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Democrats ask Georgia voters to do it again
Ahead of a critical runoff election next Tuesday, national party leaders and advocacy groups head to the Peach State to rally young folks and people of color for Raphael Warnock.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Welcome back to Supercreator, your twice-weekly guide to the politicians, power brokers and policies shaping how online creators work and live in the new economy.
ICYMI: I went to the White House on Monday to preview the holiday décor, which is the embodiment of a winter wonderland. Read my dispatch from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and then reply with the Christmas song that puts you in the holiday spirit every time you hear it.
In today’s issue: All the details from the French state visit President Biden hosted on Thursday, why Planned Parenthood’s president is campaigning for Sen. Raphael Warnock this weekend even though Democrats won the majority in the midterms a few weeks ago, and the Biden-approved changes coming to the Democratic National Committee’s nominating calendar for the 2024 presidential election.
But first, a few quick notes on a few important topics:
— The economy added 263,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7 percent. This jobs report bookends a week of encouraging economic news for the White House, including the revised data that shows the economy grew more last quarter than first reported, the average price of gas falling below the levels they were at prior to President Vladimir Putin of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and word from Fed Chair Jerome Powell that the central bank may start to moderate the aggressive interest rate hikes we’ve seen in the past few months as certain indicators and industry reports suggest that supply chain issues appear to be easing.
— The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to lift the hold from a lower court on President Biden’s student loan debt relief plan but agreed to hear arguments on the case in February. The White House said it welcomes the court’s decision and has maintained confidence that the president is within his executive authority to cancel student debt as Republican-led states have challenged the program.
“The program is legal, supported by careful analysis from administration lawyers,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “President Biden will keep fighting against efforts to rob middle class families of the relief they need and deserve.”
The White House recently extended the pause on student loan payments until the Supreme Court resolves the case. And the Education Department last month started notifying eligible borrowers that have been approved under the program that it will cancel their debt if and when the administration prevails in court.
— The Senate passed legislation by an 80-15-1 margin that ratified a tentative agreement reached in September between rail workers and their bosses to avoid a strike and the economic downturn that would have likely followed. (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said over 750,000 jobs would be lost and $2 billion in economic activity would be erased each day if the industry shut down.) But the Senate failed to pass an additional measure that would have expanded paid sick leave for the workers from one day to seven, a key sticking point that caused four of the 12 unions to pull away from the September deal.
The paid sick leave gap in a deal brokered by Biden has blemished his pro-union bonafides, which he took issue with on Thursday. “You know, I’ve been trying to get paid leave not just for rail workers, for everybody. But that other team — they’re called they Republicans — they voted against it,” Biden said to reporters. “They said we couldn’t do it. We’re one of the few nations in the world that don’t have paid leave for our workers.”
Later, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the country needs to have a broader conversation about the labor models and business practices of transportation companies. “And I think that the conversation is going to continue and will reach a new phase as soon as the ink is dry on this bill.” President Biden is expected to sign it into law as soon as Congress sends it to his desk.
First Things First: Georgia runoff preview
Georgia will be back in the spotlight on Tuesday as voters will return to the polls in a runoff election to decide if Sen. Warnock will serve a full six-year term in Congress or whether former football star Herschel Walker will represent the state in the upper chamber.
I checked in with a Georgia-based creator on Thursday evening who told me they were cautiously optimistic Warnock would pull out a close victory, despite concerns about insufficient voting machines in high-traffic areas that led to hourslong lines at some polling stations.
Keisha Lance Bottoms, White House director of public engagement and former mayor of Atlanta, told reporters that she’s encouraged by early voting numbers: “I think it’s going to be a great night in Georgia on Tuesday.”
But national Democrats and advocacy groups aren’t leaving anything to chance even though Senate Democrats already hold the majority for the next two years.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Alexis McGill Johnson will be in Stonecrest and Sandy Springs for separate events to mobilize and rally voters alongside civil rights leaders and reproductive rights advocates who see an enormous difference between a 51-seat majority and a split Senate that requires Vice President Kamala Harris to break ties on any major bill Republicans oppose.
