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Congress faces a pre-Easter time crunch
From confirming Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination to passing additional COVID funding, members have a full legislative agenda to clear before their coveted two-week break.
By this time next week, Congress will be into its two-week Easter recess. But between now and then, members have several significant legislative items to clear. Let’s discuss the status of each of these key priorities:
The KBJ confirmation
The Senate Judiciary Committee this morning will vote to advance US Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the full Senate for a final vote.
The committee is evenly split among 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans and the vote will deadlock in a tie if, as expected, Jackson receives no support from the Republicans.
Democratic leadership has anticipated the tied committee vote, so Leader Chuck Schumer will move to bring the nomination to the full Senate through a procedure that will require an extra step but have little material impact on the final outcome for Jackson.
In other words, if all goes according to plan, she’ll receive one last vote on Friday to confirm her as the first Black woman to serve on the US Supreme Court. What’s up in the air is if one or two more Senate Republicans will join Sen. Susan Collins of Maine in supporting Jackson’s confirmation along with all 50 Senate Democrats.
Additionally, Congress hopes to pass an agreement to provide the White House with $10 billion for COVID preparedness.
As I wrote in Friday’s newsletter, the deal would authorize $5 billion for therapeutics including vaccinations and be funded by reallocating money from previous pandemic-response bills. This was a point of contention for several House Democrats who opposed a previous version of the bill that called for money to be pulled from state and local governments.
The $10-billion price tag is less than the $15.6 billion that was initially included and then dropped from the comprehensive government funding bill Congress passed earlier this month. And it’s a fraction of the $22.5 billion the Office of Management and Budget requested on behalf of the White House.
But it would enable the Biden administration to reauthorize and extend some of its programs to secure treatments for immunocompromised people and replenish testing supplies and vaccines.
The rub is that some congressional Democrats are peeved about how few dollars the bill would go to the White House’s campaign to help vaccinate the world. Some House Democrats have signaled their opposition to the legislation unless it receives assurances that there’s a plan to secure more funding for global vaccines later.
COVID-19 restaurant funding
Democratic leadership is also consolidating support for a $55 billion package in additional COVID-19 relief that would go to restaurants and other hardest-hit businesses.
The bill would provide $42 billion to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which awards grants to eligible establishments that were unable to get funding when they previously applied to the program. New applicants would be ineligible for funding.
Another $13 billion would be allocated to create a program to provide awards to to small businesses across all industries and sectors that were hardest hit by the pandemic but were not eligible for the revitalization fund or other relief programs.
The bill would also extend the timeline for recipients of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program to use their awards.
Lawmakers would pay for the legislation with money reclaimed, seized or returned to the federal government primarily from people who attempted to defraud pandemic relief programs.
The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday afternoon to set the terms for debate and amendment if the bill is put up for a vote.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio led nearly 20 of his colleagues in a letter to Leader Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to request funding in the package to pay Senate cafeteria workers through the end of the year. Otherwise, the workers are at risk of layoff later this year.
Competitiveness legislation goes to conference
The House and Senate will move to the next phase in passing a comprehensive bill to bolster US competition with China, make domestic supply chains stronger, invest in homegrown research and development, and increase the value of American production.
A bit of context: Since both the House and Senate must pass the same bill before the president signs it into law, usually the second chamber approves the one approved by the first.
When that doesn’t happen, the two chambers can resolve their remaining difference in joint committee — known as a “conference” — appointed by the House and Senate. (Senior members of the permanent committees of each chamber that originally considered the legislation usually serve in the conference committee.)
The committee may not add new line items or remove anything that both chambers have already approved. It may only address sections that one chamber has approved but that the other has not.
Both Democratic leaders said they hope to appoint members to resolve each chamber’s differences by the end of the week.
“Everybody wants to be on the conference,” Speaker Pelosi said last week. “So we’ll just have to see what the size of that is.”
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Today in Politics
President Biden this morning will return to the White House from Delaware this morning and receive his daily intelligence briefing. This afternoon, he will speak on the progress of the administration’s trucking initiative to improve supply chain resilience and bring more veterans and women into the industry. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will also speak.
Biden’s week ahead:
Tuesday: Biden will be joined by Vice President Harris, former President Obama and other cabinet members at the Affordable Care Act event.
Wednesday: The president will speak to thousands of national, state and local building trades leaders at the North America’s Building Trades Unions Legislative Conference.
Vice President Harris will speak at a local elementary school about the White House’s clean energy plans for public school facilities and transportation.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida will meet with a group of college students to discuss their school’s career development initiative, including a program designed for high school students with an interest in cybersecurity and science, technology, engineering and math.
The House is in and will consider legislation on medical marijuana research and a bill that would require private health insurance plans to cover treatment and procedures for individuals born with congenital anomalies or birth defects.
The Senate is in and will debate the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court.
