What Now?! – 3/24/2021

Biden called on Congress to “immediately pass” legislation that would close loopholes in gun background checks and ban the purchase of assault weapons a day after the mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, which left 10 dead. “I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour to take common sense steps that will save the lives in the future,” Biden said, adding that background checks “should not be a partisan issue — it is an American issue […] We have to act.” 

Earlier this month, the House passed a pair of bills aimed at strengthening the nation’s gun laws. One would expand background checks and the other would extend the waiting period for background checks to 10 days from three days. Both bills face opposition in the Senate, where they don’t not currently have the 60 votes needed to advance. 

Washington Post: “The city of Boulder, Colorado barred assault weapons in 2018, as a way to prevent mass shootings like the one that killed 17 at a high school in Parkland, Florida earlier that year.”

“But 10 days after that ban was blocked in court, the city was rocked by its own tragedy: Ten people, including a Boulder police officer, were killed at a supermarket in the city’s south end on Monday after a gunman opened fire, law enforcement officials said.”

Washington Post: “We looked at data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to see whether there’s a ‘crisis’ — or even a ‘surge,’ as many news outlets have characterized it. We analyzed monthly CBP data from 2012 to now and found no crisis or surge that can be attributed to Biden administration policies.”

“Rather, the current increase in apprehensions fits a predictable pattern of seasonal changes in undocumented immigration combined with a backlog of demand because of 2020’s coronavirus border closure.”

“Ahead of his visit to the border, intended to draw attention to what he has called a security problem of increasing immigration, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s office issued a news release Thursday touting drug busts supposedly made by its Border Strike Force,” the Arizona Republic reports. “However, each of the highlighted seizures appeared to have been made through the solid, and routine, work of troopers patrolling the state’s highways. And none took place near the border.”

Axios: “The data shows an average of just 13% of nearly 13,000 family members attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border were returned to Mexico between March 14 and March 21 using the public health order, which essentially says the U.S. can close the border to nonessential travel because of the coronavirus.”

“It’s a sign of how the administration is struggling to keep up with a migration surge, and has been recently hamstrung by Mexico’s inability to take in more families the U.S. otherwise would expel.”

ABC News: Biden administration releases video from inside crowded migrant detention facilities.

NBC News: “President Joe Biden is dispatching top U.S. officials to Mexico and Central America as a crisis on the southern U.S. border persists with a surge of asylum-seeking migrants who are fleeing their countries.”

Aaron Blake: “There are valid, philosophical reasons to argue that Washington, D.C., should not be a state or have voting rights in Congress — chief among them being that it was created as a federal district.”

“But as the House held a hearing on the topic Monday, much of the Republican pushback wasn’t about that. Instead it was about the idea that it would help Democrats and that D.C. should be deprived of statehood for various other circumstantial reasons.”

Jonathan Chait: Why Republicans have no good arguments against D.C. statehood.

Philip Bump: “Sen. Mike Rounds represents the 885,000 people of South Dakota. A Republican, he expressed his opposition to the idea that D.C. might become a state by appealing to the most obvious political effect of such a change.”

“He’s not wrong that granting statehood to the 693,000 residents of D.C. would almost certainly increase the number of Democrats in the Senate by two. He’s also not wrong that this is a specific aim of many of the idea’s proponents.”

“It’s just a bit ironic that a senator from a state created for exactly the same reason might take issue on this particular point.”

“Two Democratic senators of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage confronted a senior White House official Monday night over the absence of AAPI representation in President Biden’s Cabinet,” Axios reports.

“Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), backed up by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), leveled the complaint to deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon during a Zoom call between the White House and the Senate Democratic Caucus.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) told CNN Tuesday she will reject all “non-diversity” nominees until President Biden makes a commitment to appointing Asian American Pacific Islanders in key executive branch positions.

“Republicans are looking for ways to attack President Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus despite its huge popularity. One idea they’re testing: target add-ons like an $86 billion pension plan bailout,” Axios reports.

“Republicans privately acknowledge they failed to successfully define the legislation before it passed. Now the American Rescue Plan is becoming a law Americans identify as giving them $1,400 checks and supercharging the economy.”

“Senate Republicans are split on whether to embrace or reject the return of earmarks as the caucus leans into deficit concerns under the Biden administration,” The Hill reports.  “There are sharp lines of division about the path forward, with conservatives pledging to fight any decision by leadership to return to earmarks and top appropriators signaling a willingness to reengage.”

“Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was confirmed Monday by the Senate as the secretary of labor, taking the reins of an agency that is central to President Biden’s worker-friendly agenda,” the Washington Post reports.

Kim Janey achieved two historic milestones in one night: becoming the first Black person and first woman to be installed as Boston’s mayor, the Boston Globe reports. Janey, the Boston City Council president, stepped into the acting role immediately after outgoing Mayor Marty Walsh submitted his resignation to become Labor Secretary.

“President Joe Biden is the first president in more than 30 years to have all of his original Cabinet secretary nominees confirmed to their posts,” CNN reports.

“While Biden did withdraw one nominee that he had designated Cabinet-level — Neera Tanden, who he had selected as his budget chief — the people now serving atop all the major administration agencies are his first pick.”

The Verge: President Joe Biden has announced his intent to nominate Lina Khan, a legal scholar and leading voice in the growing tech antitrust movement, to serve as a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission.

Politico: “Senior House Democrats say the Senate will need to make a decision soon on which pieces of the party’s agenda they’ll move first — and then whether to pursue a bipartisan compromise or move toward a reckoning on the filibuster. Some House Democrats, particularly on the left, are starting to get impatient.”

