What Now?! – 3/8/21

“President Biden’s stimulus package, which passed the Senate on Saturday, represents one of the most generous expansions of aid to the poor in recent history, while also showering thousands or, in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars on Americans families navigating the coronavirus pandemic,” the Washington Post reports.

“The roughly $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which only Democrats supported, spends most of the money on low-income and middle-class Americans and state and local governments, with very little funding going toward companies.”

“This round of aid enjoys wide support across the country, polls show, and it is likely to be felt quickly by low- and moderate-income Americans who stand to receive not just larger checks than before, but money from expanded tax credits, particularly geared toward parents; enhanced unemployment; rental assistance; food aid and health insurance subsidies.”

Jonathan Cohn: Progressives should be celebrating the Senate’s Covid-19 relief bill.

Washington Post: What’s in the bill?

Former President Barack Obama congratulated President Joe Biden on the successful passage of his Covid-19 relief bill through the Senate, calling it “a reminder of why it’s so important to vote” and how “elections matter.”

Jeff Greenfield: With no votes to spare, Biden gets a win Obama and Clinton would have envied.

“The end result is essentially about the same. I don’t think any of the compromises have in any way fundamentally altered the essence of what I put in the bill in the first place.” — President Joe Biden, quoted by USA Today, after the Senate passed his pandemic relief plan.

Dan Balz: “President Biden and Democratic lawmakers will face many challenges this year as they attempt to dramatically redirect policy after four years of Donald Trump’s presidency. None will be as consequential for the future of elections and the shape of democracy as the coming battle in the Senate over a comprehensive election revision bill.”

“In its simplest description, the legislation is designed to make it easier for people to vote, make elections more transparent and shore up some of the infrastructure of election operations. Such a description, however, belies the breadth of what is included in the nearly 800-page bill, which carries the biggest proposed changes for elections in decades.”

NBC News: Democrats confront a harsh political choice: Save the filibuster or pass Biden’s agenda.

Sen. Joe Manchin told NBC News “that he won’t bend in his support for the filibuster, a Senate rule that forces most legislation to require bipartisan support to pass.”

“But he added that he would be open to Democrats passing more important legislation like voting reforms by a party-line vote — if senators are given ample space for bipartisan negotiation first.”

He also said that he was “willing to look at” ideas to make the filibuster “a little bit more painful,” like requiring lawmakers to take to the floor for marathon speeches if they wanted to use the procedure.

Politico: “Passage of the Covid aid bill validated an argument Schumer has made for more years now, that Democrats erred by trying to bring Republicans on board for a big relief plan during the last economic crisis in 2009. This time around, Republicans weren’t ‘even in the ballpark’ when they offered a $600 billion spending bill as a compromise, said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL).”

“So instead of searching for bipartisan support and potentially watering down a historic bill that beefs up pensions, health care and crucial unemployment benefits, Schumer rolled the dice on total party unity — and succeeded.”

“Democrats’ failure to pass a minimum-wage increase could spur bipartisan negotiations to bridge the big gap between the party’s progressive wing, its centrists and Republican senators on raising workers’ pay,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

USA Today: “Anyone who thought his outsized influence in the evenly divided Senate was overstated needed only to see how the chamber came to a screeching halt when the West Virginia moderate raised questions about the size of unemployment benefits.”

“Manchin already effectively derailed one of Biden’s Cabinet nominees. And he showed his clout again during the debate of Bidens’ Covid-19 relief bill. After he objected to the $400-per-week payments, it was lowered to $300 following an hours-long delay where the senator was at the center of negotiations.”

CNN: How Democrats miscalculated Manchin and later won him back.

Jim Tankersley: “Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic relief package, which cleared the Senate on Saturday and could be headed for the president’s signature in a matter of days, would overwhelmingly help low earners and the middle class, with little direct aid for the high earners who have largely kept their jobs and padded their savings over the past year.”

“For the president, the plan is more than just a stimulus proposal. It is a declaration of his economic policy — one that captures the principle Democrats and liberal economists have espoused over the past decade: that the best way to stoke faster economic growth is from the bottom up.”

CNN: “A two-page memo, drafted by White House senior adviser Anita Dunn and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese … hails the work that has been done… But it also makes clear that between the implementation of its sweeping provisions and Biden’s ambitious agenda ahead, Biden has no plans of resting on any laurels.”

The Albany Times Union called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign, but not for the sexual harassment allegations lodged against him: “First Gov. Andrew Cuomo hid the truth about deaths of nursing home residents from the public. Then his administration lied about why. Then, pretending to come clean, it lied about why it lied.”

“Enough. Mr. Cuomo has squandered the public’s trust at a time when it’s needed more than ever. Amid an enduring pandemic, it is vital that people can believe what their governor and their government are telling them, and that the rules they’re asked to follow and the sacrifices they’re asked to make are truly in the interest of public health. It is time for Mr. Cuomo to resign, and for those who helped him deceive the public to go, too.”

“Democrats in the New York Legislature on Friday took their most concrete step against an increasingly embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo, passing a bill that imposes some limits on his king-like emergency powers as they grow increasingly frustrated with the leader of their party,” Politico reports.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) defiantly rebuffed calls for his resignation as more women have come forward with sexual harassment allegations against him, saying Sunday “there is no way” he will step down, CBS News reports.

