What Now?! – 3/30/2021

“The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pleaded with Americans to wear masks and stick with Covid-19 mitigation measures, warning of ‘impending doom’ as cases, hospitalizations and deaths begin to rise again,” Bloomberg reports.

Said Rochelle Walensky: “I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We do not have the luxury of inaction. For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge.”

The CDC announced on Monday an extension to its national ban on evictions through the end of June, CNBC reports.  “The protection was scheduled to expire in two days, and advocates warned of a spike of evictions if it was not kept in effect.”

“Around 20% of adult renters said they didn’t pay last month’s rent… Closer to 33% of Black renters reported the same.”

Axios: “Two senior members of former President Trump’s White House coronavirus task force accused former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar of political interference.”

“Critics had long accused the Trump administration of intentionally downplaying the threat of the coronavirus to the American public and interfering with CDC and other health officials, but this is the first time Redfield and Hahn have given insight into tensions with Azar.”

Wall Street Journal: “The government estimates that about between 18,600 and 22,000 children could cross the border in April. For May, officials are estimating the figure could rise to roughly between 21,800 and 25,000. Border Patrol officials have said they expect taking more than 16,000 children into custody this month, a record for any month at the border since at least 2010, according to government data.”

CBS News: “Biden says he wants to ramp up expulsions of migrant families, but most are being allowed to stay.”

Former President Donald Trump told Fox News that he will visit the southern border “over the next couple of weeks.” Said Trump: “A lot of people want me to. The Border Patrol and all of the people of ICE, they want me to go. I really feel I sort of owe it to them, they’re great people.”

Associated Press: “For decades, the job of a vice president was to try to stay relevant, to avoid being viewed, in the words of one occupant of the post, as ‘standby equipment.’ But in recent administrations, the seconds-in-command have increasingly been deputized with special policy assignments that add some weight — and political risk — to the job.”

“Harris’ team has clarified that the vice president does not own all of immigration policy. She will be focused on the diplomatic side, working with Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to try to stop the flow of migrants from those countries, and not on the difficult task of deciding who is let into the U.S., where they are housed and what to do with the children who arrive without their parents.”

“Still, Harris’ project is central to Biden’s argument that he’ll succeed in restoring American influence and credibility abroad and making the immigration process more humane.”

New Republic: “From President Biden’s first day in office, when he sent his American Rescue Plan Act to Congress, until March 11, when he signed the $1.9 trillion economic relief package into law, his top officials and allies on the Hill were laser-focused on keeping the Democrats’ slim majorities on board.”

“But they paid less attention to one potential source of danger: the need to screen out provisions which, after enactment, could give right-wing judges openings to shred Biden’s blockbuster reform—just as, a decade earlier, hostile judges nearly managed to shred his predecessor’s signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act.”

New York Times: “The Biden administration will investigate Trump-era political interference in science across the government, the first step in what White House officials described as a sweeping effort to rebuild a demoralized federal work force and prevent future abuses.”

Punchbowl News: “Aides to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have asked the parliamentarian whether they can double dip, using the 2021 budget resolution to pass two reconciliation bills. The American Rescue Plan got through Capitol Hill using the fiscal year 2021 budget resolution. Schumer wants to know if he can use it again.”

“This is potentially a very big deal. It could give Democrats and President Joe Biden a chance to do at least two more reconciliation bills this year (one FY 2021, one FY 2022), if Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough agrees with the Democrats’ arguments, which rely on their interpretation of the 1974 Congressional Budget Act and reconciliation procedures. This would give Democrats a better chance of enacting some or all of Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ proposal, which is set to be unveiled in a Wednesday speech in Pittsburgh.”

“Bernie Sanders wants to make sweeping changes to Medicare and prescription drug policy — and evade the filibuster to do it,” Politico reports.

“The Vermont Independent is urging his party to force Medicare to enter into negotiations with drug companies and use that revenue to pay for a huge expansion of the entitlement program. Sanders, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, is aiming to lower Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 55 or 60 years old and expand the program to cover dental work, glasses and eye surgeries as well as hearing aids.”

CNBC: Bernie Sanders aims to lower Medicare eligibility age as part of Democrats’ recovery plan.

“Economists are becoming positively giddy about the potential for economic growth this year as President Biden and Congressional Democrats look set to push forward a $3 trillion infrastructure bill,” Axios reports.

“S&P predicts Biden’s infrastructure plan will create 2.3 million jobs by 2024, inject $5.7 trillion into the economy — which would be 10 times what was lost during the recession — and raise per-capita income by $2,400.”

Associated Press: “President Joe Biden is dealing with harsh 21st century realities and his approach has been the exact opposite: Borrow to spur growth, offer government aid without mandating work and bring global supply chains back to the United States.”

“This change in Democratic policy reflects the unique crises caused by the pandemic, as well as decades-old trends such as the rise of economic inequality, the downward slope of interest rates that made borrowing easier and globalization’s pitfalls as factories departed the Midwest. White House aides are comparing the scope of Biden’s policy ambitions to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s after the Great Depression.”

James Pethokoukis: “But just because it doesn’t automatically follow from our ballooning deficits that there’ll be a debt crisis — as happened in Greece with the global financial crisis of 2008 — that doesn’t mean big debt isn’t a big problem.”

“Higher debt levels can be like sand in the gears of the American economic machine, causing it to operate a bit less efficiently and less powerfully year after year. After a massive economic downturn thanks to Covid-19, we can afford that slowdown even less. Not only do we need economic growth to help pay down that debt, but some economists worry the post-pandemic world will be one of less risk-taking and less innovation.

