Good morning! It’s Thursday, July 22, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 474 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,202 days away.
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Pelosi vetoes GOP picks for January 6 panel
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected a pair of Republican appointees to the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on Wednesday, leading House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to announce that the GOP will not participate in the panel.
According to the resolution passed by the House last month, Pelosi was able to appoint eight members to the committee and McCarthy was able to appoint five — but Pelosi was given veto power over McCarthy’s picks. She announced Wednesday that she was nixing two of them, Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN) and Jim Jordan (R-OH).
Both Banks and Jordan are allies of former President Donald Trump who voted to object to the 2020 election results in the hours after the January attack. Banks had been chosen as the select committee’s ranking member.
“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.”
The House speaker said that she was “prepared to appoint” McCarthy’s three other picks and called on him to choose replacements for Banks and Jordan, but the Republican leader soon announced that he would not take part in the committee if Pelosi was dictating his roster.
“This represents an egregious abuse of power and will irreparably damage this institution,” McCarthy responded in his own statement. “Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”
The back-and-forth on Wednesday extinguished any hope that there might be a fully bipartisan investigation into the January 6 riot, the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol in more than two centuries.
Democrats had initially sought to set up an independent, bipartisan commission — split equally between the two parties — to investigate the riot. The bill to set up such a body passed the House in a 252-175 vote, but it needed 60 votes to advance in the Senate and was blocked by Republicans, 54-35.
That’s when Pelosi introduced the select committee as a Plan B. The speaker signaled Wednesday that the panel would still push ahead with its investigation — and noted that it would still include representation of both parties, since she used one of her appointments to tap Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), a noted Trump critic and former member of House GOP leadership.
Cheney endorsed Pelosi’s move on Wednesday, telling reporters: “I agree with what the Speaker has done.”
Democrats are planning to use the committee to launch a detailed probe into Trump’s conduct on January 6. According to Politico, Democratic members are preparing “an effort to dig deeply into the chaotic endgame of the Trump White House.”
They will also “likely examine the intelligence breakdowns that led to security officials and police officers at the Capitol being unprepared and overrun by rioters,” the Politico report said.
Without any Trump allies on the panel, Democrats will have an easier time issuing subpoenas — possibly even for the former president himself — and holding hearings free of partisan bickering. (The committee’s first hearing, which will include testimony from police officers, will take place next week.)
However, Pelosi’s decision to kick GOP members off of the committee will cost the investigation its bipartisan imprimatur and could make it less likely that the panel’s findings will be accepted by a wide swath of Americans.
When asked by a reporter to respond to McCarthy’s charge that her actions had politicized the investigation, Pelosi scoffed. “Perhaps you mistake me for somebody who would care about that,” she said.
More headlines to know this morning.
INFRASTRUCTURE: Senate Republicans blocked a vote to advance the as-yet-unwritten bipartisan infrastructure package on Wednesday, calling for more time to finalize the agreement. The measure needed 60 votes to advance and failed 49-51, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) switching his vote to ensure that he could bring the bill up again.
- The “G22” — the 10 Republicans and 12 Democrats w0rking on an infrastructure compromise — said in a statement that they “are close to a final agreement” and plan to be finished with their negotiations “in the coming days.” Another vote on the package is possible as soon as Monday.
CORONAVIRUS: “Top White House aides and Biden administration officials are debating whether they should urge vaccinated Americans to wear masks in more settings as the delta variant causes spikes in coronavirus infections across the country, according to six people familiar with the discussions,” the Washington Post reports.
- “The talks are in a preliminary phase and their result could be as simple as new messaging from top White House officials. But some of the talks include officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who are separately examining whether to update their masking guidance, according to a Biden administration aide and a federal health official.”
DEBT CEILING: “Republicans will not vote to increase the federal borrowing limit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a new interview, setting the stage for a huge battle in Congress as it stares at a deadline to avoid a debt default,” according to CNN.
- “McConnell’s threat prompted outrage from top Democrats, warning the GOP leader is playing a dangerous game that could tank the US economy. Republicans argue that it's not uncommon for the majority party to shoulder the burden for increasing the debt limit, a politically toxic vote for lawmakers up for reelection.”
Policy Roundup: Legal
On Thursdays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Anna Salvatore offers a roundup on the week’s top legal news:
The 7th Circuit ruled on Monday that a new Indiana law illegally purges voters from the rolls. The state law — known as SB 334 — allowed Indiana to purge voters who had potentially moved without informing them first. According to 7th Circuit Judge Diane Wood, this practice violated the National Voter Registration Act. States cannot remove voters from the rolls without either receiving direct permission from the voter or notifying them and then waiting, wrote Wood. This is not the first time Indiana has lost a voter registration battle in court. Another one of its laws, SB 442, was blocked by the 7th Circuit in 2019 for wrongly punishing double registration.