“We know that expanding the pro-reproductive freedom majority means that we can continue to make progress on protecting access to care and supporting sexual and reproductive health,” Johnson said in a statement to Supercreator. “For example, for Georgians and residents of other states where abortion is banned as a result of the Dobbs decision, confirming federal judges is critical as these laws continue to be litigate and wind their way through the courts.”
And now that Republicans hold a slim majority in the House, Johnson added: “The Senate will continue to hold the line on preventing a national abortion ban and hold the conscience of constituents by ensuring that the will of the people is reflected in legislation.”
Former President Barack Obama reprised his role at the Democrats’ preferred closer on Thursday night where he layered savage takedowns of Walker under a veneer of humor that distracted from how effective he is as an attack dog, a role he was hesitant to perform as the chief executive for fear that it would open him up to racist broadsides from the right and nullify the unity message he campaigned on in 2008.
“It feels like we just did this, and that’s because we did. “You get a ‘buy one, get one free’ deal on elections,” Obama said in his closing argument. I am here today for the same reason that I was here the last time: To ask you to vote one more time for my friend and your outstanding Senator Raphael Warnock.”
Notably absent from the campaign trail is one President Biden, who will be in Boston today to participate in a phone bank for a labor union for electrical workers and a reception for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. (FWIW, he’ll also greet Prince Harry and Kate Middleton at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum; the royals are visiting for the second annual Earthshot Prize ceremony, which is awarded to five winners each year for their contributions to environmentalism.)
The White House company line — one that Bottoms repeated on Thursday — is that the president will help Sen. Warnock in whatever way his campaign feels will lead to victory and that his decision to keep his distance from the most contested races this election cycle has been proven as savvy.
“One of the things I would argue that we saw over the last several months is that it didn’t matter where the President went, his message very much resonated — his message on his economic policy, how he was delivering for the American people,” spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday. “And we made that contrast very clearly with Congress and what Republicans in Congress were trying to do. And that worked.”
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Vive la France: Inside the Biden administration’s first state dinner
The first state visit of the Biden administration was as grand of an affair as you would think, culminating in a state dinner hosted by the president and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden for President Emmanuel and First Lady Brigette Macron of France that featured a who’s who of VIPs, including singer John Legend, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and multihyphenate Ariana DeBose, who joined the Bidens at the head table.
“Today, we’re still united by the greatest causes: democracy, liberty, equality, opportunity and freedom. We stand together against oppression and injustice,” President Biden said during his toast. “We stick up for one another in our democratic values to which [George] Washington and [Marquis de] Lafayette dedicated their lives. And we strive to build a world that’s worthy of our highest hopes and of our future, knowing that we can always, always count on one another as allies and friends.”
President Macron was equally affable in his tribute to the Bidens: “We stand together, shoulder to shoulder, precisely to be entitled to say, at the same time, “We the people” and “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” he said. “This is why this evening we are not just honored and moved, but we feel the importance of this moment. It means a lot for all of us, because this is our history, this is our shared life, because a lot of you have beloved on the other side of the oceans or share your life between our countries.”
According to the first lady’s office, the design of the dinner was inspired by the shared colors of the United States and France — red, white, and blue — and the two country’s common values: liberty and democracy, equality and fellowship, which form the bedrock upon which our enduring friendship was built. The first lady worked with White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford and White House Executive Pastry Chef Susie Morrison and their teams to create a sprawling menu featuring lobster, raviolo, American artisanal cheeses, orange chiffon cake and much more.
Throughout the decor, guests found deep, rich colors and tones of red, white and blue to honor the longstanding relationship between the US and France, one of America’s oldest allies. Fête, an event planning and design production firm led by founder Jung Lee, supported the production of the dinner.
Guests enjoyed musical selections by Grammy-award-winning artist Jon Batiste, who was accompanied by his father, Michael Baptiste, and “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, and the Army and Air Force Strolling Strings.
