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Congress’s “comic-book nerd” puts the spotlight on the pop arts
Rep. Robert Garcia is launching the Popular Arts Caucus this weekend to bring attention to an untapped space in Congress and focus on arts that are usually left out of the conversation.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE NEW POP ARTS CAUCUS
When Rep. Robert Garcia was finally sworn into Congress in January after a four-day delay due to the prolonged House speaker election, he recited the oath of office with three items of personal significance under the Constitution:
A photo of his parents, whom he lost to COVID-19
His citizenship certificate (Garcia made history as the first LGBTQ immigrant elected to Congress)
The first issue of the Superman comic book, borrowed from the Library of Congress
It’s the final memento that served among the inspirations for the self-described California comic-book nerd to create the Congressional Popular Arts Caucus, which Garcia will formally launch this weekend during a panel discussion at San Diego Comic-Con.
The untapped space: Garcia, who’s serving his first term in the House, said in an interview with Supercreator Daily that the popular arts — dance, theater, movies, science fiction, gaming, et cetera — is an untapped space in Congress.
“Here in Congress, the people aren’t talking about it enough and so it’s an opportunity to really shine a light, to have events to highlight the popular arts,” Garcia said. “Obviously, people don’t realize that in the United States, one of our biggest contributions of fiction is actually the creation of American superheroes. And it’s become global and these are billions of dollars pumped into the economy.”
Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), a member of the caucus and the first Gen Z member elected to Congress, said the group will focus on arts that are usually left out of the conversation.
“I think it’s really important. And how do we not just support that industry, but how do we support equity within it? How do we ensure creators and artists are able to thrive in this country?”
The issues: Following the launch of the Popular Arts Caucus this weekend, Garcia said he’s looking forward to working with the House and Senate to uplift creators, creative content, the future of streaming, and issues around artificial intelligence and the creative arts.
“There are worker issues within the popular arts, there are issues about piracy and the popular arts,” he said. “There’s a lot of topics that I also think are bipartisan issues that we can focus on. I think that it’s an important moment.”
The power of the arts: Garcia and Frost both spoke about the unifying power of the popular arts at a time when the chasm between the two political parties pose an existential threat to American democracy.
“The arts transcends political party, transcends language, and it connects our cultures together,” Frost said. “That’s really important in a time where we’re so divided. So if through the arts we can find that [unity], it also helps us bridge the gap between and have full consciousness of what we share in common too.”
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DEMS EXPRESS OUTRAGE AT RFK TESTIMONY
Anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. testified on Thursday before the House Judiciary subcommittee on the weaponization of government. The irony: He was invited by House Republicans to discuss online censorship and free speech while claiming to be censored because of his controversial, misinformed views.
Democrats on the committee, led by subcommittee ranking member Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), called out Republicans for offering Kennedy a platform to deny his racist and anti-semitic record.
“Free speech is not an absolute,” Plaskett said. “The Supreme Court has stated that. And others’ free speech that is allowed — hateful, abusive rhetoric — does not need to be promoted in the halls of the people’s house.”
Democrats also wasted no time connecting RFK, Jr. to the modern Republican Party — even though the candidate is purporting to challenge President Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“House Republicans continue to use their majority to prioritize power, politics, and hate,” Viet Shelton, spokesperson for the House Democrats’ campaign arm, said in a statement. “Americans are looking for responsible governance, not reckless extremism. By embracing far-right, fringe ideologies, House Republicans have again proven just how unfit they are to lead and it will cost them their majority.”
The hearing was one in a series that went off the rails this week. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) showed sexually explicit images of Hunter Biden, the president’s son, during a House Oversight Committee hearing to receive testimony from two IRS whistleblowers involved in an investigation into Hunter’s taxes.
Jeffries sounds off: “The Republican hearings that have unfolded over the last few days and throughout this entire Congress are a malignant clown show that are not designed to address issues that impact the health, the safety, and the economic well-being of the American people,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters on Thursday. “The notion that Republicans would give a congressional platform to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who peddles anti-semitic tropes and baseless xenophobic conspiracy theories, which together are directed at the Jewish community and the Chinese-American community is unbelievable.
