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Florida reproductive rights advocates receive the White House treatment
Biden administration officials welcomed the leaders to discuss the recent anti-abortion bill that is expected to pass soon and become law. Plus: Why the president is asking for $22 billion for COVID.
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1. First Things First: FL reproductive rights advocates gain the WH as an ally
A group of advocates and elected leaders in Florida on Thursday joined Biden administration officials at the White House for a roundtable discussion about the recent anti-abortion bill that passed the state Senate last evening. The legislation will become law if Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signs it into law.
— Allow me to explain: House Bill 5 bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and represents one of many laws proposed or passed by Republican state legislatures to restrict a person’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. Florida’s House of Representatives passed the law last month.
Florida leaders shared their efforts opposing HB and the steps they’re taking to support women’s access to reproductive health care.
The discussion also touched on the larger trend of state laws limiting access to abortion care in across the country.
Over 265 bills restricting access to abortion have been filed during the 2022 legislative session, according to the White House.
White House officials, including Gender Policy Director Jennifer Klein, Intergovernmental Affairs Director Julie Chavez Rodriguez and Deputy Counsel Danielle Conley, reiterated the administration’s pledge to explore every option to ensure reproductive freedom.
— In the know: Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would codify a person’s right to choose and nullify many of the state bills.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the vote was the first time the Senate took action on a stand-alone bill to proactively codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that ruled seeking abortion care is a fundamental right.
He said he held the vote because every American deserved to know where their senator stood on an issue as important as the right to choose.
This week also marked six months since Texas Law Senate Bill 8 went into effect.
SB8 bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy after the Supreme Court denied a request for emergency relief from Texas abortion providers.
Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, a research program based at the University of California San Francisco, published research last November that found one in three people confirm their pregnancies past six weeks and one in five past seven weeks.
ANSIRH’s research also shows that later confirmation of pregnancy is even higher among young people, people of color, and those living with food insecurity.
These abortion bans, as Christian F. Nunes, president of the National Organization for Women, told me last month, disproportionally hurt those populations.
During his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Joe Biden repeated his commitment to protecting women’s access to health care.
Biden, a devout Catholic, was asked on Wednesday why he supports a person’s right to choose.
“Well, I tell you what, I don’t want to get in a debate with you on theology,” he told the reporter. “I’m not going to make a judgment for other people.”
— What’s next: The Supreme Court is expected to rule later this summer to limit abortion rights at the federal level, thanks to a 6-3 conservative supermajority.
2. Another day, another round of sanctions: Part II
The White House announced new sanctions on eight Russian elites and their family members who enable President Vladimir Putin. The measures will also restrict visas for 19 Russian oligarchs and almost 50 of their family members and close associates and place additional restrictions on disinformation targets.
“The goal was to maximize the impact on Putin and Russia and minimize the harm on us and our allies and friends around the world,” President Biden said on Thursday before a meeting with his cabinet at the White House. “Our interest is in maintaining the strongest unified economic impact campaign on Putin in all of history and I think we’re well on the way to doing that.
— The latest developments on the crisis in Ukraine:
Ukraine said it reached a tentative agreement with Russia to organize safe havens for civilians to evacuate and for humanitarian aid to be delivered, AP News reports. Under the agreement, ceasefires would be observed where the havens are created.
President Emmanuel Macron of France said he believed the worst is yet to come in Ukraine after a 90-minute call with Putin, Carl Quintanilla at CNBC reports. An aide to Macron said Putin’s intention is to seize “the whole” of Ukraine.
A bipartisan group is leaving today to head to the Ukrainian border, Jacqui Heinrich at Fox News reports. Three congressional members from each party are included in the delegation.
The Department of Homeland Security designated Ukrainians in the US as eligible for Temporary Protected Status for 18 months. TPS enables beneficiaries to live and work in the United States and is a designation several members of Congress called on the Biden administration to authorize since Russia’s attack began.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement also suspended deportations to Ukraine, Russia and seven other countries.
— See also:
”Welcome (back) to the nuclear age” [Matt Ford / TNR]
“To punish Putin, the world turned finance into a weapon of war” [Matthew Boesler / Bloomberg]
”How Putin tried — and failed — to protect the ruble from sanctions” [Alyssa Fowers and Kate Rabinowitz / WaPo]
3. Dems face resistance against additional COVID funding
Congressional Democrats hope to approve another round of funding to support the next phase of the Biden administration’s pandemic response. But it won’t be easy as Republican lawmakers are already voicing opposition.
