Before President Biden arrives on Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Democrats and push voting rights, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) gave a Senate floor speech at noon to argue against changing the filibuster in order to pass the legislation, Politico reports. As one Senate source said: “Sinema is having Joe Biden for lunch.”
Playbook: “The White House legislative affairs team woke up this morning to some unwelcome news from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema: At noon, the Arizona Democrat would make a floor speech doubling down against eliminating the filibuster for voting rights — right before President Joe Biden’s planned arrival at the Capitol for a private lunch with Senate Dems to rally support for the proposal.”
“The call sent Biden aides and Hill Democratic leaders into a tailspin… Their scripted kabuki theater would now have a new and unplanned scene from a player who has been very deliberate about when she speaks up — and would likely upstage the president’s own appearance on the Hill.”
The House approved a rule last night to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in an unrelated NASA bill (that process is explained here). Now the House will vote on the package in full today and send it over to the Senate, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated in a “Dear Colleague” letter last night.
“Democratic leaders have found a mechanism to enable them to bypass an initial Republican filibuster and debate the party’s sweeping elections reform bills,” Axios reports.
“The strategy is the latest example of how Democrats are seeking new ways to try to bypass Senate procedures that are blocking their agenda. But the ultimate outcome will likely be the same: insufficient support to change the 60-vote threshold needed to pass sweeping voting rights reforms.”
“This wonky process is similar to the strategy Congress used last month to quickly take up and eventually pass a debt limit increase and avoid a default.”
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) still haven’t seemed to budge in their positions on tweaking the filibuster to pass voting reform despite pressure from Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Playbook: “After his very aggressive speech in Georgia, it will be worth watching how hard Biden pushes in the closer confines of the Democratic conference. There is incentive for him not to go too hard at Manchin and Sinema.”
“The president has only so much political capital to go around. He still wants to pass some version of his BBB plan, but so far, Manchin has refused to return to the negotiating table because of digs at him from White House staff. Biden can’t afford to alienate him further.”
Punchbowl News: “Please pause for a moment and consider just how much political capital President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are spending right now on voting rights and scrapping the filibuster. Biden went to Atlanta on Tuesday to make a major speech on this, and now he’s coming to Capitol Hill today to lobby Democratic senators during a closed-door party meeting.”
“Let’s leave aside for a second the substance of the voting rights bill. We all understand that it’s unlikely to pass, right? And there are plenty of Senate Democrats – and many on the House side too – that wonder why the White House is pressing so hard on this. And why is Schumer forcing vulnerable lawmakers to do away with the filibuster? The vast majority of Democratic senators are ready to scrap the 60-vote threshold – if they can win. They can’t right now. And worse than that, Senate Democrats don’t have a graceful way out this political jam.”
Nate Cohn: “Neither of the voting rights bills, nor the emerging bipartisan effort to reform the Electoral Count Act, is sure to close off some of the most probable avenues for election subversion.”
“While the various legislative paths might protect access to voting or hold the promise of clarifying how Congress counts electoral votes, the proposals are largely silent on a crucial time frame — the period between the polls closing in November to January, when Congress gathers to count electoral votes. This is when election administrators go about the once routine business of counting and certifying election results.”
The Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s vaccine-or-test rule for large U.S. businesses, but allowed the vaccine mandate to stand for most federally-funded health care facilities, the AP reports.
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch did not wear a mask for a hearing Tuesday, even as all the other justices in attendance did so, and as two of his colleagues — Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor — appeared remotely due to apparent concerns about Covid-19, CNBC reports.
“Stewart Rhodes, the leader and founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was arrested on Thursday and charged with seditious conspiracy for organizing a wide-ranging plot to storm the Capitol last Jan. 6 and disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory,” the New York Times reports.
“The arrest of Mr. Rhodes was a major step forward in the sprawling investigation of the Capitol attack and the case marked the first time that prosecutors had filed charges of sedition.”