In the Know
Former President Barack Obama on Tuesday will join President Biden at an event to promote the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” It will be Obama’s first visit to the White House since he left office in 2017. (Mike Memoli / NBC News)
A 26-year-old man was fatally shot and at least 11 others were injured Saturday night at a concert in a Dallas neighborhood on Saturday. One person reportedly fired a gun into the air and someone else fired a gun toward the crowd at the concert. One person remains in critical condition while the others are in stable condition. Three juveniles were among those shot and taken to hospitals. (Maggie Prosser and Hojun Choi / The Dallas Morning News)
Related: Six people were killed and 12 others were injured in a mass shooting in downtown Sacramento early Sunday. The shooting — said to be among the worst in Sacramento history — happened just after 2 a.m., but details about the exact location of the incident occurred have not been confirmed. (Sam Stanton, Jason Pohl, Ryan Lillis and Dale Kasler / The Sacramento Bee)
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said the Russian invasion of Ukraine is “far from over.” “I think there's a lot of evidence that Putin is simply taking his troops out of the northern part of the country to redeploy them to the eastern part of the country to relaunch a battle there,” Klain said on ABC’s This Week of claims by Russia that they are retreating from Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and surrounding areas.
The Defense Department announced an additional $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine. The US has now committed more than $2.3 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration — including more than $1.6 billion in security assistance since Russia’s invasion.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Brussels, Belgium this week for meetings with NATO allies and international partners on the global response to Russia’s war. The meetings will be from April 5 to 7 and the leaders will also discuss the collective efforts to provide support for Ukraine.
COVID-19 hospitalizations are at their lowest levels since the U.S. began keeping records at the start of the pandemic. Cases are declining too, as public health officials work to keep a new Omicron subvariant from causing another disruptive wave. (Elliott Ramos and Joe Murphy / NBC News)
More than four in 10 teens told the Centers for Disease and Prevention they felt “persistently sad or hopeless.” “These data echo a cry for help,” Debra Houry, a deputy director at the CDC, said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental well-being.” (Moriah Balingit / WaPo)
Related: “Kids’ mental health is getting worse. But that predated the pandemic” (Aaron Blake / WaPo)
Members of Congress and the Japanese parliament sent a joint letter asking President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to clarify that they do not support the United States being the first nation to introduce the use of nuclear weapons in conflict. The members argue that the clarification is essential as Russia’s war on Ukraine have heightened nuclear tensions.
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland led a letter with 10 House colleagues to the heads of the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department’s antitrust division urging the agencies to investigate Big Tech’s expansion into auto industry.“Big Tech is rapidly doing to cars what it already did to cell phones,” the lawmakers wrote. “Urgent action is needed to protect workers, privacy, and the competitive landscape.”
Related: Rep. Raskin led another 10 colleagues in a brief to the Supreme Court on a pending case about school prayer at public high school football games. Raskin argues that a Washington state high school football coach violated his students’ religious freedom by pressuring them to join his public prayers at the 50-yard line during games.
More than three-fourths of Americans say they disapprove of the job that Congress is doing, with Democratic respondents’ approval at 35 percent. Congress saw a brief spike in approval ratings after it passed two emergency COVID-19 relief bills but is now about the same as in the second half of 2020. (Lydia Saad / Gallup)
The Department of Health and Human Services announced $4.5 million in funding to hire, train, certify and compensate community-based doulas in areas with high rates of adverse maternal and infant health outcomes. Doulas are especially helpful as advocates for Black women before, during and after pregnancy.
ICYMI: Amazon workers in a Staten Island warehouse organized the first union in the company’s history. The successful vote is a huge win for the labor movement and could inspire other Amazon warehouses to follow suit. (Haleluya Hadero, Anne D’innocenzio and Bobby Caina Calvan / AP News)
Related II: The House Oversight Committee opened an investigation into Amazon’s labor practices during severe weather events. The probe will focus on a tornado that hit Amazon’s delivery station last December in Edwardsville, Illinois, that killed six people. (Karen Weise / NYT)
New research suggests there are distinct bacteria and metabolomes associated with each personality trait. “What you eat determines the bacteria and the microbiome in your gut,” Ali Boolani, associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Clarkson University and lead author on the study, said. “With this study, we have made an exploratory link between a person’s microbiome and their mood.” (Tim Schnettler / Texas A&M University)
Read All About It
Marin Cogan in conversation with Laurie Garduque on how local jails are helping drive America’s mass incarceration problem:
There are what we call “legal financial obligations.” Money bail is a legal financial obligation, but there are also people who are arrested because of failure to meet legal financial obligations — anything like child support or parking tickets or other fines and fees that the court might administer. Unless they can come up with the money to pay for these, then they stay locked up.
There are individuals who remain locked up because they don’t have anywhere to go after they’ve been released from jail. There’s a reluctance on the part of courts to simply allow them to go back out into the community if they don’t have a residence or stable place to be released on their own recognizance.
Individuals can also be detained because they have developmental disabilities or behavioral health issues or mental health disorders — they’re considered at risk for being on the street, or they could be considered a risk to themselves. Many jurisdictions also lack adequate pretrial supervision, which is a way to connect with folks in the community for support to make sure they will show up for their court date.
