What Now?! – 5/12/21

Washington Post: “Biden is hosting Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) at the White House on Tuesday in the latest meeting with individual lawmakers as he continues negotiations over his $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure package.”

Playbook: “The meeting comes just a day after Biden huddled with Manchin on the same topic — a sign that Biden is employing a charm offensive to woo the two moderates who have expressed reluctance about using reconciliation to pass infrastructure spending. Perhaps the president is trying to butter them up before making the pivot to a Democrats-only strategy? Remember: Due to the Senate’s 50-50 split, the Dems can’t do much of anything without both Sinema and Manchin on board.”

“President Biden’s desire to offset more than $4 trillion in spending proposals with higher taxes is struggling to gain momentum in Congress,” the Washington Post reports.

“Pockets of skepticism have emerged within Biden’s party over White House plans to raise the corporate tax rate, revamp the international tax system and double tax rates on wealthy investors, among other measures critical to the administration’s plans. The party faces regional divides over taxes as well, with farm-state Democrats skittish about taxes on heirs and coastal Democrats demanding the repeal of limits on state and local tax deductions, which would amount to an expensive tax cut that would require higher taxes elsewhere.”

As she returns to Washington, Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) “has emerged as the GOP’s front-line voice in the high-stakes congressional debate over infrastructure,” the Washington Post reports.

“Hailing from a state that’s eager for federal money — and a party that’s increasingly reluctant to spend it — the second-term senator from one of West Virginia’s most well-known political families may be the best hope to help broker the sort of compromise that Democrats and Republicans insist they want.”

Capito has a tough task: It’s not clear more GOP participation would result in West Virginia getting a larger chunk in federal infrastructure spending than a bill passed by Democrats alone.

“Senate Republicans are signaling that they could raise the price tag of their infrastructure offer to President Joe Biden, days ahead of a pivotal series of meetings that could make-or-break Biden’s hopes for a bipartisan deal,” Politico reports.

“While Democrats have panned the GOP’s initial $568 billion bid as insufficient, several Republican negotiators said in interviews on Monday night that they were willing to go higher — as long as the bill in question is limited to physical infrastructure.”

“Los Angeles County could reach herd immunity from the coronavirus among adults and the oldest teenagers by mid-to-late July, another milestone that underscores the region’s rapid recovery from the pandemic,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Two Trump family members got ‘inappropriately – and perhaps dangerously – close’ to agents protecting them while Donald Trump was president,” The Guardian reports. The claims are made in a new book, Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig.

Leonnig writes that Vanessa Trump, the wife of Donald Trump Jr, “started dating one of the agents who had been assigned to her family.” She also writes that Tiffany Trump broke up with a boyfriend and “began spending an unusual amount of time alone with a Secret Service agent on her detail.”

Another nugget via The Guardian: “The president did repeatedly seek to remove Secret Service staff he deemed to be overweight or too short for the job.” Said Trump: “I want these fat guys off my detail. How are they going to protect me and my family if they can’t run down the street?”

NBC News: “Trump’s new blog has attracted a little over 212,000 engagements, defined as backlinks and social interactions — including likes, shares and comments — received across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Reddit. Before the ban, a single Trump tweet was typically liked and retweeted hundreds of thousands of times.”

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) told CNN that he believes former President Donald Trump is dividing the Republican Party. Said Hutchinson: “Whenever we do not have the president in power from our party, you have divided leadership — you have many different voices. And former President Trump is dividing our party, and so it’s important we not unite with someone who is dividing our party.”

Of course, Hutchinson is barred from seeking another term so it’s easier to speak out.

David Leonhardt: “When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines last month for mask wearing, it announced that ‘less than 10 percent‘ of Covid-19 transmission was occurring outdoors. Media organizations repeated the statistic, and it quickly became a standard description of the frequency of outdoor transmission…”

“In truth, the share of transmission that has occurred outdoors seems to be below 1 percent and may be below 0.1 percent, multiple epidemiologists told me. The rare outdoor transmission that has happened almost all seems to have involved crowded places or close conversation.”