Jeffries added that Kennedy, whom he described as a “living, breathing, false-flag operation” was platformed because right-wing political operatives want to siphon votes away from President Biden in 2024.
ICYMI: The video the Biden campaign posted this week of Greene outlining the president’s accomplishments on infrastructure and the environment, and the agenda he’d look to complete in his second term, in the vein of former Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, has more than 41 million views at press time.
HOUSE FAA BILL PASSES WITH DECISIVE BIPARTISAN VOTE
A week after House Republicans passed an unworkable version of the annual defense policy and programs bill on a party-line vote, the House approved a bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for the next five years by a 351-69 margin.
Hakeem Jeffries said the decisive vote is an illustration that there are opportunities for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground in the best interests of the American people.
“The bill does not contain the type of poison-pill items that are designed to jam the extreme right-wing ideology of many Republicans down the throats of the American people,” he said, a reference to the defense bill that lost Democratic support due to anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+, and anti-diversity provisions adopted prior to final passage.
FAA reauthorization, explained: The FAA is the largest transportation agency in the US government and regulates all aspects of civil aviation in the nation as well as over surrounding international waters. Every five years, the reauthorization bill gives members a chance to resolve problems for air travel workers and consumers. The House-passed version includes provisions to improve FAA operations, encourage aviation innovation, and enhance the passenger experience.
The critique: The bill also included a provision to raise the pilot retirement age from 65 to 67, a move opposed by pilots' associations and the Transportation Department.
House Republican leadership blocked a bipartisan push to strike the amendment, which critics said would cause more problems than it would solve.
“Aviation policy should be determined by what is best for the workers and consumers, not pandering to MAGA Republicans,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a statement after the vote.
Jayapal also railed against Republicans for denying debates and votes on progressive amendments on protections for the environment, public safety, airport service workers, and customers’ rights, and competition.
The CPC has urged the Senate to consider the policies in their version and strip the provision raising the pilot retirement age.
“Fair competition and opportunity are fundamental American values, and they should be reflected in the FAA,” Jayapal added.
What’s next: Now the bill will go to the Senate, which is considering its own bill to reauthorize the FAA. There’s one. not-so-small problem though: The Senate bill is stalled in the Commerce Committee as members try to resolve their differences before it goes to the floor for a final vote.
In June, committee chair Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) indefinitely delayed the bill markup over a dispute regarding a pilot training amendment proposed by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and John Thune (R-S.D.). The amendment would allow pilots to meet training requirements by substituting hours spent in a flight simulator for actual flight time.
The committee has yet to reschedule the markup.
“The House has spoken. We’re waiting for the Senate to speak,” Jeffries said. “And then we’ll have to figure out how we can align the two bills in a way that gives us the capacity to send legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk so we can sign FAA reauthorization back into law.”
The current FAA authorization is scheduled to expire Sept. 30.
THE CARLEE RUSSELL INVESTIGATION
The probe into the disappearance of Carlee Russell, the 25-year-old Black woman from Alabama who went missing after she reported spotting a toddler on a major highway, is still ongoing as her account of the events has been called into question after being missing a little over 48 hours.
Despite growing skepticism that an abduction actually occurred, what’s undeniable is that missing Black and brown people receive less media coverage and support from law enforcement than white Americans, a crisis your Supercreator Daily author wrote about in Sep. 2021.
Hakeem Jeffries declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but said he hoped the investigators will follow the facts apply the law, and present the truth to the American people.
He also said the issue is on Congress’s radar.
“I actually believe and have had some productive conversations with individuals on the other side of the aisle who also recognize that this is an issue this is a challenge,” he said. “This Is something that should be addressed and addressed in a bipartisan way because empathy for every single community dictates that that is the case.”
Does that mean we’ll see congressional action? “I’m optimistic that we can find a path forward to make sure that in any situation, but particularly in those cases, where there are communities throughout America who may feel as though they are not receiving equal treatment that we remedy that.”
Background: Russell, a nursing student, appeared at her parents’ house on Jul. 15 after first reporting her abduction on the 13th.