“The Justice Department is forming a new domestic terrorism unit to help combat a threat that has intensified dramatically in recent years,” the Washington Post reports.
“Matthew Olsen, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, announced the unit in his opening remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee, noting that the number of FBI investigations of suspected domestic violent extremists — accused of planning or committing crimes in the name of domestic political goals — had more than doubled since the spring of 2020.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that he will not cooperate with the select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, asserting the panel “is not conducting a legitimate investigation,” the New York Times reports.
“McCarthy on Thursday doubled down on his refusal to cooperate with the House select committee’s probe into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — one year to the day that the Republican leader took to the House floor and said former President Donald Trump ‘bears responsibility’ for the attack,” ABC News reports.
Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday appeared before the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, CNN reports.
Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News that he wouldn’t back Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) return as Republican leader in the Senate if McConnell didn’t make nice with Trump.
Said Graham: “If you want to be a Republican leader in the House or the Senate, you have to have a working relationship with President Donald Trump.”
He added: “He’s the most consequential Republican since Ronald Reagan. It’s his nomination if he wants it, and I think he’ll get reelected in 2024.”
Politico: Trump taunts don’t shake McConnell’s hold on Senate GOP.
“Kevin McCarthy is signaling he’ll institutionalize key Trumpian priorities if he takes over as House speaker next year — aggressive tactics targeting undocumented immigrants, liberals and corporate America,” Axios reports.
“He’d govern with an edge and agenda in stark contrast not just to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) but to Paul Ryan, the last Republican in the role. McCarthy’s vision would empower populists and pugilists to complete the Republican makeover Donald Trump drove this far.”
“In the weeks after the 2020 election, then-President Donald Trump’s allies sent fake certificates to the National Archives declaring that Trump won seven states that he actually lost. The documents had no impact on the outcome of the election, but they are yet another example of how Team Trump tried to subvert the Electoral College — a key line of inquiry for the January 6 committee,” CNN reports.
“The fake certificates were created by Trump allies in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico, who sought to replace valid presidential electors from their states with a pro-Trump slate.”
Michigan Live: Republicans who falsified Michigan electoral college vote under scrutiny from Congress.
The surging Omicron variant appears to have peaked in parts of the Northeast, the New York Times reports.
“A huge surge in cases that lasts for about one month, followed by a rapid decline, would be consistent with the experience in some places where Omicron arrived earlier than in the U.S. ”
However: “In much of the country, cases are still soaring.”
“President Biden will announce Thursday that the federal government is deploying additional medical teams to six states — New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico — to help hospitals struggling to respond to the spike in cases of the omicron coronavirus variant,” the Washington Post reports.
“It’s one of the actions Biden plans to highlight in a speech from the White House complex on the administration’s ‘whole of government covid-19 surge response,’ much of which is already underway.”
Associated Press: “Many facilities are struggling because their workers are in at-home quarantines due to the virus at the same time as a nationwide spike in Covid-19 cases.“
Axios: Covid deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
The CDC advised Americans to avoid travel to Canada, citing “very high” levels of the coronavirus, the New York Times reports. “Canada was placed under a Level 4 travel health notice — the highest category — joining several countries, including France, Germany, Britain, Spain, South Africa and others.” With 1.4 million new cases in the U.S. yesterday it seems like staying in the country could be an even greater risk.
More than half of people in Europe could be infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the next six to eight weeks, the World Health Organization warned on Tuesday, amid “a new west-to-east tidal wave sweeping across the region,” the New York Times reports.
Russia has rejected NATO’s offer of measures to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, saying it made no sense to discuss incremental steps with a “hostile” alliance, the Telegraph reports.
Times of London: “NATO is ready to send troop reinforcements to eastern Europe if Russia invades Ukraine, the alliance’s secretary-general warned after talks with Moscow broke up without resolution.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) wants to know how Biden’s judicial nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, who is Black, can possibly have the integrity to be a federal judge given what she called his “rap sheet” of an entire three speeding tickets from over a decade ago that he didn’t pay for at first.
