, U.S. Capitol Police union chair Gus Papathansiou said in a statement blasting the force’s leadership on Wednesday. “One officer has two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs,” he said. “One officer is going to lose his eye, and another was stabbed with a metal fence stake.”
- It was reported earlier this week that a second officer who responded to the Capitol riot had committed suicide in the aftermath of the attack. A third officer, Brian Sicknick, died on the day of the riot from injuries sustained while attempting to protect the Capitol.
Democrats are wrestling with how to move forward with President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. According to Politico Playbook, the White House is considering splitting the legislation into two parts. Such a plan would include cobbling together a $600-$800 billion “60-vote package” that could obtain enough bipartisan support to avert a filibuster, including provisions such as vaccine funding and unemployment insurance. The rest of the package would then be added to Biden’s “Build Back Better” jobs plan and passed through the reconciliation process, which only requires 51 votes in the Senate.
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki denied the report in a tweet this morning. “We are engaging with a range of voices—that’s democracy in action—we aren’t looking to split a package in two,” she said.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the incoming chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, is already preparing a resolution to pass the entire $1.9 trillion package — which includes progressive initiatives such as a $15/hour minimum wage — through reconciliation, even as the Biden administration continues to negotiate with Republicans. “We have got to act now,” Sanders told CNN.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is facing backlash after the surfacing of incendiary social media comments that she posted and promoted. A CNN review of her Facebook page found that Greene “indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians,” including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress last year. Greene has also promoted the fantastical QAnon conspiracy theory; on Wednesday, a 2019 video of her harassing Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg was widely shared online.
- Less than four weeks into her congressional tenure, Greene is already causing headaches for Republican leaders, who are being urged to condemn her comments. So far, they have remained mostly silent, with a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) telling Axios that McCarthy “plans to have a conversation with the Congresswoman” about her rhetoric.
- Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) announced Wednesday that he would introduce a resolution to expel Greene from Congress. The measure would need two-thirds support in the House in order to pass.
More impeachment questions, answered
In Monday’s newsletter, I answered some frequently asked questions about the upcoming impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. Here are answers to a few more questions that readers sent in:
Q: Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution reads that conviction requires a 2/3 majority of those present. What happens if theoretically, 25 senators decide the weather is nice and take a golf day? Would not, then, 50 votes be sufficient for conviction? — Jim Frazee of Sewell, New Jersey
(Similar questions were submitted by Mark Taylor of Wheaton, Illinois; Philip Deitch of St. Louis, Missouri; and Andrew Horowitz of Albuquerque, New Mexico.)
A: Yes, conviction in the Senate requires the “concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present,” which means two-thirds of however many senators show up for the vote that day. If all 100 senators are present, that would set the bar for conviction at 67 votes, which would mean 17 Republicans crossing the aisle to vote against Trump. But if not all members show up, the threshold for conviction would drop with each absentee senator.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) argued in an op-ed this week that Republicans should “boycott” the impeachment trial. However, all 100 were sworn in as jurors on Tuesday, so even if Paul and other Republicans skip most of the proceedings, they could still participate in the final vote at the trial’s conclusion.
Q: I have heard people mention “censuring” the President instead of impeachment. What would that involve and what would that accomplish? — Wendy Farwell of Tucson, Arizona
A: A presidential censure is essentially a resolution passed by one or both chambers of Congress that acts as a formal condemnation by the body for certain actions a president has taken. There are no formal consequences associated with a censure; think of it more as a “slap on the wrist” from the legislative branch to the executive. The only time that the Senate has formally censured a president was in 1834, when the chamber rebuked Andrew Jackson amid a fight over the Bank of the United States. (It was later expunged in 1837.)
The censure idea has gained some steam in recent days. According to Axios, Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have been discussing a censure with the colleagues, as a way to rebuke Trump without holding a lengthy trial that will hold up Senate business but is likely to end in acquittal. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) also backed a censure before the House moved forward with impeachment, suggesting that the resolution could receive bipartisan support.
Q: How is it that senators can be sworn in as jurors in the upcoming impeachment trial and yet state they will find the president innocent, before the trial has yet begun? That could not happen in a courtroom of civilian jurors. — Marilyn Gardner of Anchorage, Alaska
A: First off, it’s worth noting that plenty of senators on both sides of the aisle have made their opinions on the trial clear, whether it’s Democrats pre-emptively declaring Trump guilty or Republicans already deeming him innocent.
You’re right that those are comments that wouldn’t fly in a courtroom jury — but it’s important to remember that this isn’t like a trial that you would see play out in court. This is a political process, not a legal one, and senators are not bound to the same rules that traditional jurors are. This is a distinction that should be kept in mind as the trial begins, since there are many ways it will diverge from a traditional courtroom trial — because it isn’t one.
