Wake Up To Politics - March 3, 2021
Good morning! It’s Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 615 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,343 days away. One year ago today: Super Tuesday 2020, a key step in Joe Biden’s rise to the White House.
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Biden pulls budget director nominee
President Joe Biden suffered his first Cabinet defeat on Tuesday as the White House withdrew Neera Tanden’s nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget.
Tanden, the president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, had faced bipartisan opposition over her years of controversial tweets, many of them attacking the very senators whose support she was courting. At her confirmation hearing last month, Senate Republicans repeatedly highlighted the caustic messages.
“You wrote that Susan Collins is ‘the worst.’ That Tom Cotton is a ‘fraud.’ That ‘vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz.’ You called Leader McConnell ‘Moscow Mitch’ and ‘Voldemort,’ ” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). “How do you plan to mend fences and build relationships with members of Congress you have attacked through your public statements?”
Then, Tanden apologized. But on Tuesday, she pulled her name from consideration. “Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities,” the nominee wrote in a letter to Biden.
Tanden’s bid to become budget director was derailed when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced his opposition in February, objecting to “her overly partisan statements.” Without Manchin’s support, Tanden would have needed backing from at least one Republican senator to be confirmed. As of Tuesday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) had yet to make her position clear; according to Politico Playbook, the White House briefly engaged in negotiations over a policy trade with Murkowski to seal her support, but decided the deal wasn’t worth it.
The failure of Tanden’s nomination is a reminder of the limits of Biden’s power in a 50-50 Senate, where any one Democrat can doom his agenda.
With that in mind, here’s a status report on Biden’s other nominees and priorities:
- Gina Raimondo was confirmed as Secretary of Commerce on Tuesday, followed by Cecilia Rouse’s confirmation as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Those votes mean Biden now has more than half of his Cabinet in place: 13 confirmations out of 23 positions.
- The Senate will begin consideration of Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package today. Centrist Democrats are throwing up a last-minute roadblock, pushing for the enhanced unemployment benefits to be reduced from $400-a-week to $300.
- After the stimulus bill goes through, lawmakers will turn their attention to the next big legislative push: an infrastructure package. Democrats are also expected to use the reconciliation process, which makes legislation immune to the 60-vote filibuster, for that bill.
- A group of Senate Democrats launched the negotiating over the package Tuesday with a letter to Biden urging him to include additional direct stimulus payments and unemployment benefits in the infrastructure measure as well.
- Meanwhile, the House is slated to pass H.R. 1, the Democratic voting rights and anti-corruption bill, today. The measure is likely dead on arrival in the Senate, although some Democrats are pushing to create a “limited exception” to the filibuster for bills relating to civil rights and voting rights.
CORONAVIRUS: President Biden said Tuesday that the United States would have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for every American adult by the end of May, two months earlier than previously expected. Biden also announced that pharmaceutical giant Merck will help its rival Johnson & Johnson manufacture their newly-authorized single-shot vaccine, providing a boost to production.
--- As vaccine distribution increases, states and localities are easing their coronavirus restrictions. On Tuesday, the governors of Texas and Mississippi lifted statewide mask mandates; Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) also announced that businesses in his state could reopen to full capacity.
WRAY HEARING: In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray debunked the growing myth that the January 6 riot at the Capitol was initiated by left-wing agitators and not Trump supporters. “We have not, to date, seen any evidence of anarchist violence extremists or people subscribing to Antifa in connection to the 6th,” Wray said.
SCANDAL: A scathing report set to be released today by the Defense Department inspector general will allege that Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX) made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate and violated a policy against drinking while on a presidential trip during his time as the top White House physician.
--- New York state lawmakers have struck a deal to strip Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) of his pandemic-era emergency powers amid new allegations of sexual harassment and a cover-up of coronavirus death data.
By Miles Hession
Unrest in Haiti has grown as protestors oppose President Jovenal Moise’s claim to power and continued gang violence. The political crisis in the country reached a boiling point in early February as Moise refused to step down despite assertions from opposition leaders that his term had ended. Moise insists that because of a delayed election his five-year term ends in 2022, but legal experts and civil society groups oppose this claim and opposition members attempted to install a new president, resulting in their arrests. Many within the country are worried about Moise remaining in power as he has been accused of corruption and anti-democratic practices, and plans a constitutional referendum that could expand and centralize his power further. Additionally, a high-profile jailbreak last weekend epitomized to many opposition groups their frustrations with the current government’s lax policies towards gangs.
