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At the nation’s largest HBCU, Biden promotes his latest economic priority
The president traveled to North Carolina A&T University to make the case for an innovation bill Congress hopes to iron out after the Easter recess.
When Congress returns to Washington a week from Monday, House members and senators from both parties will start negotiations on what the White House has dubbed the “Bipartisan Innovation Act.”
It’s a comprehensive bill, known on Capitol Hill by many other names and acronyms, that would bolster US competition with China, make domestic supply chains strong, invest in homegrown research and development, and increase the value of American production.
The administration feels the innovation legislation would combat inflation by addressing the vulnerabilities that have been exposed by the war in Ukraine and the pandemic.
In the meantime, President Joe Biden on Thursday traveled to North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro to drum up public support for the bill and encourage Congress, infamous for the glacial pace with which it often works, to pass the bill ASAP.
During his stop, he visited North Carolina A&T’s new complex for engineering research and innovation and met with faculty and students who are studying robotics and cybersecurity.
North Carolina A&T is the largest historically Black college and university in the nation and the largest producer of Black undergraduates in engineering and with master’s degrees in math and statistics engineering in the country. It’s also the alma mater of Michael Regan, the head of the Environmental Protection Administration and two of Biden’s recent appointees to his board of advisors on HBCUs.
The White House said the administration has prioritized visits to HBCU campuses to pitch the president’s agenda in recognition of both the contribution they make to the world and this chronic underfunding of these institutions and the underrepresentation of their graduates in the corridors of power.
“President Biden is living up to his word to be the best president for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and I am honored to join him on the campus of my alma mater,” Democratic Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina and co-chair of the congressional HBCU Caucus, said in a statement to Supercreator. “I am continuing the work in Congress to send our landmark legislation to HBCUs to [his] desk so he can fulfill his promise to our institutions.”
Since taking office, the Biden administration has provided $5.8 billion to HBCUs through the Education Department. This funding included emergency aid that helped the schools and their students overcome the worst parts of COVID by supporting students’ basic needs, campus operations and avoiding mass faculty and staff layoffs. (The education department appropriated an additional $500 million in grant funding to support academic programs and fiscal stability.) The funding also released $1.6 billion of capital improvement debt held by HBCUs, resulting in debt relief for 45 HBCUs.
North Carolina A&T has received $188 million in funding. The university has used the money to fund need-based scholarships and scholarships to graduate students, including those who left the university before graduating. It has also provided emergency aid to reduce student bills, including price breaks for students on campus with meal plans.
For some voters and Democratic lawmakers though, these investments are moot unless Biden cancels student debt, which they see as an insurmountable barrier to upward mobility for borrowers — especially those from communities of color who were the first in their families to graduate from college and had to take out substantial loans to finance their education.
The White House last week announced that it would extend a freeze on payments through August 31 and administration officials are quick to point out that no one has been required to pay on their federal student loans since Biden took office.
Seven in 10 voters who report having at least some student loan debt back Biden’s decision to extend the payment pause through August, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. 48 percent of people who say they owe no money for college also back the freeze. Less than one in four voters say passing a bill to provide relief to Americans with student loan debt should be a top priority for Congress though.
But Biden is focused on making sure the innovation bill becomes law ahead of the midterm elections.
The administration said Greensboro, where North Carolina A&T is located, is an example of a regional manufacturing ecosystem that his agenda hopes to build across America to create a globally competitive manufacturing industry that also expands the middle class.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre spoke to the president’s urgency during a Q&A with reporters en route to North Carolina because the administration the investments in economic resilience are already long overdue.
“The president wants to get this legislation on his desk for his signature as soon as possible. We’re glad to see a bipartisan conference process starting and we’re going to continue working closely with Congress to help iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions,” Jean-Pierre said. “We can’t afford to wait.”
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TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden is at Camp David and has no events on his public schedule.
Vice President Kamala Harris this morning will meet with President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania in the vice president’s ceremonial office.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
IN THE KNOW
— The Food and Drug administration authorized for emergency use the first COVID-19 diagnostic test that uses breath samples to provide results in less than three minutes. In a study, the test correctly identified 91 percent of positive samples.