“It’s going to be fire,” Batiste told reporters ahead of his performance.
Prior to the dinner, the president and first lady welcomed the Macrons in an official ceremony that had hundreds of onlookers shivering in the cold outside the White House gate to catch a glimpse of the guests’ arrival.
The two presidents also held a meeting to discuss the war in Ukraine, threats to democracy, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and how to resolve the concerns the French have with some of the climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Macron on Wednesday joined Vice President Harris at NASA headquarters to highlight the 60-plus-year US-France partnership in outer space.
“I believe space remains a place of undiscovered and unrealized opportunities,” Harris said. “And for that reason, there's so much potential in terms of the work that nations can do there. And in particular, when we work together, based on shared principles, and values, to seize these opportunities.”
The first ladies had their own agenda as well.
Dr. Biden hosted First Lady Macron at Planet Word, an interactive museum in Washington, DC dedicated to how words and language connect us to each other and the world around us. During their visit, they were joined by local public school students enrolled in a French immersion educational program. They also toured the museum and participated in a bilingual poetry reading.
“France is our oldest ally and of course, so, I mean, we’'re just so excited that Brigitte and Emmanuel are here,” Dr. Biden said when she was asked what it meant to host the state visit. “And of course we've been with them before, but to have them in the United States is really very special.”
And if you’re curious, Dr. Biden wore Oscar de la Renta to the state dinner while First Lady Macron gave Louis Vuitton a spin.
Biden proposes colossal shift to the nominating calendar
While the state dinner was getting underway, news broke in The Washington Post that President Biden had asked the DNC to make South Carolina the nation’s first primary state instead of New Hampshire, which would be joined by Nevada as the second set of states to nominate presidential candidates. Georgia would come next, followed by Michigan. And Iowa, a state that launched Barack Obama from relative obscurity to the presidency but picks nominees through a clunky caucus process, would be booted from the nominating process altogether.
The proposal reflects the shifting geographic and demographic compositions of the two major parties and attempts to empower Black, brown and working-class voters to have their voices heard earlier in the nominating process.
“You should not be the Democratic nominee and win general election unless you show working-class Americans that you will fight for them and their families,” Biden said in a letter to the DNC outlining the principles he believes should guide the process of consideration. “For decades, Black voters in particular have been the backbone of the Democratic Party but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process. We rely on these voters in elections but have not recognized their importance in our nominating calendar. It is time to start taking these voters for granted and time to give them a louder and earlier voice in the process.”
But critics of the proposed nominating calendar say that it would squeeze out emerging candidates who rely on small donations and grassroots energy to build momentum in the early days of the campaign. Instead, some argue, candidates who already have name recognition and access to big money would have an unfair advantage.
The proposal could also be perceived as self-serving to the president’s reelection campaign if he in fact decides to run again: He performed terribly in the early states in 2020 before riding to the nomination due to an endorsement from Jim Clyburn, the Democratic kingmaker from South Carolina, and his supporters who ultimately supported Biden in droves.
“I got into politics because of civil rights and the possibility to change our imperfect union to something better. I have made no secret of my conviction that diversity is a critical element for the Democratic Party to win elections AND to govern effectively,” Biden wrote. “Just like my administration, the Democratic Party has worked hard to reflect the diversity of America — but our nominating process does not. For fifty years, the first month of our presidential nominating process has been a treasured part of our democratic process, but it is time to update the process for the 21st century.”
The DNC is expected to approve the proposed nominating calendar during its rules and bylaws meeting this weekend in Washington, DC.
In the Know
— We’re exactly two weeks from a government shutdown, so senior lawmakers are hard at work to hash out an agreement on a comprehensive “omnibus” package to fund federal operations and agencies through next September. Republicans want to raise defense spending billions of dollars above what the Biden administration has requested without increasing non-defense spending for domestic programs, a nonstarter for Democrats.