Said Cuomo: “I was elected by the people of the state, not by politicians. I’m not going to resign because of allegations. The premise of resigning because of allegations is actually anti-democratic.”

“A former aide of Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he asked her if she had a boyfriend, called her sweetheart, touched her on her lower back at a reception and once kissed her hand when she rose from her desk,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Ana Liss, now 35 years old, served as a policy and operations aide to Mr. Cuomo between 2013 and 2015. She said the actions by Mr. Cuomo were unsolicited and occurred in the first year while she sat at her desk, which was near his office in the Executive Chamber of the New York State Capitol in Albany.”

Liss is the third former Cuomo aide to describe inappropriate workplace treatment by the Governor.

Washington Post: “The newest accounts of Cuomo’s workplace behavior by former aides in interviews with The Washington Post come after several women have publicly accused the New York governor of inappropriate personal comments or unwelcome physical contact. The allegations have engulfed one of the country’s top Democratic officials in crisis and put a sharp focus on the workplace culture he has fostered during his three decades in public office.”

“What Cuomo has touted as an ‘aggressive’ style goes far beyond that behind the scenes, according to more than 20 people who have worked with him from the 1990s to the present. Many former aides and advisers described to The Post a toxic culture in which the governor unleashes searing verbal attacks on subordinates. Some said he seemed to delight in humiliating his employees, particularly in group meetings, and would mock male aides for not being tough enough.”

New York Times: “Some people who have spoken to Mr. Cuomo in recent days have described him as shaken by the speed with which the political fallout arrived, with dueling scandals and reports of his bullying behavior all converging, very publicly, at once. Others have questioned whether he grasped the gravity of his circumstances.”

“But the rapidly unfurling crises, they said, have been especially challenging for a governor who has always sought to be in control. Now he is at the whims of often-fickle public opinion, fuming legislators and investigations. … People who have been in touch with Mr. Cuomo’s team described some staff members — in particular, younger ones — as demoralized and exhausted.”

Reuters: “Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has enlisted the help of Atlanta lawyer John Floyd, who wrote a national guide on prosecuting state racketeering cases. Floyd was hired recently to ‘provide help as needed’ on matters involving racketeering, including the Trump investigation and other cases…”

“If she pursues racketeering charges, Willis will need to prove a pattern of corruption by Trump, alone or with his allies, aimed at overturning the election results to stay in power. While racketeering is typically pursued by prosecutors in cases involving such crimes as murder, kidnapping, and bribery, the Georgia statute defines racketeering more broadly to include false statements made to state officials.”

Washington Post: “The disparity between the reception to President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan and President Biden’s is the result of several seismic shifts in American politics — the most dramatic of which may be the apparent impact of the pandemic on attitudes about the role of government in helping the economy.”

“The shift is also the result of a reorientation on economic policy — both on the left and on the right — that has transformed the political landscape.”

Washington Post: “People close to the White House say some aides have been turned off by the overt campaigning on [Shalanda] Young’s behalf, which began before the White House formally withdrew the nomination of Neera Tanden earlier this week.”

Politico: “Republicans in Congress attacking President Joe Biden’s plan to pour hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic relief aid into local governments are facing resistance — from GOP-run states and cities.”

“Republican mayors in Texas, Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma are among those backing Biden’s state and local government funding plan as part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill that’s before the Senate, defying GOP lawmakers in Washington, who are broadly resisting the spending.”

“Russian intelligence agencies have mounted a campaign to undermine confidence in Pfizer Inc.’s and other Western vaccines, using online publications that in recent months have questioned the vaccines’ development and safety,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The websites played up the vaccines’ risk of side effects, questioned their efficacy, and said the U.S. had rushed the Pfizer vaccine through the approval process, among other false or misleading claims.”

The United States has administered 90.35 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Sunday morning, Reuters reports.

CNN: “At the current pace of about 2 million shots per day — the latest seven-day average of doses administered reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the US could reach herd immunity by summer through vaccinations alone. It will likely be even sooner, if factoring in individuals who may have some natural immunity due to prior infection.”

“Herd immunity thresholds for Covid-19 are only estimates at this point. But experts generally agree that somewhere between 70% and 85% of the population must be protected to suppress the spread.”

“President Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Sunday that directs the government to take steps to make voting easier, marking the 56th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Ala., which swiftly turned voting rights into a national cause,” the New York Times reports.

“The multipart order is aimed at using the far-flung reach of federal agencies to help people register to vote and to encourage Americans to go to the polls on Election Day.”

Axios: “The executive order comes as Democrats face an uphill battle to pass a sweeping election bill meant, in part, to combat a growing number of proposals introduced by Republicans at the state level that would restrict voter access.”

New York Times: “Ms. Rice occupies the West Wing office that was previously inhabited by Stephen Miller, President Donald J. Trump’s top policy adviser. Aware of the symbolism of a Black woman who has been vilified by conservatives occupying the space where Mr. Trump’s most hard-line immigration adviser used to dictate policy, Ms. Rice has decorated it with Haitian art and scented it with sage.

“From there, she now convenes regular Zoom meetings about topics central to Mr. Biden’s agenda — she hinted at actions to come on voting rights, community violence and gun safety — and she has reorganized the way the council works. Instead of having a principal deputy serving under the director, she has appointed four senior deputies who are experts in their fields.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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