— Pfizer announced that a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine boosted the immune response in kids ages five to 11. The company plans to submit a request to the FDA for emergency use authorization in the coming days and said it would share its data with the global public health community.
— President Biden has nominated Michael Barr as the next vice chair for supervision of the Federal Reserve, the central banking system of the US. Biden withdrew the nomination of Sarah Bloom Raskin to fill the role due to opposition from Republican senators and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
— More than 90 federal agencies, including all cabinet-level agencies, released the first-ever equity action plans. The plans online more than 300 concrete strategies and commitments to address the nation’s systemic barriers and advance equity and racial justice across the federal government.
— Unemployment claims were up 18,000 from the previous week’s revised level. Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Florida saw the largest increases while the largest decreases were in Michigan, Texas, New Jersey, Kentucky and New York.
— The Council of Economic Advisers released an economic report that it says demonstrates the economic progress the US has made over the past year. The report also makes the case for the administration’s economic policy priorities as it works to reduce historic inflation and boost President Biden’s approval metrics ahead of the midterms.
— Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia raised $13.6 million in the first quarter of the year. Warnock is up for reelection for a full six-year Senate term this November after winning one of two Georgia seats in January 2021. His campaign said it was the most money ever raised by any US candidate in the first quarter of an election year. (Greg Bluestein / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
— Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota introduced a resolution for America to become a full member of the international court that investigates war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocides. “Like many of us, I have recoiled in horror at reports of massacres, targeting of civilians, mass graves, and rapes by Russian forces. Vladimir Putin and anyone responsible must be held accountable,” Omar said in a statement. “Sadly, the US is not party to the International Criminal Court, the principal body responsible for investigating and prosecuting these crimes.”
— Older Americans are now more likely to approve of President Biden than young people are. Among Gen Z and millennial adults, support for how he is handling his job as leader of the free world has dropped by 40 percent since he took office. (Jeffrey M. Jones / Gallup)
— More than half of US adults surveyed feel the laws covering the sale of handguns should be stricter than they are now. The same percentage of respondents are worried about gun violence in their community. (YouGov)
— The Coalition for a Prosperous America launched a new campaign to push back against foreign generic pharmaceutical manufacturers in China and India that it claims violates the federal safety regulations. The advocacy group says its goal is to ensure all generic medicines are safe, affordable and always available.
— Tesla CEO Elon Musk offered to buy Twitter. The move from one of the app’s most outspoken power users would give him outsized influence on its progress against misinformation, calls for violence and harassment and conspiracy theories. (Jason Abbruzzese / NBC News)
— Related: Twitter hosted an all-hands staff meeting to discuss the Musk bid. The company also said it would consider the proposal.(@sarafischer / Twitter)
— More than three in four Black Americans say being Black is important to how they think about themselves. This same group is also more likely to feel that what happens to Black people inside and outside the United States affects what happens in our own lives. (Kiana Cox and Christine Tamir / Pew Research Center)
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Mark Joseph Stern on how red states plan to reach beyond their borders and outlaw abortion in America:
What’s alarming about the rash of recent legislation, though, is how it extends this philosophy to its logical conclusion. The anti-abortion movement has moved beyond the legal regime of the early 1970s, which largely regulated abortion as a medical procedure, with penalties aimed at physicians. Today, the movement promotes fetal personhood, the notion that fetuses (and embryos) are legal persons who deserve equal rights—meaning their termination constitutes homicide. Red states are not just shutting down clinics. They are attempting to create a panopticon that surveils and punishes every individual involved in the termination of a pregnancy.
Steven Rattner on the case for aggressively raising interest rates:
Rising interest rates slow the economy in several ways. Higher rates make large purchases bought on credit, like homes and automobiles, less affordable, thereby reining in demand and cooling prices. For their part, businesses would borrow less. And the stock market would also be hit, as investors shifted capital to take advantage of more attractive interest yields on bonds.
