Cup of Joe – 7/6/21

New York Times: “Over a period of weeks, the coronavirus death rate plunged and the country considerably eased public health restrictions. President Biden announced a bipartisan deal late last month to spend hundreds of billions of dollars rebuilding the country’s worn infrastructure — the most significant aisle-crossing legislative agreement in a generation, if it holds together. The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Thursday that the economy was on track to regain all of the jobs it lost during the pandemic by the middle of 2022.”

“And in a blow to Mr. Biden’s fractious opposition, Donald J. Trump — the dominant figure in Republican politics — faced an embarrassing legal setback just as he was resuming a schedule of campaign-style events. The Manhattan district attorney’s office charged his company, the Trump Organization, and its chief financial officer with ‘sweeping and audacious’ financial crimes.”

“Not long ago, such a sequence of developments might have tested the partisan boundaries of American politics, startling voters into reconsidering their assumptions about the current president, his predecessor, the two major parties and what government can do for the American people.”

“These days, it is hard to imagine that such a political turning point is at hand.”

“Democratic leaders are performing a high-wire act to keep President Joe Biden’s economic agenda alive, seeking to balance tensions inside their party with pressure from Republicans who want to derail his plans to expand the social safety net,” NBC News reports.

“In the coming weeks, Democratic leaders are hoping to formally begin the process of passing a multitrillion-dollar bill to invest in elder care, paid leave, climate change mitigation and other priorities. Leaders will utilize a procedural quirk to circumvent the filibuster and pass the bill with only Democratic support.”

“At the same time, they’re working to keep the $579 billion infrastructure deal with Republicans afloat, working to shore up support while senators are away from Washington for one more week and hearing from their constituents.”

“Democrats have a chance to pass President Biden’s sweeping infrastructure, tax, climate and social policy measures that would transform American life — but doing so requires them pulling off an incredibly difficult legislative high-wire act over the next few weeks,” the Washington Post reports.

“The House and Senate are out of session for a holiday break, but discussions are continuing among Democrats about the parameters of potentially monumental legislation that represents Biden’s best chance to deliver on many of his campaign promises, according to interviews with more than a dozen lawmakers, aides and lobbyists.”

“This legislation, which is set to be passed without Republican support separately from a parallel, bipartisan infrastructure measure, may not be ultimately passed until fall or later. But Democrats have only a matter of weeks to settle many of the biggest policy questions surrounding the bill: How much will it spend? How much of that spending should be offset with tax increases and other revenue measures? And which competing items on a laundry list of priorities should ultimately be passed into law?”

“Justice Amy Coney Barrett moved the Supreme Court’s center of gravity further to the right this term, but not as quickly or as dramatically as her supporters had hoped or her detractors had feared,” the Washington Post reports.

“Whether that reflects a rookie justice’s first-term caution or a more-ingrained inclination to moderation and small steps will determine her place among the court’s sometimes splintered six-member conservative majority.”

“When Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump, Democrats portrayed her as a threat to healthcare protections and Republicans saw her as a conservative who would fulfill their desire to see the court move sharply to the right,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“In her first term on the bench, Justice Barrett in many ways defied the predictions of both sides.”

“Yet Justice Barrett left little doubt that she sits firmly on the court’s right wing, not once casting a vote with liberal justices against a conservative majority. Her appointment, replacing the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, cemented a 6-3 conservative majority on the court.”

“The 6-to-3 decision by the Supreme Court on Thursday that upheld voting restrictions in Arizona has effectively left voting rights advocates with a higher bar for bringing federal cases under the Voting Rights Act: proving discriminatory intent,” the New York Times reports.

“That burden is prompting civil rights and voting groups to recalibrate their approach to challenging in court the raft of new restrictions that Republican-controlled legislatures have passed … No longer, they say, can they count on the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, to serve as a backstop for preventing racially discriminatory voting restrictions.”

“The high court gutted the central protection of the Voting Rights Act in a 2013 decision, and on Thursday the court further limited the act’s reach in combating discriminatory laws, establishing strict new guidelines for proving the laws’ effects on voters of color and thus requiring litigants to clear the much higher bar of proving purposeful intent to discriminate.”

Dan Balz: Do Democrats have a strategy to counter GOP state laws restricting voting.

New York Magazine: “His association with Nick Fuentes has put him in a category of his own even by the standards of the far-right Trumpist wing of the GOP… Almost as befuddling is that House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has yet to even chastise Gosar for his repeated associations with the extreme fringes.”

Said one GOP operative: “I don’t know what the fuck is happening.”

“McCarthy’s office has not responded to requests for comment from Intelligencer on Gosar going back to February. That’s a change from McCarthy’s past practice as leader. … One reason for the quiet is that Republicans haven’t been forced to play defense on Gosar like they recently were over Greene. While her comments drove news cycles and [Steve] King became a national figure, Gosar flies under the radar of the national media. Part of this is chance … But it is also because Democrats have remained relatively quiet.”

Politico: “President Joe Biden’s move to fire the top U.S. mortgage regulator is triggering calls from fellow Democrats to use the agency to expand access to loans for lower-income people, who have struggled to buy homes since the financial crisis.”

“The pressure from the left poses a tough choice for Biden. Democrats for years have pushed the agency responsible for Fannie and Freddie to expand homeownership and narrow the racial wealth gap.”

