Moments after another school shooting, Maxwell Frost unveils gun violence prevention bill
Plus: A preview of the highly anticipated congressional testimony from TikTok’s CEO and Rep. Lauren Underwood’s thoughts on the 13th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.
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“More mass shooting drills than fire drills”
It was supposed to be a joyful moment for Democratic Rep. Maxwell Frost of Florida, the first member of Gen Z elected to Congress. He was set to introduce his first bill — one focused on gun violence prevention, the issue that called him to run for elected office to begin with.
But moments before Frost stepped to a podium outside the US Capitol to introduce the Office of Gun Violence Prevention Act, news broke of another school shooting, this time at a Denver high school.
“I come from a generation that is almost defined by the amount of trauma and gun violence that we’ve grown up through, really being a generation of lockdowns, really being a generation of mass shootings, feeling like we’ve been through more mass shooting drills than fire drills,” Frost said as he led a moment of silence. “The issue that got me into politics and the issue that I believe, unfortunately, defines a generation because gun violence is a daily event in this country.”
Frost’s bill would establish an office in the Justice Department to coordinate federal agencies, centralize data collection and reporting, expand state and local outreach and maximize existing programs and services related to gun violence prevention.
The 26-year-old announced the bill with Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, two champions of gun violence prevention since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.
“I’m tempted to say that the baton has passed but it's more like we have a great new runner in our relay Congress today,” Blumenthal said of Frost. “As I was listening to him, I was thinking to myself of a generation that grew up hiding under desks in elementary school fearing nuclear bomb attacks. That fear has been overcome. We no longer have the nuclear bomb drills. We should no longer have active shooter drills. We're gonna make those active drills as much a matter of history as the nuclear bomb drills have become in our schools.”
Blumenthal added that an office the bill would establish isn’t unprecedented.
“There’s an analogy here: The Office of Violence Against Women, which folks said was unnecessary,” he said. “It’s done great work — different problem, but same idea. A central office can make an enormous difference.”
But the leaders were clear-eyed that even after Congress passed the first meaningful gun safety legislation in three decades last year, the bill faces an uphill battle. In fact, multiple Republican senators said it was too soon to pursue any additional action until last year’s measures were fully implemented.
But Murphy said the experience of shepherding through last year’s bill taught him that transformative policy interventions are less about him and his colleagues and more about the grassroots organizers and activists who won’t take no for an answer.
“What I learned is that this movement has more power than ever before. And what I’ve learned is that when this movement decides to do something, there’s almost nothing that can stop them today. It might not have been true five years ago or 10 years ago. But today, when we commit ourselves to getting something done, it’s very hard to stop this,” Murphy said to Supercreator. “And so what we’re going to do here is just make sure that everybody who works in this movement, everybody who cares about this issue is going to lend their support and their voice to this measure.”
Read a one-pager and full text of the bill.
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TikTok CEO to focus on the app’s popularity and small business community in highly anticipated hearing today
The Capitol will be abuzz this morning as the House Energy & Commerce Committee will receive testimony from TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew at a hearing on the social app as lawmakers consider whether it should be banned from the US due to national security concerns that the Chinese government could weaponize the data TikTok collects from American consumers.
Supercreator will be covering the hearing live and paid subscribers will receive my exclusive follow-up report featuring highlights from the event, quotes from lawmakers and TikTok creators on both sides of the debate, and where the White House stands on the issue. Upgrade your subscription if you haven’t already.
Chew is expected to mount a vigorous defense of the app, pointing to its popularity among the reported 150 million Americans who use TikTok every day.
He’ll also warn lawmakers that banning the app would be detrimental to the five million American small businesses who rely on TikTok to create and market their work.
And as far as those concerns about TikTok’s relationship with China’s government? ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is independent and doesn’t work for the Chinese Communist Party, Chew will say.
Read Chew’s full opening remarks as prepared for delivery.
Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York on Tuesday met with TikTok creators to learn about their experiences on the app and told reporters in a press conference after that many calls to ban the app were rooted in xenophobia.
“Why the hysteria and the panic and the targeting of TikTok?” Bowman asked. “As we know, Republicans, in particular, have been sounding the alarm, creating a Red Scare around China. They’ve been doing it in a variety of ways when it comes to economic competition, when it comes to semiconductor manufacturing, and when it comes to technology. In terms of TikTok’s behavior and its risk to national security, it poses about the same threat that companies like Facebook, and Instagram and YouTube and Twitter pose.”