Softer home values and a potentially declining stock market would trigger a reverse wealth effect: Feeling less well off, Americans would spend less. All of this would ripple through the economy, ultimately resulting in less economic activity.
Optimists — including the Biden administration — argue that the current supply-demand imbalance can be addressed on the supply side of the equation. That is fantasy. Intel has, happily, announced plans for a new semiconductor plant in Ohio, but that facility won’t be operational until 2025. Nor will attacking oligopolistic practices in the meatpacking industry or the escalating cost of hearing aids have any measurable effect on overall prices.
Christian Paz on the return of old-school homophobia:
The feedback loop of anti-LGBTQ legislation and “grooming” discourse reveals new dimensions to the conservative movement’s efforts to stymie the progress of recent years: Some members of the political right see opportunities to wield their advantages in the nation’s increasingly conservative courts against LGBTQ people — and opportunities to claw back the ground they’ve lost in the culture war as Americans’ opposition to discrimination grows.
Drawing on pandemic-era anger over school closures, mask-wearing, and the specter of critical race theory, state Republicans see an opportunity to rile up their most conservative constituents ahead of primaries, general elections, and a new Supreme Court term.
But what these bills communicate coyly, its supporters in media and politics have been saying out loud for quite some time: The way to win back lost ground in the culture war over LGBTQ people is to cast them as morally corrupt villains — and use schools as a starting point for a bigger cultural shift.
Olga Khazan on why sex education is the opposite of “grooming”:
But bills such as Florida’s [“Don’t Say Gay” law] are also likely to have a chilling effect on comprehensive sexual education in schools, with deleterious effects. Comprehensive sex ed doesn’t just help prevent bullying; it helps kids have healthier relationships of all kinds, improves their communication skills, and even boosts their media literacy. Compared with abstinence-only sex education or no sex education at all, comprehensive sex ed helps reduce teen pregnancy rates. One meta-analysis found that European countries, many of which offer comprehensive, mandatory sex ed, including for young children, tend to have the lowest rates of child sexual abuse in the world. Sex education is “the exact opposite” of grooming, says Nora Gelperin, the director of sexuality education at Advocates for Youth, a sex-ed nonprofit. “Sex education, even when started in the earliest grades, has shown to be protective for kids, especially around child sexual abuse.”
Rebecca Heilweil on the death of the gas station:
This is worrisome news if you’re in the gas station business. Boston Consulting Group analysts estimate that if EVs do take off, as much as 80 percent of the fuel retail market could be unprofitable by 2035. Should demand for gasoline completely disappear, many of the more than 100,000 stations throughout the country would be at risk of going out of business. If they’re not able to sell fuel, gas stations would struggle to make money since people typically buy products at their convenience stores while they’re filling up.
So if these businesses want to survive, they need to start reinventing themselves for a world beyond gas. That could be hard to do, or even impossible. Installing EV chargers in existing gas station locations can be quite expensive. Meanwhile, those locations might become irrelevant as car manufacturers, charging station companies, and the government race to build a brand new network of EV chargers.
Justin Sayles on Coachella:
This weekend, Coachella returns for the first time since 2019 after COVID concerns caused Goldenvoice to cancel the past two years. In a vacuum, the headliners all have their strengths: Harry Styles, the boy-band member turned pop heartthrob, will make his only U.S. festival appearance this year on Friday; Billie Eilish, by any metric one of the biggest pop stars in the world, will return to Coachella on the main stage on Saturday after announcing her arrival on the Outdoor Stage in 2019; the Weeknd and a reunited Swedish House Mafia will replace Kanye as the Sunday night hammer, which brings a certain kind of nostalgia.
Taken together, however, those three acts mark a sharp change from the earlier years of the festival.
The end result, in Weiss’s view, is a festival that lacks the specialness of years past, that feels very similar to its increasingly homogenized competitors. “Coachella and Lollapalooza were the alternative festivals, Bonnaroo was the jam festival,” Weiss says. “Now they’re completely indistinguishable from each other.”
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