“Saying that less than 10 percent of Covid transmission occurs outdoors is akin to saying that sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year. (The actual worldwide number is around 150.) It’s both true and deceiving.”

Vox: Got the vaccine? You can relax about your Covid-19 risk now. Really.

The CDC recommendations are so complex that they’re pretty much useless.

“A key Senate committee is expected to vote as soon as Tuesday to advance Democrats’ sweeping elections overhaul, stamping its approval on a landmark voting rights expansion as Washington tries to blunt ballot restrictions by Republican-controlled statehouses,” the New York Times reports.

“If enacted, it would effectively override laws emerging in states like Georgia and Florida that raise barriers to vote with national requirements — like automatic voter registration, no-excuse early and mail-in voting and the re-enfranchisement of former felons — meant to lower them.”

“The Supreme Court has been sitting on a potentially very significant abortion case for the last two months, one that the Court’s rules say it should dismiss,” Vox reports.

“We’re likely to find out this week whether the Court will dismiss this case, however, and that decision could tell us a great deal about how fast the Court plans to move in rolling back abortion rights.”

Thomas Friedman: “The Israeli government, the surrounding Arab nations and the Palestinian Authority all desperately want the answer to be ‘no’ — Israel because it would find little support from a left-leaning White House, let alone the rest of the world, for a big crackdown on Palestinians; the Arab governments because most of them want to do business with Israeli tech-makers, not get mired defending Palestinian rock-throwers; and the Palestinian leadership because it would expose just how little it controls the Palestinian street anymore.”

“But unlike the Intifadas that began in 1987 and 2000, when Israel had someone to call to try to turn it off, there is no Palestinian on the other end of the phone this time — or, if there is, he’s a 15-year-old on his smartphone, swiping orders and inspiration from TikTok, the video app often used by young Palestinians to challenge and encourage one another to confront Israelis.”

“A federal judge dismissed the National Rifle Association’s bankruptcy case on Tuesday, in a blow to its embattled chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, that cast further doubt about his ability to remain at the helm,” the New York Times reports.

“The N.R.A. had filed for bankruptcy in January in an attempt to circumvent regulatory action in New York by the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, who is seeking to shut down the group amid a corruption investigation. Ms. James had challenged the validity of the bankruptcy filing.”

Reuters: “Supplies of gasoline tightened further in parts of the United States today as the shutdown of the nation’s biggest fuel pipeline by hackers entered its fifth day, raising concern about price spikes at the pumps heading into the summer driving season.”

Wired has a must-read profile of the hackers behind the pipeline attack.

Slate: “Hundreds of cybersecurity companies have grown up to handle (these attacks). But the government’s power to set and enforce security measures is still weak. Private companies aren’t even required to report intrusions when they take place; many of them are hesitant to do so, lest consumers stop buying their products or their stock prices tank.”

“The question, for…others trying to put serious policies into place, is: Can they make CEOs, like those running companies like Colonial Pipeline, care?”

Axios: The ransomware pandemic.

“You have to lie to qualify to be a Republican.”— David Brooks, on the PBS NewsHour.

Dan Rather: “Republicans desperately want the mainstream press to cover the daily news cycle through the lens of traditional party politics. At the same time, they go on their propaganda channels and stir up their base against the mechanics of fair and open elections. They spread the poison of illegitimacy to attack the Biden Administration. On Fox News you get a concerted and coordinated attack. Outside of that echo chamber you get what was once the normal news diet of a spectrum of different stories.”

“But this is not a normal news environment. This is an attack on American values, and our ability to continue to function as a government that represents the will of the majority of Americans. The Big Lie is everything right now and the press and the American people must not provide safe harbor for it to continue to metastasize.”

New York Times: “The Biden administration on Tuesday will announce its final approval of the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm, a major step toward President Biden’s goal of expanding renewable energy production across the United States, according to two people familiar with the matter.

“The Vineyard Wind project calls for up to 84 turbines to be installed in the Atlantic Ocean about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Together, they could generate about 800 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 400,000 homes.”