— Allow me to explain: Shalanda Young, White House acting budget director, sent a letter to Congress on Thursday formally requesting $22.5 billion in supplemental COVID aid. Read the full letter.
Young wrote the request would help the administration avoid disruption to ongoing COVID response efforts over the next few months.
The resources would also help the White House secure more oral antiviral treatments, monoclonal antibodies, testing and vaccine campaigns and research and development of the next generation of vaccines.
— Counterpoint: Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Senate Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said on Thursday that he opposed the White House request. His focus is on gaining an idea of how much unspent money remains.
“We shouldn’t give money where it’s not needed, because we're borrowing it,” Shelby said to Reuters.
— In the know: The unspent money Shelby is referring to came from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed into law less than two months after he took office.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received $7.5 billion to track, administer and distribute vaccines.
Another $46 billion went to diagnosing and tracing infections.
$2 billion more was spent on the purchase and distribution of testing supplies and personal protective equipment.
Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the ARP funds have already been allocated to pay for vaccines, tests, masks and pills.
— What they’re saying:
Biden: “Of course, continuing [the recovery] costs money, so it will not surprise you I’ll be back to see you all,” President Biden said on Tuesday to members during his State of the Union. “The vast majority of Americans have used these tools and may want to again. So I hope that you’ll pass that quickly.”
Zients: “We’ve delivered the tools Americans need to protect themselves, reopened our schools, and gotten our economy moving again. The president’s plan will build on that progress. And with congressional support, we look forward to executing this plan in the year ahead.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “I would hope that [Republicans] would see the wisdom of the science of what we need to do in terms of COVID. ... A new variant is a new challenge. So let's do as much prevention or early intervention as we can.”
Schumer: “Either we act now to secure the progress we have made, or we risk backsliding if another contagious variant emerges in the fall and winter. Just as we cannot allow COVID to rule our lives, neither can we fall into a false sense of complacency.”
— What’s next: Democrats will work to include as much of the White House’s request as they can get from Republicans in the comprehensive government funding bill due by next Friday.
4. Biden signs into law bill to end forced arbitration
“Now a law,” the president said as he signed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, a bill that would void forced arbitration agreements in any contract if a sexual assault or sexual harassment claim is brought.
— Allow me to explain: Survivors will now be provided the freedom to decide what legal path works for them — from bringing a claim in court to discussing their case publicly to seeking another kind of legal remedy — while harassers and abusers will no longer enjoy the institutional protection from facing justice.
The law will impact more than 60 million Americans in employment contracts.
The estimate grows when you consider the other contracts and terms and conditions where forced arbitration clauses are typically found, such as in nursing homes, property leases, ride-share apps, movers, handyman services and more.
— In the know: Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News host who was publicly critical of Fox’s attempt to resolve her sexual harassment lawsuit against a late former company executive, spoke at the event as well.
“I can’t think of a better way to kick off Women’s History Month than by signing a bill that will make the workplace safer for millions.”
“I’m here on behalf of the millions of American workers who up until today have been voices silenced for simply having the courage to come forward to say something bad happened at work.”
“And in return, they got shunted into the secret chamber arbitration.”
5. KBJ to meet with a key GOP senator next week
Ketanji Brown Jackson will meet with a Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine next Tuesday, as the nominee to serve as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court continue a series of courtesy meetings with senators ahead of her confirmation hearings later this month.
— Allow me to explain: Collins is one of three Senate Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson to her current position on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considered to be the second-most powerful court behind the Supreme Court.
President Biden would like Jackson’s confirmation to receive Republican support. Collins’s vote would go a long way to making it a reality.
— In the know: Prior to Biden naming his nominee, Collins said she welcomed the appointment of a Black woman to the Supreme Court. But in the same interview, she called Biden announcing his intention to fulfill a campaign promise “clumsy at best.”
She said it added “to the further perception that the court is a political institution like Congress when it is not supposed to be.”
Democrats point to former Republican President Ronald Reagan who said he would nominate the first woman to the Supreme Court (Sandra Day O’Connor) and Donald Trump‘s announcement in 2020 that he would nominate a woman (Amy Coney Barrett) to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as evidence that Biden’s pledge was not the first.