The Biden administration came out in support of Moise, bolstering the legitimacy of a leader who has often aligned with U.S. interests. In spite of the political turmoil, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has increased deportations of asylum seekers to Haiti, despite attempts by the Biden administration to impose a 100-day moratorium on deportations.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia conditionally agreed to hold snap elections after protestors stormed a government building on Monday. Calls for the prime minister’s resignation have persisted since November, following the conclusion of a “disastrous war” which saw Armenia lose large swathes of land to neighboring Azerbaijan. The calls have only escalated since Pashinyan’s attempted firing of a top general, whom he accused of a coup attempt, and the subsequent overruling of that firing by President Armen Sarsgyan. The conflict reached new heights this week as protestors stormed a government building demanding Pashinyan’s resignation. Pashinyan has now agreed to hold parliamentary elections, should opposition parties also agree to the snap elections.
Iran has rejected an invitation to an informal summit with the European Union and United States to revive the Iran nuclear deal, diminishing prospects of the deal’s restoration. The U.S. and Iran had reached a stalemate last week as both parties signaled they were unwilling to move first in negotiations. The possibility of negotiations devolved further following U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed proxies in Syria and censure efforts by the E3 nations of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany in response to Iran limiting oversight on its nuclear program. The Biden administration has announced plans to continue pursuing diplomatic options, but with the talks collapsing, the path forward will become more complicated.
Some more global headlines:
- Protests in Myanmar saw their bloodiest day on Sunday as the military junta killed at least 18 people; new charges have been raised against deposed state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
- Congressional Democrats are calling on the Biden administration to take action against the crown prince of Saudia Arabia after an intelligence report found him responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong faced “one of the heaviest setbacks” in years as 47 pro-democracy leaders were charged under China’s new national security law.
- The Biden administration announced sanctions against Russia over the country’s treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
- The U.S. is urging Ethiopia to end hostilities in the northern Tigray region amid growing reports of atrocities in the area.
- Former President Nicolas Sarkozy of France was found guilty of corruption charges.
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Then, at 1:45 p.m., he will hold a bipartisan meeting on cancer. At 5 p.m., he will participate virtually in the House Democratic Caucus’ annual retreat.
- Vice President Kamala Harris will join Biden for the President’s Daily Brief. At 11:50 a.m., she will visit a woman-owned small business in Alexandria, Virginia, to discuss the coronavirus relief package. Then, she will join Biden for his meeting on cancer, and at 6 p.m., she will ceremonially swear in Gina Raimondo as Secretary of Commerce.
- First Lady Jill Biden will tour two public schools with Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. They will visit Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Meriden, Connecticut, and Fort LeBoeuf Middle School in Waterford, Pennsylvania.
- Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will participate in a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee with DNC Chair Jaime Harrison and Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), according to Politico.
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken will deliver an address on U.S. foreign policy at 11 a.m.
- U.S. public health officials will hold a press briefing at 11 a.m. on COVID-19 response. Participants will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisor for COVID-19 response.
- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12:30 p.m.The Senate will convene at 12 p.m. for morning business. The two party leaders will have the opportunity to speak, and then senators will be able to deliver remarks for up to 10 minutes each. The chamber is then expected to begin consideration of H.R. 1319, the $1.9 coronavirus relief package, which has been titled the American Rescue Plan Act.
- The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules Committee will hold a joint hearing at 10 a.m. on the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Major Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, will testify.
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a confirmation hearing at 10 a.m. on Brenda Mallory, nominee to be chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and Janet McCabe, nominee to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
- The Senate Finance Committee will hold a meeting at 10 a.m. to vote on Xavier Becerra, nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services; Katherine Tai, nominee to be U.S. Trade Representative; and Adewale Adeyemo, nominee to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.
- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing at 10 a.m. on Wendy Sherman, nominee to be Deputy Secretary of State, and Brian McKeon, nominee to be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.The House will convene at 9 a.m. for legislative business. Fifteen lawmakers from each party will have one minute each to deliver remarks. Then, the chamber will complete consideration of H.R. 1, the For the People Act. The House will vote on the final 29 of the 56 amendments proposed to the bill and then vote on the final legislation itself.
The bill is a sweeping package of top Democratic priorities which aims to expand voting rights, update campaign finance laws, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.
- The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch will hold a hearing at 11 a.m. on the U.S. Capitol Police budget. Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman will testify. Pittman will ask for a 20% budget increase, pointing to a 94% increase in threats to lawmakers since the January 6 attack. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Carr v. Saul.
“Let’s say that you’re seeking disability benefits under the Social Security Act,” WUTP legal contributor Anna Salvatore explains. “Can you challenge the appointment of your administrative law judge during the proceedings, or do you have to wait until after the judge has ruled against you? SCOTUSblog expert Ronald Mann calls the matter — which is the subject of this morning’s case — ‘a surprisingly basic question of administrative law.’ ”
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