“But making mortgages cheaper and more accessible could also raise the risks of defaults and increase the odds that the companies would need another bailout in the future. Fannie and Freddie were seized by the government in 2008 to avert their failure during the subprime mortgage crash.”

Washington Post: “While the House and Senate budget committees typically produce their own budget resolutions, that is unlikely to happen this year. Instead, according to lawmakers and aides, the budget resolution is more likely to be the product of backroom bargaining overseen by Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in consultation with Sanders and Yarmuth, before being sent directly to the Senate floor. There it will be subject to a grueling amendment process before it is sent to the House for final approval.”

Associated Press: “Dozens of big companies, citing their commitment to democracy, pledged to avoid donating money to the 147 lawmakers who objected to Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s victory… It was a striking gesture by some of the most familiar names in business but, as it turns out, it was largely an empty one.”

“When it comes to seeking political influence through corporate giving, business as usual is back, if it ever left… The companies contend that donating directly to a candidate is not the same as giving to a PAC that supports them. Given America’s porous campaign finance laws, that’s a distinction without a difference to campaign finance experts. … Walmart’s moral stand lasted three months.”

President Biden said that getting vaccinated against the coronavirus was “the most patriotic thing” that Americans could do, the New York Times reports.

Said Biden: “I am concerned that people who have not gotten vaccinated have the capacity to catch the variant and spread the variant to other people who have not been vaccinated. Don’t just think about yourself.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) said people hesitant about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are “not thinking right” and warned they are playing a “death lottery,” the HuffPost reports.

Said Justice: “You know, we have a lottery that basically says, if you’re vaccinated we’re going to give you stuff. Well, you’ve got another lottery going on, and it’s the death lottery.”

“The highly contagious Delta variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 is prompting a surge of coronavirus cases in Missouri, a warning sign of what may happen this summer in other areas of the U.S. with low vaccination rates,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“For more than a week, Missouri had the highest case rate in the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of July 1, the seven-day average of new cases hit 898, up from 511 three weeks earlier, data from Johns Hopkins University show.”

“CDC data shows that as of June 16, nearly 11 percent of people who had sufficient time to get the second dose missed their ideal window,” the Washington Post reports.

Wall Street Journal: “The Biden administration is considering extending a pandemic freeze on Americans’ student-loan payments beyond its scheduled expiration in September and turning to piecemeal measures to lower their student-debt bills.”

“Five months into his term, President Biden has resisted calls from fellow Democrats and activists to cancel most of America’s $1.6 trillion in federal student-loan debt in one swoop through an executive action. … Yet many Americans effectively are seeing their debt bills reduced through policy changes that started under the Trump administration, which froze student-loan payments when the pandemic began unfolding in March 2020.”

“A group of white supremacists marched in front of Philadelphia City Hall Saturday night, drawing jeers from onlookers, as well as small scuffles,” NBC Philadelphia reports.

“The group of dozens of men wore white face coverings, kakis, blue shirts and tan hats and waved flags with insignias appearing to belong to the Patriot Front organization.”

Senior White House officials are holding “informal discussions” with outside experts and congressional officials on how to split off a second, targeted bipartisan package from a larger reconciliation package expected to contain the remainder of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposals, reports the Washington Examiner.

“The emerging second cross-party package would likely focus on expanding child and family incentive programs, a topic that has garnered past interest from private sector conservatives and Republican lawmakers.”

“Former president Donald Trump lashed out at Manhattan prosecutors Saturday night for indicting his organization and its chief financial officer for tax fraud, calling it ‘prosecutorial misconduct’ in his most extensive comments on the charges since they were unsealed Thursday,” the Washington Post reports.

“As Trump criticized the investigation, he appeared to acknowledge the tax schemes while questioning whether the alleged violations were in fact crimes.”

Said Trump: “They go after good, hard-working people for not paying taxes on a company car. You didn’t pay tax on the car or a company apartment. You used an apartment because you need an apartment because you have to travel too far where your house is. You didn’t pay tax. Or education for your grandchildren. I don’t even know. Do you have to? Does anybody know the answer to that stuff?”

New York Times: “The first criminal case against the former president’s company features no grand schemes to launder money through Russia, hide millions offshore or commit other offenses commensurate with a self-described global business empire headquartered in a Fifth Avenue skyscraper. Rather, the details of the charges brought by a Manhattan grand jury have a rather low-rent feel that one might associate with a scrappy real-estate operation born in Brooklyn and Queens.”

“Which, of course, it is.”

“The Trump Organization, for all the puffery of its leader, has always been essentially a family business, tightly controlled by Mr. Trump and a small number of relatives and trusted associates, including Mr. Weisselberg. Although the company has about 3,500 employees worldwide, most are lower-tier workers at golf resorts and hotels and only 122 made $100,000 or more in 2018.”

Associated Press: “Biden had instructed the Pentagon to complete the military withdrawal by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, but the Pentagon now says it can finish the drawdown a little earlier.”

“In fact, the drawdown is already largely completed and officials had said it could be wrapped up this weekend. But a number of related issues need to be worked out in coming weeks, including a new U.S. military command structure in Kabul and talks with Turkey on an arrangement for maintaining security at the Kabul airport, and so an official end to the pullout will not be announced soon.”

ToloNews: “Sources said on Sunday that the centers of nine more districts were captured by the Taliban in the last 24 hours – six districts in Badakhshan, one in Kandahar, one in Paktika and one in Takhar.”

New York Times: Pentagon seeks to soften blow of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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

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