She told police she was kidnapped from the side of Interstate 459 after stopping because she saw the aforementioned toddler on the side of the road. Police now say there’s no evidence to back up this claim.
Russell said she was placed inside a tractor-trailer truck, from which she escaped before being recaptured and put into a car. She also claimed she was undressed and photographed while blindfolded.
When police spoke to her, she had a little over $100 in cash in her right sock.
Investigators report that Russell searched online on whether Amber alerts are free or “How to take money from a register without being caught,” along with travel inquiries between Birmingham and Nashville, and about the abduction movie Taken.
JEFFRIES STANDS WITH CREATORS ON STRIKE
Abbott Elementary stars Sheryl Lee Ralph and Lisa Ann Walter, who portray teachers in the Philadelphia-based comedy, joined a Hollywood strike protest in the city on Thursday.
The actors, now household names, said the appearance was a show of solidarity for the working actors struggling to make ends meet.
“This is not about your favorite stars on TV or in motion pictures,” Ralph said to the crowd. “Eighty percent of our union is made up of plain-old ordinary people trying to make a living.”
“I stand with the creative community”: The actors also received support from the top House Democrats on Thursday too.
Jeffries called the creative community, including writers and actors, an important part of America.
“And it is my hope that the two sides will be able to find common ground in a way that allows for the creative community to continue to flourish in a manner that is fair to the people who create the content — writers and actors — that the American people and folks from throughout the world enjoy.
Jeffries said several of his members also express solidarity and concern with the writers and with the actors in their struggle for a fair, forward-looking agreement.
“And I stand with those members and I stand with the creative community.”
Background: SAG-AFTRA, a union representing around 160,000 Hollywood actors, went on strike last week after failing to reach a deal with the major film and TV studios.
The actors are seeking higher pay and fairer residuals when their projects are offered on streaming services, among other demands.
While on strike, SAF-AFTRA members are prohibited from working on TV shows or movies or promoting completed projects. (This explains the abrupt halt to the exquisite marketing rollout for the Barbie movie.)
11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America have been on strike since May.
3 ADDITIONAL HEADLINES TO KNOW
1. Senate Judiciary approves SCOTUS ethics bill: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance legislation that would require the Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics.
The court has endured intense scrutiny after a series of bombshell investigations revealed instances of unethical behavior from justices appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents.
Congressional Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed to the bill. They say Chief Justice John Roberts should have the space to independently reform the court. But Democrats argue they’re within their constitutional authority to conduct oversight over the court and have given Roberts several opportunities for Roberts to act.
2. Dems push for expanded birth control access: Reps. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Fla.), and Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) introduced a bill that would provide people covered by private insurance with the option to receive a full year of contraception at the time their prescription is filled — instead of the current three-month standard.
The bill is unlikely to receive a floor vote in the House or clear the 60-vote threshold in the Senate.
3. Bipartisan group sponsors bill for PFAS-free firefighter gear: Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Tom Kean, Jr. (R-N.J.), Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), and Titus introduced legislation to support the development of next-generation firefighter gear without per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of fluorinated chemicals known as “forever chemicals.
Recent studies have shown that all three layers of firefighter turnout gear contain PFAS chemicals, which are linked to harmful health effects, including reproductive and developmental harms, weakened immune systems, and cancer — the leading cause of firefighter death.
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TODAY IN POLITICS
All times Eastern
10 a.m. President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
12:30 p.m. Vice President Harris will travel from Washington, DC to Jacksonville, Florida, arriving at 2:20 p.m.
1:30 p.m. The president will speak about artificial intelligence.
3:45 p.m. The vice president will speak about the freedom to learn and teach America’s full and true history.
4:25 a.m. Vice President Harris leave Jacksonville to return to Washington, arriving at 6:25 p.m.
4:30 p.m. First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will speak at a campaign fundraiser in Provincetown, MA.
9 p.m. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will co-host a roundtable with New Zealand Special Envoy for the Christchurch Call Rt Hon Dame Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand community leaders on countering hate and promoting tolerance.
10:20 p.m. The second gentleman will participate in a meet and greet with staff at the US Consulate Auckland.
The House and Senate are out.
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