Cup of Joe – 6/24/21

“A bipartisan group of senators tentatively reached an agreement with White House officials Wednesday on hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending for the nation’s infrastructure system, giving a significant boost toward one of President Biden’s biggest domestic policy ambitions,” the Washington Post reports.

“Multiple senators leaving an evening negotiating session at the Capitol said the group — which included five Democrats, five Republicans and top White House officials — had reached a framework of a deal. They said senators would go to the White House to brief Biden personally on the details on Thursday.”

“A key moderate Democratic senator opened the door Tuesday to investing in President Joe Biden’s ‘human infrastructure’ proposals and unwinding some of the Republican tax cuts of 2017,” NBC News reports.

“Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is working to ink a bipartisan deal to fund physical infrastructure, expressed openness to a separate filibuster-proof package to make economic investments, although he said the size and scope have yet to be determined.”

Said Manchin: “Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on not changing anything, and I thought the 2017 tax bill was a very unfair bill, and weighted to a side that basically did not benefit the average American. So I voted against it. I think there are some adjustments that need to be made.”

Considering his state voted for Donald Trump by 39 percentage points in 2020, it’s actually amazing Manchin sides with Democrats as much as he does.

Playbook: “Forgive us if it seems like Groundhog Day around here, but how to pay for $579 billion in new spending is still the big problem.”

“On the one hand, the two sides were reported to be drifting farther apart. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, sent reporters into a tizzy when he said the White House had retreated on backing an infrastructure bank, previously a bipartisan idea.”

“But the flurry of meetings — coming a day after Biden met separately with Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin — also suggests a deep level of engagement and eagerness from both sides. It’s no surprise there were some hiccups. Tuesday was the first time the group of 10 senators met with the White House team.”  Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) was more optimistic to Bloomberg: “There are a number of pay-fors that we’ve been able to add to the list and I think we’re going to get there.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is in charge of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, “signaled on Tuesday an openness to adjusting the cap on how much taxpayers can deduct in state and local taxes as he seeks to secure the support of nearly every Democrat in Congress for a multitrillion-dollar economic package,” the New York Times reports.  “Some congressional Democrats have warned that they may not support any changes to the tax code that do not also address that provision, put in place during the Trump administration, because of the impact on their constituents.”

“The demise of the For the People Act — the far-reaching voting rights bill that Republicans blocked in the Senate on Tuesday — will come as a crushing blow to progressives and reformers, who have portrayed the law as an essential tool for saving democracy,” the New York Times reports.

“But it was a flawed bill that had little chance of testing the limits of what if anything is still possible in Washington. Voting rights activists and Democratic lawmakers may even find that the collapse of this law opens up more plausible, if still highly unlikely, paths to reform.”

CNN: House Progressives demand action after voting rights bill fails.

Politico: “After months of build-up, Democrats are boxed in on their party’s signature election reform plan. And there’s no apparent escape route. Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ sweeping ethics and elections legislation on Tuesday, a filibuster that many in President Joe Biden’s party hoped would turbocharge the demise of the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for most bills. But Democratic moderates’ support of the filibuster has only hardened in recent days.”

“It gets worse for Biden’s party: Now that the GOP has rejected debating the legislation that would overhaul federal elections, Democrats are without a new strategy to show party activists some momentum before the 2022 midterms. At the moment, the party doesn’t have a backup plan on elections and Democratic senators acknowledged their internal maneuvering over the filibuster has only begun after months of dominating their time in control of Washington.”

The Grio: Pelosi vows voting rights bills “will pass this year,” despite Republican stonewall.

“Prominent Democrats have increasingly softened their opposition to voter identification requirements in recent days, signaling a new openness to measures that activists have long vilified as an insidious method of keeping minorities from the ballot box,” the Washington Post reports.

Dan Pfeiffer: “It’s now abundantly clear there was never a plan to do either. In fairness, Manchin was incredibly vague about the reasons for his opposition to the bill for a very long time. His only public comments were meaningless bromides about bipartisanship. Democratic Senators reportedly pressed him for more specifics. Until the other day, he offered nothing. But in the end, he suggested a reasonable, if unsatisfying, compromise that received the support of Stacey Abrams and Barack Obama.”

“Yet, the party was unable to coalesce around it and offer a unified front. The night before the vote, Democratic Senators were still openly debating strategy and discussing breaking the bill up into pieces — something that had been suggested weeks before. With just hours to go, there was still confusion about which version of the bill would be voted on. It is truly impossible to imagine why these problems were not anticipated and addressed long before the vote was scheduled.”

“Four Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the United States the previous year under a contract approved by the State Department,” the New York Times reports. 

“The instruction occurred as the secret unit responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was beginning an extensive campaign of kidnapping, detention and torture of Saudi citizens ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, to crush dissent inside the kingdom.”

“The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a former high school cheerleader who argued that she could not be punished by her public school for posting a profanity-laced caption on Snapchat when she was off school grounds,” CNN reports.

“The 8-1 majority opinion was penned by Justice Stephen Breyer.”

“The highly transmissible Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus is spreading so rapidly in the U.S. that it could become the dominant strain in the next two to three weeks, researchers said, adding urgency to the nationwide vaccination drive,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

New Yorker: “To a significant degree, the emergence of a variant like Delta was predictable, and, with rapid and widespread immunization, the threat that it poses can be subdued. But its arrival is still incredibly consequential. Delta drives an even wider wedge between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. They have already been living in separate worlds, facing vastly different risks of illness and death; now, their risk levels will diverge further.”

“People who’ve been fully vaccinated can, by and large, feel confident in the immunity that they’ve received. But those who remain susceptible should understand that, for them, this is probably the most dangerous moment of the pandemic.”

