As Biden brags on infrastructure investments, Democrats focus on the “no-brainers” in his legislative agenda
The White House and their allies on Capitol Hill seem to agree that it would be nice to have more energizing wins to campaign on in a few months.
After President Joe Biden’s first state of the Union in early March, White House officials hinted that we would see him on the road promoting his economic agenda ahead of the November midterms.
This week will find him completing a west-coast swing to Portland and Seattle — though not before he heads to New Hampshire today to brag about his administration’s investments in the nation’s infrastructure and speak about how he thinks they’ll help lower costs for everyday people.
But Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, worry that the infrastructure investments, pandemic relief and historic confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court may be an insufficient record to win with come the midterm elections.
“Democrats win elections when we show we understand the painful economic realities facing American families and convince voters we will deliver meaningful change,” she wrote on Monday in a buzzy opinion essay in the New York Times. “To put it bluntly: If we fail to use the months remaining before the elections to deliver on more of our agenda, Democrats are headed toward big losses in the midterms.”
The White House stopped short of projecting Warren’s doomsday sentiment but did seem to agree that it would be nice to have more energizing wins to campaign on in a few months.
“We’ve talked a bit about steps to lower costs — which I know Sen. Warren, of course, strongly supports as well — for child care, for health care, for elder care, for prescription drugs. These are no-brainers for most people in the country,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday. “And also making the system more fair. We think those are all issues that Democrats, but also a lot of people around the country would love for us to do more on and love to talk about more.”
Warren outlined a roadmap to pass provisions on clean energy, affordable child care and universal pre-K while raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for them. She also said the country could root out corruption by banning members of Congress and their spouses from owning individual stocks. To reduce inflation, Warren calls on Democrats to empower regulators so they can end price-gouging, break up monopolies and implement a windfall profits tax. And whatever congressional Democrats can’t get done through the legislative process, Warren said Biden should authorize through executive action.
An administration official said the White House is in touch with a wide range of members about a package that could deliver on these items without Republican support.
“We’re talking to everybody across the board,” Psaki said. “I’m not going to name all the names but they’re all included — Democrats across the board who want to get this done.”
However, a growing number of Democrats up for reelection this fall are preoccupied with the politics of the administration’s recent decision to lift Title 42, a public health order that allowed border officials to quickly expel undocumented migrants — even those seeking asylum — to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus at border facilities and in border communities.
The lawmakers think the order should remain in place until the White House has a better immigration plan in place. The administration’s counterargument: Title 42 isn’t an immigration policy.
“What is happening right now is they’re essentially holding hostage funding for COVID. And we are going to run out of funding — we’re already running out of funding — for key programs,” Psaki said. “So our issue here is let’s move forward with the COVID funding. We’re happy to have a discussion about the broken immigration system. We agree it’s broken. Let’s work together on addressing that.”
The entire situation is catnip for my colleagues who love themselves a thread to weave into a juicy “Democrats in disarray” narrative. Meanwhile, what’s that sound you hear? Oh, it’s just congressional Republicans saying nothing about their drama in hopes they can coast back into the majority with as little fanfare as possible.
Nonetheless, Vice President Kamala Harris struck an optimistic tone on behalf of the administration at a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Los Angeles.
“Elections matter. And so as we go toward this next election, let’s remind people that it matters and that we are so well aware of the work that we still have yet to do,” she said. “And we don’t have any time to slow down. You don’t have any time to ourselves. We gotta get to work.”
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TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing before convening a video call with allies and partners to discuss the Russian war in Ukraine. The president will then travel to New Hampshire to visit the state’s port authority and speak about investments the bipartisan infrastructure law will make to modernize ports and waterways. Biden will return to the White House this evening.
Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff are at their Brentwood, California home. She has no public events on her schedule.
First Lady Jill Biden will speak at the DC NewsBash, an event to help raise awareness for breast cancer and to raise funds for breast cancer causes.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
IN THE KNOW
— Russia launched a new phase of its war in eastern Ukraine after it failed to claim the capital city of Kyiv. Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the eastern region of the country for the past eight years and have declared two independent republics that have been recognized by Russia. (Yuras Karmanau / AP News)
— A federal Trump-appointed judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration’s travel and transportation mask mandate because she believed the requirement was outside the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC extended the mandate for two weeks last week to give it more time to study the severity of the new Omicron subvariant. (Tierney Sneed / CNN)
— Related: Delta, American, United and Southwest Airlines all designated masks as optional on their aircraft. Railroad service Amtrak also said it will no longer require face masks for passengers and employees. (Pete Muntean and Dave Alsup / CNN)
— The formal end of the pandemic could surge the number of uninsured kids by six million or more as temporary reforms to Medicaid are lifted. The lifting of the public health emergency, which was just extended to July 15, will lead states to determine whether their Medicaid enrollees are still eligible for coverage — a complicated process that could result in millions of Americans being removed from the program. (Adriel Bettelheim / Axios)
— The Department of Homeland Security opened registration for Temporary Protected Status for Ukraine and Sudan. US Citizenship and Immigration Services estimates 59,600 people currently in the US may be eligible for TPS under the designation of Ukraine; 3,090 people may be eligible under the Sudanese designation, including 700 current TPS beneficiaries who had their documentation extended through the end of 2022.