One of the tickets was for him driving five miles over the speed limit.
The nominee “thought he was above the law,” so “imagine how he’ll conduct himself if he’s confirmed as a federal judge” Blackburn argued.
Blackburn flashed her congressional pin and was allowed to leave after a car she was riding in got pulled over by the U.S. Capitol Police in March, according to CNN.
Just in case you’re curious, here’s what Blackburn had to say about Brett Kavanaugh.
“Boris Johnson defied calls last night for his resignation over lockdown parties in Downing Street as the Tories fell to their lowest poll rating against Labour in almost a decade,” the Times of London reports.
“U.S. Capitol Police arrested a Michigan woman on multiple gun charges after she drove to Washington and told officers she wanted to talk about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot,” CNBC reports.
Fox News used an 11-year old photo of empty store shelves in Japan to slam who they now call “Bare Shelves Biden,” Mediaite reports.
Mississippi lawmakers took the first steps towards eliminating the state income tax, the Jackson Clarion Ledger reports.
“Gov. Ron DeSantis has become arguably the most powerful governor in Florida’s history,” Politico reports.
“With one year left in his first term in office, DeSantis’ consolidation of power has become clear: Democrats, who are in the minority, are unable to stop him. And Republicans in the Florida Legislature are enthusiastically carrying out his wishes or are unwilling to buck him.”
Said one GOP legislator: “They are not going to embarrass Ron DeSantis. Ron DeSantis is essentially the speaker of the House, the president of the Senate and the chief justice of the Supreme Court right now.”
Said a former legislator: “There are no second chances. It’s well known you can’t go against him. If you cross him once, you’re dead.”
Florida lawmakers revived a proposal to create a $1 billion fund that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) could use at his discretion during emergencies he declares, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Right-wing talk radio personality Glenn Beck said he has contracted Covid-19 for the second time after refusing the vaccine, The Independent reports.
Said Beck: “It’s starting to go into my lungs today and a little disturbing. I’m on all the medications and treatments and everything else, so… it’s all good.”
“Beck said the antibody treatment ‘doesn’t seem to be working’ in his case, but he added that he is taking Ivermectin, an anti parasite drug popular in right-wing, anti-vaccine circles that has no proven effect against Covid-19.”
Kelly Canon, a well-known conservative activist in Texas who peddled Covid-19 vaccine misinformation, has died of complications caused by the virus — just a few weeks after attending a “symposium” against the shots, the Daily Beast reports.
“The White House sought Wednesday to reframe the Washington debate about the Iran nuclear deal, asserting that Trump’s decision to quit the agreement is what has led to an Iran on the verge of an atom bomb,” Politico reports.
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) “compared Covid vaccine mandates to the Holocaust, a statement that was met with swift backlash from Jewish groups,” NBC News reports.
“A rural sheriff near the Texas border is under criminal investigation for allegedly having his deputies illegally seize money and a truck from undocumented immigrants during traffic stops,” the Abilene Reporter News reports.
“FBI agents infiltrated an alleged plot to kidnap and hurt Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by hiding recording devices in key fobs that captured conversations among undercover informants and accused plotters,” the Detroit News reports.
Quebec Premier François Legault said the province would be imposing a health tax on Quebecers who refuse to get their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the coming weeks, the CBC reports.
The Guardian: “The world’s oceans have been set to simmer, and the heat is being cranked up. Last year saw the hottest ocean temperatures in recorded history, the sixth consecutive year that this record has been broken.”
New York Times: “The number of migrants crossing the border illegally has soared, with the Border Patrol recording the highest number of encounters in more than six decades in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. With the surge has come an increase in deaths and injuries from high-speed chases by the Border Patrol, a trend that Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, attributes to a rise in brazen smugglers trying to flee its agents.”