Playbook: “Taking out Cheney as conference chair was never going to be clean and easy for McCarthy. And this week, we’re starting to pick up on a bit of backlash against the minority leader behind the scenes. Some House Republicans are privately griping about how the California Republican has fed a colleague to the MAGA wolves in his quest to become speaker.”

“And no, we’re not just hearing this from Adam Kinzinger types.”

“One of them — a Republican long seen as an ally of leadership — told us Monday night he may oppose McCarthy for speaker because of all the recent drama. This person accused McCarthy of having no moral compass as he moves to punish Cheney while allowing members like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz to run wild.”

Gerald Seib: “When the tea party movement emerged in 2009, Republican leaders assumed they could humor its followers and capture their intensity, while keeping them under control.”

“They were wrong. Instead, the party’s leaders were consumed by the movement they tried to corral, and by the grass-roots anger they thought they could use to their advantage.”

“The question facing Mr. McCarthy and other party leaders is whether they are again mistaken in assuming they can channel the energy and anger of a grass-roots movement without being overtaken by it.”

“Ultimately, the tea party movement was defined mostly by its distrust of that establishment; it was less about ideology and more about attitude. And eventually, of course, it bucked off the Republican leaders who tried to ride it.”

Time: “How did she go from saying that one particular Republican candidate was ‘disqualifying themselves with untruthful statements’ in 2015 to feeding vague conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden on Steve Bannon’s podcast in 2021? Her evolution mirrors the transformation of her party, while her rise within its ranks is a fall from the modern, millennial conservatism she once was on track to define.”

Said Firing Line host Margaret Hoover: “Elise could have been the face of a new generation of Republicans that could represent a real big-tent party, that could build beyond the base, that could lay the foundation for a coalition that could win elections nationally. It shows that she was never motivated by principles, and that’s deeply disappointing.”

Philip Bump: Can we stop pretending that Elise Stefanik’s ascent is somehow mysterious?

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) deflected a question from the Washington Examiner about whether she believes Joe Biden legitimately won the presidential election.

Said Stefanik: “President Biden is president and the focus is on defeating his radical agenda, which I believe we will do in 2024. And we’re going to win the midterms in 2022.”

Jeff Flake: “On Wednesday, Rep. Liz Cheney will most likely lose her leadership post within the House Republican Conference, not because she has been untruthful. Rather, she will lose her position because she is refusing to play her assigned role in propagating the ‘big lie’ that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Cheney is more dedicated to the long-term health of our constitutional system than she is to assuaging the former president’s shattered ego, and for her integrity she may well pay with her career.”

“No, this is not the plot of a movie set in an asylum. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your contemporary Republican Party, where today there is no greater offense than honesty.”

Elaina Schor: “With Democrats preparing to try to put Trump effectively back on the ballot in next year’s midterms, we can expect to hear a lot more House Republicans being pressed to explain whether their votes on Jan. 6 amounted to an attempted overturning of Biden’s 2020 victory.”

“What did Liz Cheney say about Trump’s 2020 defeat that was inaccurate? Republicans may have set a trap for themselves by removing Cheney that will force them — contrary to McCarthy’s hopes — to look backward as often as forward during their campaign to retake the House.”

Axios: “We’ve seen Pelosi cut opponents off at the knees, like she did with President Trump, or pretend to forget their names, as she did to Sen. Ron Johnson. Now she’s feeding oppo research against her House counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, so others can use the same harsh rhetoric to frame the Republicans as the party of dysfunction.”

“The spectrum of her tactical range will be on full display this week.”

British prime minister Boris Johnson is under investigation over who paid for his Caribbean holiday with Carrie Symonds during Christmas 2019, The Guardian reports.

“Sober, cerebral and with the poise of the top-shelf lawyer he once was, Keir Starmer promised competence rather than charisma when he became leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party last year, following its crushing general election defeat in 2019,” the New York Times reports.

“But his panicky response to last week’s poor local election results and a clumsy reshuffle of his top team have left his party in turmoil, diminishing his authority and raising doubts about whether Labour has a credible path back to power.”

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

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