Collins said the difference between Reagan and Biden is that the former said he would like to appoint a woman while the latter made a pledge as a candidate.
— See also:
”The Supreme Court allowed all the dark money supporting Ketanji Brown Jackson” [Dana Milbank / WaPo]
6. The House passes veterans care legislation
The House passed the Honoring Our PACT Act on Thursday by a vote of 256-174. to
— Allow me to explain: The legislation addresses health care, research, resources and other matters related to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service.
Speaker Pelosi called taking care of veterans a cost of war.
She appeared frustrated during her weekly press conference at the lack of Republican support it received.
“For the Republicans to go to the [House] floor and say the veterans really don’t want this help with their [health] because it's going to cost money. And they're more concerned about the budget than they are about their health.
“Oh, really? You just gave tax cuts in 2017 to the richest people in America. Tax cuts for the rich; cancer for our veterans. That's how we see this discussion and this debate.”
— In the know: President Biden during his State of the Union this week offered legislation to support our veterans as one of the big things he believed Democrats and Republicans could achieve together.
“Veterans are the best of us,” Biden said. “I’ve always believed that we have a sacred obligation to equip all those we send to war and care for them and their families when they come home.”
— What’s next: Pelosi said the House will now work to pass the bill in the Senate.
7. Jury finds officer involved in Breonna Taylor’s killing not guilty
Brett Hankinson, the only officer to face any charges in connection to the night Breonna Taylor died in Louisville, Kentucky in 2020, was found not guilty on three wanton endangerment charges for bullets that went into a neighboring unit where three people were present.
— Allow me to explain: In Kentucky, wanton endangerment is defined as a person, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, who deliberately engages in conduct that creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person, Alex Suckow for WLKY reports.
If Hankinson had been found guilty, each charge carried a max sentence of five years in prison.
No other officers were charged in connection with the events of the night or with Taylor’s killing.
— In the know: Taylor was shot six times on the night she was killed during the botched execution of a no-knock warrant. Taylor was not the target of the investigation that led to the warrant.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota on Tuesday introduced a bill that would establish strict limitations on the use of no-knock warrants in drug-related investigations.
The legislation also bans quick-knock warrants, all nighttime warrants, as well as the use of flash-bang stun grenades, other explosive devices, chemical weapons or any other military-grade firearm.
— See also: “How the police killed Breonna Taylor” [Malachy Browne, Anjali Singhvi, Natalie Reneau and Drew Jordan / NYT]
8. Today in Politics
— President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing before making an announcement later today on his Made in America commitments. Then the president will host a meeting with President Sauli Niinistö of Finland before traveling to Wilmington, Delaware for the weekend.
— Vice President Kamala Harris this afternoon will hold a meeting with Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain.
— First Lady Jill Biden will travel this morning to Boston and San Francisco to attend private memorial services. She will speak on Saturday morning at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in San Francisco before joining President Biden in Delaware.
— The House is out.
— The Senate is out.
9. Read All About It
— Jonathan Tjarks on fatherhood, cancer, and what matters most:
Being diagnosed with terminal cancer doesn’t happen like it does in the movies. The doctors don’t actually tell you how long you have to live. They can’t predict the future. What they say is: What you have will kill you at some point. We just don’t know when. It could be months. It could be years. It could be longer.
The only real hope they can offer is that someone might find a cure before it’s too late. All they can do for now is keep me alive as long as they can.
— More Friday must-reads:
”What Rashida Tlaib represents” [Rozina Ali / NYT]
“Welcome to the Supreme Court’s phantom docket” [Matt Ford / TNR]
“My autistic brother’s quest for love, part II” [Danielle Bacher / Esquire]
“The truth about Herbalife, the company behind loaded tea nutrition clubs” [Amy McCarthy / Eater]
“The corporate raider taking aim at McDonald’s over the treatment of pigs” [Kenny Torrella / Vox]
“Turn ‘I’m Thinking of Going Freelance’ Into an Actual Thing” [Allie Volpe / The Cut]
— Best of Supercreator: “The homeownership gap is larger today than it was 60 years ago”
10. The Last Word
“It’s great to be back at work”
— Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján, who returned to the Senate one month after suffering a stroke, experienced a stroke one month ago.
Below is the moment he entered a Senate Commerce Committee hearing:
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