Apple’s communications, government affairs and legal offices have also opposed some of the bills, working with policymakers and advocacy groups to plot out strategies and filing court briefs in cases involving LGBTQ rights. And the company is leading part of the broader corporate pushback against the bills — Apple executives have encouraged other large companies to publicly oppose the legislation, arguing that it promotes discrimination and threatens to harm LGBTQ youth.
The fight is not merely a values-driven issue for businesses like Apple. Studies have shown that companies struggle to recruit and retain employees — particularly the younger, college-educated workers that Apple relies on — in states that consider or pass legislation targeting LGBTQ people. And the tech industry is known for having a high concentration of trans employees, meaning Apple is responding to the needs of its workforce.
The advocacy poses political risks for Apple as Republicans begin to criticize the company’s opposition to the bills. Some Republicans in Iowa have argued that Apple should not continue to receive state subsidies as it opposes legislation banning trans girls from participating in high school sports that match their gender identity.
Michael Johnston on our camera rolls:
Almost without trying, we can find ourselves with twenty-three thousand pictures on our camera rolls. Unfortunately, we don’t have picture editors to do the work of sifting and culling and considering. No one helps us discover which shots “have legs” and stay interesting the more we look at them; no one shows us which photographs say what we mean to say; and no one tells us how to identify the best and leave aside the rest. Many of us have also stopped printing our photos. It used to be that we were constrained by our physical photo albums, that we had to choose which pictures to keep and which to leave out. “Redaction is what transforms a quantity of images from a heap to a whole,” the photography critic A. D. Coleman once wrote, referring to the process of culling. The cloud is big, so we don’t redact. We live with our heaps.
Ryan Cooper on how colleges and universities should deal with committed racists:
Once one has admitted that certain beliefs are out of bounds in an academic setting, the only question is where and how the boundaries should be drawn. Critically, they argue that a thorough commitment to anti-racism is important in an academic context not because racism harms minorities (though it does do that), but because it leads to poor scholarship. For instance, for the majority of the 20th century, the historiography of the Reconstruction period was dominated by the Dunning School—a straightforward racist fraud. This school of thought, advanced by Columbia University’s William Dunning and his acolytes, advanced a white supremacist view of the period after the Civil War.
In reality, as is now fairly common knowledge, from about 1865 to 1876, Black men in the South were more or less full voting citizens—a status protected by federal power. This power was eventually withdrawn by Northern white elites, and Black citizenship in the South was then destroyed by white supremacist terrorism. That in turn set the stage for Jim Crow: an apartheid system enforced by a constant threat of psychotic violence to any Black person who stepped out of line (and many who didn’t).
White intellectuals then made up a bunch of comforting lies that Reconstruction was a mistake and a failure because the multiracial governments were corrupt, thanks to the influence of ignorant Black voters who didn’t deserve the franchise. This wasn’t a contestable interpretation, or a different angle on events, but a completely preposterous and baldly racist delusion invented to assuage the conscience and ego of white society.
Nabil Ayers on the guitar solo:
In the late 1980s and ’90s, a new narrative emerged: If you were really good, you wouldn’t need to show off so much. Satires such as “Wayne’s World” and “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” started to make shredding seem like the domain of awkward teenage boys.
“Perhaps it was inevitable that the guitar solo would outlive its usefulness,” David Browne wrote in Rolling Stone in 2019. “After all these years and innovations, what can it offer? What hasn’t already been done, from Hendrix to Stevie Ray Vaughan? But the rise of hip hop, dance music and modern pop cemented the solo’s irrelevance.”
Gone are the days when guitar solos were in almost every song on rock radio airwaves, but they’re far from extinct. It’s true that the new millennium brought a focus on other genres, but it’s also worth noting that artists in some of those genres, electronic music for example, figured out some inventive ways to include the guitar solo. Daft Punk’s 2001 song “Aerodynamic” used a guitar-like sound for its classically influenced solo, and other electronic artists such as Justice and Ratatat followed suit.
The most notable thing about Rothaniel on the level of its text, the biggest and most obvious takeaway headline, is that it is a coming-out special. Carmichael spends roughly the first half-hour telling stories about his family and his childhood, all of them variations on the theme of secrets, lies, and that uncomfortable sense that everyone knows something but no one’s saying it. They are stories primarily about infidelity. Carmichael’s grandfathers and his father all slept around and had children outside of their marriages, and Carmichael paints a picture of all the ways this shaped him as a person. He grew up knowing this and wanting to shield his mother from the knowledge. He also grew up with a sense that this is what masculinity looked like and that he was born into that line of men, so much so that his actual first name is a combination of his grandfathers’ first names. The name is not elegant like William Edward, Carmichael tells the room. “It’s more like … Toyotathon.” This is something he has kept hidden throughout his life, and it’s tied together with all of his familial patterns and gendered expectations. It’s an apt organizing idea for the kernel that Carmichael is building toward: He is gay, and although he’s known that for a long time, he never thought he would come out.
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