Q: Could you discuss the possibility of voting by secret ballot in an impeachment trial? — Elaine Gelber of Lincoln, Nebraska
A: The Senate can set their own rules for an impeachment trial — so senators could decide to hold their final vote in secret if they wish. However, as noted in a piece on the topic in the Washington Post, the Constitution also says that one-fifth of senators can vote to require that the “Yeas and Nays” of any roll call be publicly recorded. That means more than 80 senators would have to agree to vote by secret ballot for it to possible. (It’s also worth noting that the optics of holding such a momentous vote behind closed doors would not be great and would probably be politically untenable for most members.)
Q: Can a person run for Federal Office if they have been convicted of a felony? Trump has a number of court cases looming and if convicted may be a deterrent from running for President again. — Glenn Kubota of New York City, New York
A: Yes, they can. The Constitution sets only three requirements for presidents: They must be 35 years old, natural-born citizens, and have lived in the United States for 14 years. But there is no mention of barring felons from running for the office, and thus they remain eligible, even though they would not be able to vote for themselves in some states. (As outlined in Monday’s newsletter, a president who is convicted not in a court but by the Senate could be barred by the chamber from holding office again in the future.)
One famous example of a convicted felon running for president is Eugene V. Debs, who made five bids for the White House as the Socialist Party candidate. He ran his last campaign, in 1920, from a prison cell after being convicted for ten counts of sedition.
Do you have any other questions about the topics covered in today’s newsletter or American politics in general? Send me an email and I might answer it in an upcoming issue.
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An unexpected headline: “President Biden's First White House Sign Language Interpreter Has Ties to the Far Right” Time
A hopeful read: “Vaccinated People Are Going to Hug Each Other” The Altantic
A thought-provoking piece: “The country is being buffeted by groups that couldn’t exist 30 years ago” The Washington Post, on the common thread between the Capitol riot and the surge in GameStop stock.
A powerful graphic: “How 425,000 Coronavirus Deaths Added Up” The New York Times
Quote of the Day: “Boy, there’s a lot of unusual things going on in here.” — Dr. Anthony Fauci on his thought process when visiting the Trump White House in an Atlantic interview
Some numbers to know...
- 649 days until Election Day 2022.
- 1,377 days until Election Day 2024.
- 101 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported across the globe. (+600K) Johns Hopkins University
- 25.6 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States. (+200K) Johns Hopkins University
- 25.6 million shots of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States. (+1.1 million) Bloomberg
- 75% of Wyoming Republicans hold an unfavorable view of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who voted for impeachment, according to a poll conducted by former President Trump’s political operation. Politico
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:45 a.m. in the Oval Office. At 1:30 p.m., he will sign executive actions “strengthening Americans’ access to quality, affordable health care” in the Oval Office.
- According to a White House fact sheet, Biden will sign an order initiating a “special enrollment period” to allow Americans to sign up for health insurance from February 15 to May 15 through the online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. The marketplace is normally only open for a six-week period at the end of each year.
- Biden will also direct federal agencies to consider a range of new policies to strengthen the ACA, and will issue a memorandum striking down the “Mexico City policy,” which Republican presidents have enacted to prohibit federal funding from going to organizations that provide abortion counseling abroad.
Vice President Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief with Biden and attend the signing ceremony for the health care actions.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 2:30 p.m. in the White House briefing room.
The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will be in a period of morning business, with senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each. At 1:45 p.m., the Senate will hold a cloture vote to advance Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas.
- Mayorkas is the first Biden Cabinet nominee to face a Republican filibuster; the filibuster will be broken if he receives a simple majority on today’s vote, due to a rules change for executive nominees enacted in 2013.
- Senate Democrats will hold a conference call today with National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zeints, who have led the Biden administration’s outreach efforts to Congress on the president’s proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
The House will convene at 9 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. at the Capitol Visitor Center.
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will meet with former President Donald Trump in Florida today, according to Punchbowl News. The huddle comes as McCarthy has received criticism both from Trump for rebuking him on the House floor during the impeachment debate, as well as from corporate donors and some Republican members for not rebuking Trump enough.
The Supreme Court is not in session.
In Monday’s newsletter, I reported that Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) was censured by the Arizona Republican Party for his certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Although he angered former President Trump and others in the state party by certifying the results, the stated purpose of the censure resolution was to condemn restrictions he had enacted to curb the spread of COVID-19.
- My apologies for the error and thanks to reader Liz Brauer for pointing it out.