Supercreator caught up with a couple of creators after the presser and asked if they agreed with Bowman’s characterization that lawmakers are overhyping the national security threat posed by China and downplaying those that American-owned social apps present.
While they both told Supercreator that they want their data secured, they weren’t really there to talk about the politics of the issue.
“That’s not why we’re here,” one said. “We’re here to share our stories and the positive impact this app has had on us.”
Escobar hopes to broaden the immigration debate beyond border security
As House Republican leadership works behind the scenes for the votes it needs to pass the conference’s signature border security package, Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas is focused on the suffering mixed-status families feel due to outdated and shortsighted US immigration laws.
Escobar, who represents a border district in El Paso, reintroduced the American Families United Act on Tuesday, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar of Florida, that would empower the Attorney General and the Department of Homeland Security with the discretion to allow certain undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States instead of being separated from loved ones.
“These families have been through so much. It is heartbreaking to know what they’ve gone through. I’ve heard story after story about missed holidays, missed birthdays, about not being able to be together for funerals or for illnesses, about the financial hardship that comes with being separated,” Escobar said to Supercreator in an interview. “And I just feel tremendous empathy. It doesn't have to be this way. Our bill is trying to right a wrong that was committed against these families in previous legislation. They all should have an opportunity to plead their case.”
Escobar explained that under current law, a spouse who came through a port of entry as a child and said they were an American citizen would be barred for life from ever having a pathway to citizenship even if they were married to an American citizen. (While a permanent bar would apply where there is also a false claim of citizenship, a three- or ten-year bar, still harsh in and of themselves, is more frequently applied to unauthorized entry.)
And she added that the GOP’s singular focus on border security is an intentional tactic by the anti-immigration movement to flatten the nuance out of the debate.
“They can’t have it both ways. They can’t vote against border security funding and then say, at the same time, we’re not going to even consider immigration legislation until the border is secure,” Escobar said. “This tells me how unserious the majority of them are. There are Republicans, however, who do want to see us address the challenges that we're facing at the border and open up legal pathways. It has to be both together, not one or the other.”
President Biden at 9 a.m. will receive his daily intelligence briefing before hosting an anniversary event for the Affordable Care Act at 1 p.m. Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will depart the White House (4:40 p.m.) to travel to Canada (6:25 p.m.) where they will participate in a greet with Canadian officials. The Bidens will also participate in a greet at 8:25 p.m. with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and a private gathering at 8:25 p.m.
Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the ACA anniversary event.
The House is in at 10 a.m. with first votes expected at 1:30 a.m. and last votes at 5:30 p.m.
The Senate is in at 10 a.m. and will continue consideration of a bill to repeal the authorizations for use of military force against Iraq with an amendment vote scheduled at 11:30 a.m.
As Obamacare turns 13, Underwood pushes to make premium tax credits permanent
The Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, turns 13 today. It’s quite the feat considering the ACA required then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legislative prowess to pass Congress and in the years since has endured several Republican-led attempts to repeal it.
But in recent years we’ve moved from calls to do away with Obamacare to efforts to expand the program.
Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois has been a leader on this front since she arrived in Congress in 2018. And on Wednesday, she reintroduced the Health Care Affordability Act, her signature piece of legislation to make permanent the short-term premium tax credits that were passed in the Inflation Reduction Act, which are set to expire in 2025.
“The journey of expanding health care in this country has been long and winding and it’s a day to celebrate the progress we’ve made,” Underwood said to Supercreator in a brief interview on Tuesday. “We’re coming on the heels of the most successful open enrollment effort — like, 60 million people signed up. And my bill offered American people real relief and more affordable plans. And so it’s really exciting. That’s really it: It’s really exciting.”
During a speech this afternoon, a White House official said President Biden will focus on how the ACA has provided more than 40 million Americans with coverage of services like cancer detection and mental health treatment.
“He’ll highlight MAGA House Republicans’ proposals to increase health care costs, toss people off their insurance, and push the biggest cut to Medicare in decades,” the official added.
The White House will also issue 50 fact sheets illustrating how proposals from the conservative House Freedom Caucus would adversely impact families in each state, a continuation of a week-long campaign I reported about on Tuesday.
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