Schumer sticks to his plan
The top Senate Democrat will move forward with a vote this week on a doomed voting rights bill. Plus: Vice President Harris’s message for Sinema and Manchin.
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The House and Senate were scheduled to be out this week. But both chambers will return today to pick up voting rights where they left the issue last week.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is expected later to lay the groundwork for a vote on John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and Freedom To Vote Act to take place this Wednesday.
All 50 Democrats will vote for the legislation. All 50 Republicans will vote against it. (Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted to advance the John Lewis bill last time but this time it is combined with the Freedom To Vote Act, which she’s previously voted against.)
If you’re feeling déjà vu, it’s because you’ve seen this movie before.
But the plot twist is this time Schumer will move to change the Senate rules that require a 60-vote threshold for most bills to pass to a simple majority for voting rights, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking votes, as she did 15 times during her first year in office. (This was the most tie-breakers in US history, surpassing John Adams, the nation’s first vice president, who cast 12 votes in 1790.)
Schumer’s efforts will be thwarted by both Republicans and two members of his own party. Nothing’s changed over the long weekend: Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are opposed to any rule change that excludes Republican input or could potentially be used against Democrats when Republicans retake the majority.
Sinema and Manchin aren’t voting with their conscience. This is politics. If it were in their electoral interests to break a Republican filibuster, they would do so. They just did last month so the American economy wouldn’t implode. That’s a losing issue for them. Voting rights? Not so much.
What people forget is that Manchin is a Democrat in West Virginia. He’s already too liberal for many of the state’s constituents. And Arizona has a political reputation for moving to the beat of their own drums. Sinema believes she’s following suit. This is an explanation of their positions, not an endorsement.
Most Republicans believe Democrats are hysterical on this issue.
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, for example, claimed on Sunday that America elected Barack Obama as proof that states wouldn’t work to marginalize Black, brown, queer, poor voters and voters with disabilities.
What Senate Republicans exclude from the narrative though is that much of the last decade in politics — from the rise of the Tea Party to the election of Donald Trump — is a direct response to Obama’s election.
Anyway, A group of bipartisan senators is working on a bill that would reform election laws to make it harder for Donald Trump or the next smarter version to use Congress to overturn an election result.
The White House, progressive lawmakers and voting rights activists say this is a no-go because it doesn’t address the voter suppression that the two bills the Senate will vote on Wednesday do.
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Vice President Harris is the official point person on voting rights for the Biden administration.
It’s worth noting though that she wasn’t at the Senate lunch Biden attended last week on the Capitol to sell the bill.
“The vice president has been selling the bill across the country, engaging and meeting with activists,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last Friday during her daily press briefing. “She was also working the phones over the last couple of days and has played a pivotal role and will continue to moving forward.”
Harris said she would continue making calls and meeting with people when was asked on Monday about voting rights while she and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff participated in a service event for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
“We're not going to give up. You've heard me say that before, and I mean it,” she said. “Resistance to doing that will not deter us from our commitment to getting it done.”
She was also asked what her message to Manchin and Sinema is.
“As I've said before, there are a hundred members of the United States Senate,” Harris said. “And I'm not going to absolve — nor should any of us — absolve any member of the United States Senate from taking on a responsibility to follow through on the oath that they all took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The question is whether voters will agree when it comes time to decide who’s ultimately responsible for the bills not being passed.
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There’s a scene at the beginning of the Season 3 finale of This Is Us when Randall and Beth are navigating some serious marital bumps.
Beth asks Randall if he remembers when they took their three daughters to an escape room a few months earlier, an experience Randall calls a disaster.
“Yeah, but then right before all three girls went into full meltdown mode, we found the door,” Beth says. “I’m not seeing the door here, Randall.”
This is how I feel about Democrats right now.
I don’t see a door out of legislative door out of their current logjam as long as they have such slim congressional majorities.
Manchin and Sinema’s opposition to the party’s priorities gives off a vibe of internal turmoil, which keeps Democrats defending their positions instead of solely attacking Republicans for their obstruction. Every day Senate Republicans avoid accountability for their disinterest in governing is heaven on Earth for them.
The White House points to wins like the coronavirus relief package and bipartisan infrastructure bill Biden signed into law last year.
But too many people are complaining about abrupt school closures and trouble finding or paying for a COVID test right now that last year feels like a decade ago.
And now that voting rights legislation seems unlikely, some Democrats up for reelection wonder if they should attempt to resurrect Build Back Better as a narrower bill that could earn support from Manchin, who killed the bill in December — on Fox News no less.
But Manchin is uninterested in negotiating Build Back Better. His feelings are still hurt from the statement the White House released after his Fox News interview effectively calling him a liar for reneging on what administration officials thought was an agreement. The high costs of goods and uncertainty with Russia and Ukraine are also issues that make Manchin loathe to sign off on the popular provisions in Build Back Better.
Beth and Randall finally figured it out and are better than ever. It’s unlikely that life will imitate art anytime soon though.
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Today in Politics
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing this morning. Later today, he and Vice President Harris will receive an economic briefing.
Biden’s week ahead:
Wed Jan 19: The president will hold a press conference with reporters.
Thu Jan 20: Biden will meet his infrastructure implementation team.