“Nine months after the declaration of a national emergency due to the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, U.S. births fell by 8% in a month,” Bloomberg reports.  “For the full year, the number of babies born in the country fell 4% to about 3.6 million, the largest decline since 1973… The latest data are early evidence of the drastic impact from the health crisis on birth rates, with the full effect expected to show in 2021 data.”

“Democrats are confronting the reality that absent any seismic shifts, their top agenda items face long, if not impossible, odds in the Senate amid growing frustration with the legislative filibuster,” The Hill reports.  “After achieving a unified government for the first time since 2010, Democrats pledged to go ‘big’ and ‘bold’ after four years of the Trump administration. But they are watching as their wish list of bills runs straight into a familiar buzzsaw: the Senate’s own rulebook.”

PBS Newshour details the position each of the 50 Democratic Senators has taken on reforming the filibuster:

  • 24 want to reform the filibuster.
  • 22 are open to reform.
  • 2 are still deciding (Tom Carper and Mark Kelly)
  • 2 are opposed (Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley told members of Congress that he wants to learn more about critical race theory and doesn’t see any harm in it. Said Milley: “I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist.”

“Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said she would vote against President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Monday, making David Chipman’s path to confirmation more difficult,” the Bangor Daily News reports.   Said Collins in a statement: “In recent years, Mr. Chipman has been an outspoken critic of the firearms industry and has made statements that demean law-abiding gun owners. Although he has the right to express his views, I believe this history makes him an unusually divisive pick for this important position.”

Steve Benen: “Who can forget Richard Grenell, who was forced to delete hundreds of sexist comments from his social media accounts and who operated as a prominent online troll for far too long.”

“Care to guess which ‘moderate’ senator voted to confirm him? If you said Collins, you’re correct.”

“The point, of course, is that Collins seemed to have little trouble voting for ‘unusually divisive’ nominees in the Trump era, but under Biden, the Maine Republican has adopted a different set of standards.”

“An Oath Keeper accused of conspiring with other members of the paramilitary group for months to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 has agreed to cooperate with the feds and testify against his co-conspirators at trial,” the Daily Beast reports.

“Graydon Young now faces a maximum sentence of 78 months in prison for his offending, though he noted that a sentence could be reduced once prosecutors analyze the usefulness of his cooperation.”

Former President Donald Trump said that he hoped the coronavirus would take out his former national security adviser, John Bolton, who had just written an explosive tell-all about his time in the White House, Axios reports.

Here’s the passage from the new book, Nightmare Scenario:

Trump had tried to joke about the virus for months, sometimes even mocking people who had become ill… At one meeting several months before Trump got sick, NEC director Larry Kudlow had stifled a cough. The room had frozen… Trump had waved his hands in front of his face, as if to jokingly ward off any flying virus particles, and then cracked a smile. “I was just kidding,” he’d said. “Larry will never get COVID. He will defeat it with his optimism.” … “John Bolton,” he had said … “Hopefully COVID takes out John.”

This will be a must-read: I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker.

Axios: “With the swelter of Trump books that begins this summer, authors have been keeping their publishing plans secret. This publishing date puts Leonnig and Rucker a week ahead of the juggernaut Michael Wolff, whose Landslide is scheduled for July 27.”

Politico: “On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced five strike forces that will target the flow of illegal firearms into places like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. While Chicago, for example, has its own gun control measures in place, it has historically contended with the illegal trafficking of weapons from nearby Indiana, as well as southern states.”

“The DOJ announcement was in advance of Biden’s speech Wednesday on the rise of shootings and other violent crime. The president is expected to unveil additional measures targeting guns and crime, including giving cities the ability to tap funding from his American Rescue Plan to help combat violence, imposing a new zero tolerance policy toward gun dealers who break the law, and investing in community policing, among other initiatives.”

USA Today: As gun violence soars, Biden to target rogue dealers, illegal firearms in new crime strategy.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation requiring state colleges and universities to annually survey their students, faculty and staff about their beliefs to ensure “viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom,” Axios reports.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told the House Steering and Policy Committee that she will appoint a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection, CNN reports.

Axios: “The creation of such a committee means House Democrats, who currently have a majority, would be responsible for the investigation.”

“U.S. home prices in May experienced their biggest annual increase in more than two decades, as a shortage of properties and low borrowing rates fueled demand,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “The median existing-home sales price in May topped $350,000 for the first time… The figure was nearly 24% higher than a year ago, the biggest year-over-year price increase… going back to 1999.”

Vice President Harris will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday, amid mounting criticism from Republicans that neither she nor President Biden has traveled to the country’s southern border, the Washington Post reports.

Playbook: “Harris is clearly trying to get ahead of what’s become a favorite GOP talking point: hitting her for not having visited the border.”

A dozen House Republicans are heading to the border next week with Donald Trump.

“The Biden administration has forced out the head of the U.S. Border Patrol, Rodney Scott, clearing a path for a leadership overhaul at an agency strained by a 20-year-high in illegal border crossings, and whose top officials were broadly sympathetic to President Trump,” the Washington Post reports.

“The top leaders of the Army, Navy, Marines and other military branches voiced concern about legislation that would make sweeping changes in the military justice system, expressing their views in letters to a leading Republican opponent of the bill,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “The legislation, which supporters say will better combat sexual harassment and assault within military ranks, has the support of two-thirds of all senators.”

Featured Photo: From the First Lady’s Instagram: “In Mississippi earlier today, asking everyone to go get their shot. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, free, and it doesn’t hurt. (I promise!) God bless you, Mississippi. Go get vaccinated.”

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

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