— Amazon will conduct a racial-equity audit of its hourly workers after shareholders urged the company to provide more transparency into how its policies affect diversity, equity and workplace inclusion. The audit will be led by Loretta Lynch, who served as the first Black woman to serve as attorney general under former President Barack Obama. (Annie Palmer / CNBC)
— Peres Jepchirchir, a 28-year-old Kenyan Olympic champion, won the Boston Marathon. The event returned to its traditional spring start for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. (Jimmy Golen / AP News)
— Two-thirds of US adults said they cooked with a recipe at least one day in the past week, and nearly 10 percent said it’s a daily occurrence. Millennials, higher-income consumers and those with children in the household are the demographic groups cooking most frequently with recipes and most likely to say they plan meals. (Emily Moquin / Morning Consult)
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Caleb Madison on why people are calling everything a “hellscape”:
Amid such phenomena as the opioid crisis, the specter of marijuana legalization, and the West Coast fires, the word grew from a niche mid-century neologism to a habitual description of the world at large. Why the sudden spike? And why use hellscape and not just hell? The Dutch-painting suffix imbues the infernal with a sense of voyeurism. These dystopian events, for most of us, were experienced not firsthand, but through the mediation of our screens. Hellscape struck a semantic chord with us because it captured our perspectival relationship to the chaos—not immersing us in hell, exactly, but framing it as a backdrop to our daily lives.
An epidemic of deaths on the streets of American cities has accelerated as the homeless population has aged and the cumulative toll of living and sleeping outdoors has shortened lives. The wider availability of fentanyl, a particularly fast-acting and dangerous drug, has been a major cause of the rising death toll, but many homeless people are dying young of treatable chronic illnesses like heart disease.
More than ever it has become deadly to be homeless in America, especially for men in their 50s and 60s, who typically make up the largest cohort of despair. In many cities the number of homeless deaths doubled during the pandemic, a time when seeking medical care became more difficult, housing costs continued to rise and when public health authorities were preoccupied with combating the coronavirus.
Dylan Matthews on why Congress let the expanded child tax credit expire:
The bigger questions, I think, are a) why beneficiaries weren’t able to fight to keep the benefit, like the beneficiaries of Obamacare successfully did in 2017, and b) whether doing this kind of legislation on straight party lines is viable.
The 2017 rescue of Obamacare was a great illustration of a classic political science theory from Berkeley’s Paul Pierson. Pierson noted that even conservative leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan hadn’t been able (or even really attempted) to roll back foundational welfare state programs like the National Health Service and Social Security. He argued that beneficiaries became invested in these programs and would revolt against any politicians who threatened them.
That’s basically what happened in 2017: Republicans should have had the votes to repeal Obamacare after Trump took the White House, but the prospect of throwing millions of people off Medicaid started to look so politically poisonous that several GOP senators bolted and killed the effort.
I thought this would happen in 2021: letting the child tax credit expire would so enrage parents benefiting that Congress would be forced to extend it.
That wasn’t so.
Rani Molla on how the pandemic changed everything and nothing about work:
But what does the future of work actually look like for the majority of Americans whose jobs require them to show up in person? Despite all the buzz about high-profile union efforts last year, union membership actually fell in 2021. Wages aren’t going up as fast as they were, and any hope for an increase in the federal minimum wage is, at least for now, dead. Many of the circumstances that have made the current moment possible, including unprecedented support from the federal government, are fading or already have expired in the super-speed recovery.
For many workers, the current state of work looks very much the same — or even worse. In many ways, so does the future.
Sarah Jeong on fruit stickers:
Alas, the produce stickers ride alongside the nutrient-rich kitchen waste. They cling to a spent orange rind; they linger on a discarded banana peel; they’re brushed into the compost bucket with a pile of woody kale stems and carrot tops. It requires hypervigilance to prevent a produce sticker from entering a compost pile.
Produce stickers, which are often made of plastic, will maintain their shape and sometimes their bright colors, though they often wash out to a blinding white. When compost has fully broken down, they stand out like a sore thumb — perfect little ovals, circles, and rectangles contrasting sharply against the dark brown earth of finished compost.
The Produce Marketing Association (PMA), which has since become the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA), created the Price Look Up (PLU) system and its accompanying scourge of stickers starting in 1988. A PLU sticker has a number and sometimes a bar code. It exists to help a cashier correctly ring up produce at checkout. The stickers themselves consist of three components: adhesive, plastic or paper, and ink. The stickers are required to be food grade — but that isn’t the same thing as being compostable. Chewing gum, for instance, isn’t compostable, an interesting fact that has finally gotten me to stop swallowing my chewing gum.
Alissa Wilkinson on garlic:
There’s simply something indescribably perfect about a garlic clove, about the specific kind of heat it adds to a dish. Taking cues from the French and the Italians, I love how it develops depending on how you cook it, the many things it can be. Slip cloves beneath the skin of a whole chicken before you roast it, and they’ll bring a savory sweetness to the meat. Slice it up and fry it, sprinkle it over a platter of braised greens, and you have a delectable garnish. Mince it into tiny bits and add to a spread, and it’s spice. Braise it in oil or roast it whole and you can spread it onto bread. The curly, bright green scapes that sprout from it in the springtime are a touch of mouthwatering almost-salty fire when chopped and added to scrambled eggs. It’s a perfect food.
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