Fri Jan 21: The president will meet virtually with Japan’s prime minister and speak at the US Conference of Mayors Annual Winter Meeting.
The House is in. Members are expected to vote on a bill that would revise how school districts operating with less local revenue than is available to other districts apply for federal funding.
The Senate is in. It will begin consideration of voting rights legislation.
The Supreme Court will hear two oral arguments this morning.
In The Know
Vice President Harris’s new communications director Jamal Simmons will meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to listen to their concerns about his old tweets on immigration and deportation. Simmons apologized for the tweets on Jan 7. [Hans Nichols / Axios]
Slightly more US adults identified as Democrats or leaning Democratic than identified as Republicans or leaned Republican in 2021. Shifting party preferences are likely tied to changes in the popularity of Donald Trump and Joe Biden during the year. [Jeffrey M. Jones / Gallup]
Seven US Senators traveled to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top officials and show solidarity with the Eastern European country as it faces ongoing tension with Russia. “Our bipartisan congressional delegation sends a clear message to the global community: the United States stands in unwavering support of our Ukrainian partners to defend their sovereignty and in the face of persistent Russian aggression,” Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, one of the lawmakers leading the congressional delegation, said in a statement. [Salvador Rizzo / WaPo]
Luxury car sales are up as automakers shift chip and raw materials to more profitable makes and models. Brands such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Porsche and BMW have reported record sales. [William Boston / Bloomberg]
Read All About It
Apoorva Mandavilli on the CDC:
Now the contagious Omicron variant is pushing the C.D.C. into uncharted territory. Because decisions must be made at a breakneck pace, the agency has issued recommendations based on what once would have been considered insufficient evidence, amid growing public concern about how these guidelines affect the economy and education.
The agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, has sometimes skipped much of the traditional scientific review process, most recently in shortening the isolation period for infected Americans.
After the Trump administration’s pattern of interference, President Biden came to office promising to restore the C.D.C.’s reputation for independence and rigorous science. The challenge now for Dr. Walensky is figuring out how to convey this message to the public: The science is incomplete, and this is our best advice for now.
Jonathan Chait on how school closures were a catastrophic failure:
That unnerving implication has a mounting pile of evidence to support it. It is now indisputable, and almost undisputed, that the year and a quarter of virtual school imposed devastating consequences on the students who endured it. Studies have found that virtual school left students nearly half a year behind pace, on average, with the learning loss falling disproportionately on low-income, Latino, and Black students. Perhaps a million students functionally dropped out of school altogether. The social isolation imposed on kids caused a mental health “state of emergency,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The damage to a generation of children’s social development and educational attainment, and particularly to the social mobility prospects of its most marginalized members, will be irrecoverable.
Francis Wilkinson on how adults can reduce gun violence among kids:
Safe storage runs counter to a gun culture that not only glorifies guns, but often trivializes them, transforming lethal machines into toys. Have an emotionally disturbed teen? Take him to the range and get him comfortable shooting at targets. Want to show your 9-year-old a fun time? Let her shoot an Uzi.
For those who fetishize guns, the call for safe storage is less a call to conscience than an attack on their identity. The National Rifle Association website advises gun owners to “store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons”; at the same time the NRA opposes safe-storage laws.
Ed Zitron on how to mentor young workers in a remote world:
Remote work has its challenges and downsides, absolutely, but I am sick of hearing people suggest that human contact is this magical, transformative panacea in the workplace. Human connections are not made simply by being in the same physical space as someone else, nor are they guaranteed because you happen to get paid by the same company. Mentorship and training are not things that happen passively; they are actions to be done deliberately, thoughtfully, and consistently, with the intention of fostering and retaining talent.
This has been my core frustration in my writing about management—that so many people disregard it as something that just happens “naturally,” without formalizing and supporting it as a relationship that occurs separate from actual work duties. As a boss, you can’t merely tell someone what to do; you have to put in the work to make sure that they’re thriving.
Emily VanDerWerff on Abbott Elementary:
Creator and star Quinta Brunson’s choices in the pilot underline what’s different here. Other mockumentaries have been built around singular, strong personalities, like Michael Scott or Leslie Knope. Abbott Elementary, however, is built around a kind of everywoman. Second-grade teacher Janine Teagues (Brunson) just wants to do good work and give her kids the education they need, despite how underfunded the school is. She’s navigating an American bureaucracy that increasingly doesn’t care, and a principal (the scene-stealing Janelle James) who has invited a news crew to the school to document everything that’s happening in a weird attempt to feed her own desire for fame.
Wilson Wong on Vine:
Before there was TikTok, there was Vine.
A novelty at the time of its release, the platform made it possible for people to create, watch and share six-second clips that were played on loop. It became such a hit that it was quickly acquired by Twitter in October 2012 for $30 million.
For a short time, Vine appeared to be unrivaled and ubiquitous. In its prime, the app inspired users to get more creative and make their videos more complex, pushing the envelope of what could capture our attention best within as little time and space as possible.
For all its shortcomings, however, the app will be forever memorialized as a medium that fostered a hilarious, albeit fleeting, community — providing a perfect, innocuous interruption and respite from the routine of our daily lives (not too dissimilar from what TikTok provides today).
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