Washington Post: “[Larry] Summers, who drafted economic blueprints for the past two Democratic presidents and was a top candidate to lead the Federal Reserve Board under President Barack Obama, has emerged in recent weeks as the loudest critic of President Biden’s approach to reviving the pandemic-era U.S. economy.”

“The Harvard University professor — who advised Biden for a time last summer — warns that the president’s stimulus plan may trigger the highest inflation in more than half a century and could cost Democrats the chance to make lasting investments in the economy.”

“Two top Senate Democrats are weighing whether gun reform can be a long shot issue proving they can work with Republicans — and don’t have to scrap the filibuster after all,” Axios reports.

“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) have been privately negotiating how to revise H.R. 8, the House Democrats’ background checks bill, to gain support from at least 10 Republicans.”

CNN: “[T]hanks to years of shedding its claim to bipartisanship and aligning almost entirely with the Republican Party, the country’s premier pro-gun lobby’s agenda has firmly planted its agenda within the GOP, a legacy that continues to frustrate efforts to change gun laws.”

“Both Republican and Democratic aides have told CNN the NRA has not been much of a factor on Capitol Hill in recent months.”

That said, the Washington Post reports that obstacles for new gun control laws remain.

Adam Gopnik: “The truth of reform is that it can begin anywhere, on any scale, and, once begun, it tends to be self-renewing. And, as reformers well know, it does not always matter where the reform starts—if it starts at all, it magnetizes other reforms toward it.”

“The President’s proposed assault-weapons ban, for that reason, is a good place to start. It may not lasso all or even the most dangerous weapons, and it will certainly not immediately end gun massacres or the psychic costs they exact. But it is a start. The gun lobby opposes it so irrationally because it understands this, too.”

“Democrats control Washington, but Republicans have a mighty counterweight that gets little attention: dominance in the states and the courts,” Axios reports.

“That one-two punch gives Republicans domain over a huge swath of America’s governing system, including power over voting laws and the redistricting of House seats, plus the ability to use state courts to their advantage.”

“Just as Biden is taking a maximalist approach to Washington power; Republicans are doing the same state-by-state.”

Washington Post: “The opening months of the Biden administration have provided the Democratic Party with a rare ‘do-over’ — a chance to enact wide-ranging agenda items far more quickly and on a larger scale than in 2009. Even Biden’s slogan, Build Back Better, aspires to improve what came before.”

“Surrounded by many of the same top aides who worked in the Obama White House, the Biden team is behaving almost as if it is back to work after a lengthy sabbatical, picking up where Obama left off without having to ascend a learning curve.”

“The Donald Trump era offered Democrats a view of their worst nightmare — a president that most of them saw as authoritarian and dangerous to the country’s future. Bound by that fear, Democrats say they are attempting to undo what many both inside and outside the administration view as the mistakes and disappointments from the Obama years.”

Dan Pfeiffer: “The messaging problems we were confronting in 2013 are the same ones that Joe Biden and his White House are confronting in 2021 as they figure out how to sell the American Rescue Plan. As I learned firsthand, a strategy that depends primarily on the White House Press Corps is doomed to fail.”

“The traditional media has neither the reach nor the inclination to tell the public about the ins and outs of the American Rescue Plan. A reality that was on full display during Biden’s first ‘formal press conference’ and one with which all Democrats need to come to terms.”

Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told CNN that former President Trump’s recent comments on the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol “manifestly false.”

Said Mulvaney: “To come out and say that everybody was fine and there was no risk is just — that’s manifestly false. People died. Other people were severely injured. To say there was no risk is just wrong.”

“North Korea repeated its intent to expand its nuclear weapons program, after President Biden this week said that the U.S. would respond accordingly if the regime escalated tensions,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Said a North Korea senior adviser: “If the U.S. continues with its thoughtless remarks without thinking of the consequences, it may be faced with something that is not good. We will continue to increase our most thoroughgoing and overwhelming military power.”

“Democrats have spent the last several years clamoring to raise taxes on corporations and the rich, seeing that as a necessary antidote to widening economic inequality and a rebuke of President Donald J. Trump’s signature tax cuts,” the New York Times reports.

“Now, under President Biden, they have a shot at ushering in the largest federal tax increase since 1942. It could help pay for a host of spending programs that liberal economists predict would bolster the economy’s performance and repair a tax code that Democrats say encourages wealthy people to hoard assets and big companies to ship jobs and book profits overseas.”

“President Biden’s plan to pay for his coming infrastructure package with big tax hikes already is meeting some resistance from moderate Democrats, a stumbling block for his progressive ambitions,” Axios reports.

“If this discomfort turns to outright opposition in the House and Senate, Biden will face a complicated path to cover more than $3 trillion he is expected to seek, in multiple proposals, for infrastructure as well as social welfare.”

“The New York state attorney general’s office has subpoenaed dozens of officials in the Cuomo administration, including his top aide, requesting that they produce documents as part of an investigation of sexual-harassment accusations against the governor,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Melissa DeRosa, whose title is secretary to the governor and who has been at the center of the state’s pandemic response, is among the officials to receive a subpoena earlier this month.”

Washington Post: “The passports are expected to be free and available through applications for smartphones, which could display a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass. Americans without smartphone access should be able to print out the passports.”

Politico: “The Supreme Court on Monday announced it will hear its first abortion case with a newly fortified 6-3 conservative majority, taking up a procedural question of who has the power to defend state abortion restrictions in court.”

“The justices agreed to hear the Kentucky attorney general’s bid to intervene in a lawsuit over a state abortion ban that the governor refused to defend. However, the court refused the Kentucky attorney general’s request to consider whether a lower court decision striking down the ban should be thrown out.”

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

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