Playbook: “As we reported recently, chief of staff Ron Klain has told Democrats that the Biden jobs agenda should be split up into multiple bills. There’s only one more opportunity to use reconciliation this year, so by definition ‘multiple bills’ means that the White House will need a 60-vote strategy for any pieces that move through the Senate outside of reconciliation.”

“That strategy raises an obvious question: Can Biden get 10 Republican senators to cooperate on ‘concrete and steel’ when they know the tax and social welfare stuff they oppose is coming next via reconciliation?”

“If the ploy is to lure Republicans to vote for the easy stuff and then do all the controversial stuff through reconciliation, I don’t think our guys take the bait.” — Sen. John Thune (R-SD), quoted by Huffington Post, on the idea of splitting President Biden’s proposed infrastructure package into two parts.

“I would be surprised if there’s anyone in any of these competitive states… that would support maintaining the filibuster. Getting rid of the filibuster is as close to a litmus test for our party as I can describe.”  — Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), quoted by Politico, about how Senate candidates are campaigning on the filibuster.

John McCormack: “In all likelihood, a three-week debate over any of the Democrats’ top legislative priorities would not end in Republicans caving because such a debate would probably make the legislation less popular…”

“For Senate Democrats who oppose the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for legislation, the talking filibuster makes sense only if it is a stepping stone toward majority rule. … But if that the pressure fails to persuade Manchin, Sinema, and other holdouts to abandon the 60-vote rule, then their Democratic colleagues would be the ones feeling the most pain.”

Politico: Killing the filibuster becomes new “litmus test” for Democratic candidates.

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson: “The filibuster is in trouble. President Joe Biden has come out in favor of reforming it, and Democrats in the Senate are weighing alternatives. But the strongest sign that its days are numbered is that the Republican leader Mitch McConnell is threatening Armageddon if the other party touches it. No one presently—or perhaps ever—in the Senate has practiced the dark art of obstruction as relentlessly as the current minority leader. And the Kentucky senator’s most effective weapon, requiring 60 votes for virtually everything the opposing party wants to do, has been the filibuster.”

“Democrats can propose legislation that voters strongly support—a higher minimum wage, a path to citizenship for Dreamers, background checks for gun purchasers, safeguards for Americans’ ability to cast ballots—and McConnell can strangle it off camera with a minimum of notice or fuss.”

Washington Post: “Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will unveil the largest rollback of consumer mail services in a generation as part of his 10-year plan for the U.S. Postal Service… including longer first-class delivery windows, reduced post office hours and higher postage prices.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders “is set to unveil a trio of bills designed to lower the cost of prescription drugs and give American consumers access to the competitive global drug market,” CNN reports.

“One bill is designed to index the price of popular drugs according to the global market. A second will give Medicare the opportunity to pay for drugs through a competitive bidding process, and the third would allow Americans to buy drugs at cheaper prices from foreign sellers.”

“From his perch as Budget Committee chairman, Sanders wields a powerful weapon. He is able to push through legislation through the reconciliation process, which allows bills, which directly impact the federal budget, to pass the Senate with a simple majority.”

Philip Bump: “To put it bluntly: The total number of vaccines secured by the United States is almost twice the number needed to vaccinate everyone, even after considering that most of the vaccines require two doses for full effectiveness.”

“Again, it’s understandable why the government would want to make sure that Americans were able to get a sufficient number of effective vaccines before pledging to share them with other countries. But that’s the other cloud hanging out there. The longer it takes to reach herd immunity globally, the more possible it is that a variant of the virus will emerge that renders the vaccines ineffective.”

“Hence the calls to be as generous as possible as soon as possible.”

“The U.S. accounts for 27% of the world’s coronavirus vaccine production, but 0% of the global supply beyond its own borders. Critics and allies alike say it’s time for that to change,” Axios reports.

“China has gotten a head start on vaccine diplomacy, sending millions of doses all over the globe, including to Latin America. Experts say it’s in America’s interests to compete in the race to vaccinate the world, and the calls to start doing so are getting louder.”

“Eleven years after President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, the reach of the law is growing, with hundreds of thousands flocking to its marketplace and even deeply conservative states considering its Medicaid expansion,” the New York Times reports.

“More than 200,000 Americans signed up for health insurance under the law during the first two weeks of an open enrollment period created by President Biden — a sign that those who lost insurance during the pandemic remain in desperate need of coverage.”

“And a provision in the president’s $1.9 trillion stimulus law to make Medicaid expansion more fiscally appealing has convinced deep-red Alabama and Wyoming to consider expanding the program to residents whose incomes are too high to qualify now but too low to afford private health plans.”

“The average tax rate on U.S. corporations fell by more than half, to 7.8 percent, in the wake of Republicans’ 2017 tax overhaul, according to a new government analysis,” Politico reports.

“The U.S., U.K., European Union and Canada all announced sanctions on Monday against Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims,” Axios reports.

“It’s a coordinated Western effort to hold Beijing accountable for its sweeping campaign of arbitrary detention, forced labor and forced sterilization against ethnic minorities in the far west region of Xinjiang, which the U.S. State Department and several legislative bodies have recognized as genocide.”

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be able to form a government for the seventh time in his three-decade political career, according to preliminary results from 97% of the regular polling stations reported by the Central Elections Committee,” the Jerusalem Post reports.

Haaretz: “Netanyahu still does not have a clear path to a 61-seat majority needed to form a coalition. The vote count is expected to continue through Friday.”

“North Korea fired off multiple short range missiles last weekend after denouncing Washington for going forward with joint military exercises with South Korea,” the Washington Post reports.

“The missile tests, which have not previously been reported, represent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s first direct challenge to President Biden, whose aides have not yet outlined their approach to the regime’s nuclear threat amid an ongoing review of U.S.-North Korea policy.”

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

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