Lawyers for the Biden Administration announced that thousands of inmates in home confinement must return to federal prison. As the New York Times reports, 4,000 nonviolent inmates were sent home last spring to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks in prison. But Biden’s legal team now agrees that as soon as the official state of emergency ends for the pandemic — which could be next year — the prisoners must return to their cells. They can only stay home if Biden commutes their sentences or if Congress passes a law explicitly authorizing them to stay. The first option would require lots of paperwork and political risk, so it’s highly unlikely.
A district court judge blocked an Arkansas abortion law on Tuesday, calling it an “imminent threat” to women’s constitutional rights. The judge, Kristine Baker, issued a preliminary injunction, meaning that the law can’t be enforced until she makes a final decision. The legislation would have banned all abortions in the state except when they would save the mother’s life. With no exceptions for rape or incest, it would have been one of the strictest abortion laws in the country, even as Republicans in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana have passed several anti-abortion laws in the past year to provoke the Supreme Court into overturning Roe v. Wade.
More legal headlines, via Anna:
- The D.C. Circuit unanimously dismissed a Republican-led lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that had aimed to dismantle proxy voting. “The Resolution and its implementation lie within the immunity for legislative acts conferred by the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause,” wrote the panel.
- The 10th Circuit ruled on Tuesday that international travel is not a fundamental right—so the government can revoke your passport if you owe too much in taxes. The Gazette called this “the first ruling of its kind in the nation.”
- The 2nd Circuit dismissed a plagiarism lawsuit against Andrew Ross Sorkin, who had been accused of ripping off a character on his show, “Billions.”
- A New Jersey woman is refusing to take down crude political signs about President Biden, even after a local judge ruled that the signs were obscene. She will face fines of $250 a day until she takes them down.
In Wednesday’s newsletter, I misstated the amount of money that negotiators had originally agreed to spend on beefing up IRS tax enforcement. The amount was $40 billion and it was projected that the investment could have netted $100 billion that would have gone to financing the bipartisan infrastructure package. (It has since been stripped from the package as a potential funding source.)
- I hate that I made an error here, but I do appreciate that more than one of my readers thought to quote the late Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL), who is famously said to have joked: “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.”
What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
→ President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10:30 a.m. At 1:15 p.m., he will receive a briefing from members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team on the pandemic and vaccinations. At 2:15 p.m., he will deliver remarks and sign H.R. 1652, the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021, into law.
The bill would strengthen the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) of 1984, by directing funds generated by federal non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreement settlements to a fund for crime victims set up by the 1984 law. It passed the House in a 384-38 vote in March and passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday.
At 4 p.m., Biden will meet with union and business leaders to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure package.
→ Vice President Kamala Harris will join Biden for his daily intelligence briefing, bill signing, and meeting on infrastructure. She will also hold a meeting at 12:15 p.m. with immigration activists and a group of “Dreamers,” immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as minors.
The meeting will include “Dreamers” who have received protection under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era program which was ended by former President Donald Trump and reinstated by Biden, and some who have not.
→ First Lady Jill Biden arrived in Tokyo, Japan, at 2:30 a.m. and greeted with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi. At 6 a.m., she met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga. The first lady is in Tokyo for the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games on Friday.
→ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12:15 p.m. She will be joined by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
→ Members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team will hold their weekly press briefing at 11 a.m. to provide an update on the pandemic response. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, and White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients will participate.
→ The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will move to “morning business,” when senators are able to speak for up to 10 minutes each. At 1:30 p.m., the Senate will hold a vote on the confirmation of Jill Hruby to be Under Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Security.
→ The House will convene at 9 a.m. The chamber will allow for five one-minute speeches from each party before moving to consideration of H.R. 3985, the Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs (ALLIES) Act of 2021.
The bill, which is supported by both parties, would allow for 8,000 more Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) to be issued to Afghan interpreters, contractors, and security personnel who worked with the U.S. government during the war in Afghanistan. The measure would also expedite the process for them to come to the U.S. in order to receive protection from the Taliban.
The chamber will hold an hour of debate, equally divided between the two parties, on the bill before voting on its passage at around 10:30 a.m.
→ The Supreme Court is on recess until October.
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