Despite the gap, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that he was encouraged by the progress of the negotiations and Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democratic negotiator, told Nancy Vu of Politico that he and his Republican counterpart Sen. Richard Shelby would work things out. (Leahy and Shelby are both retiring next month so this omnibus will their swan song.)
What happens if the sides can’t come to an agreement though? Speaker Pelosi said that Congress would have to pass a yearlong continuing resolution that would fund the government at current spending levels, the last resort that none of the leaders on both sides really want.
— Much of the focus on the House Democratic Caucus this week was on the unanimous elections of Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark and Pete Aguilar to the top three leadership positions. And rightfully so: Jeffries becomes the first Black person to lead a congressional party and with Clark and Aguilar succeed Speaker Pelosi, Leader Steny Hoyer and Whip Jim Clyburn, who have led House Democrats for two decades.
But the caucus elected several other members to leadership positions that are worth noting: Rep. Ted Lieu of California is the new caucus vice chair and makes history as the first Asian American and Pacific Islander member to serve in House Democratic leadership. Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado is the chair of the policy and messaging arm of the caucus, a position he accepted to avoid a faceoff with Aguilar for the number-three position. And Lauren Underwood, an up-and-comer from Illinois, will serve as a co-chair, becoming the first Black woman elected to House Democratic leadership since Shirley Chisholm in 1977. Rep. Sara Jacobs of California, a prolific fundraiser and rising star within the party, was elected to the leadership position reserved for members who have served five terms or less. And fresh off their victories in California and Texas, Robert Garcia and Jasmine Crockett was elected as freshman class president and freshman representative.
“I'm so excited about the enthusiasm of so many people who wanted to participate,” Pelosi said on Thursday. “When I first became leader, it was eight [people at the leadership table], and now it's more like seventeen. More than double what was there, again, when I first became a leader. And so that reflects the beautiful diversity of our Caucus, and I couldn't be more thrilled.”
— In Tuesday’s newsletter, I wrote about the Biden administration's concerns regarding Brittney Griner’s physical and mental well-being. Senior officials are equally worried about the condition of Paul Whelan, another American wrongfully detained in Russia whom the government hopes to be released in a prisoner exchange with the Kremlin.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the US hasn’t seen Whelan since November 16 and the last time officials spoke on the phone with him was around the same time. Blinken also accused Russia of “abusing very basic understandings that countries have had when it comes to having access to our citizens who are being detained.”
Since then, the US has asked to contact Whelan but has been unable to do so. Whelan’s family is also unaware of his whereabouts as they haven’t heard from him in days, including on Thanksgiving, which his brother says is highly unusual. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby is scheduled to speak with reporters this afternoon when he’ll probably be asked again for another update. I’ll share any news in Tuesday’s issue.
— The House will vote on the Respect for Marriage Act on Tuesday and it’s expected to pass after clearing the Senate earlier this week. The House passed the bill in July after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas indicated that the court should revisit cases established in the precedents that protect the right of married people to obtain contraceptives, the right to engage in private, consensual sexual acts, and the right to same-sex marriage.
“The bill ensures that, regardless of what the MAGA majority in the Supreme Court may do in the future, the federal government will never again stand in the way of marrying the person you love,” Speaker Pelosi told reporters on Thursday. She added that she was particularly happy about the vote because once it passes, it will be one of the last bills that she will sign in her role as the presiding officer and top Democrat in the House. “I think it’s a great step forward for us.”
— In honor of World AIDS Day on Thursday, President Biden reaffirmed the US’s commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The White House also released a new five-year strategy for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to reinvigorate the U.S. global HIV/AIDS response, focusing on enhancing collaboration and partnership, alongside data from PEPFAR showing it has saved 25 million lives ahead of its 20th anniversary.
Federal agencies, including the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Justice, used the occasion to respectively highlight their programming to the special needs of Americans living with HIV and efforts to protect the civil rights of people living with HIV and AIDS. And lawmakers and Vice President Harris renewed calls for Congress to make PrEP, a disease-protective drug therapy and one of the most effective tools in preventing HIV and AIDS transmission, free for all Americans.
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