The House hits the ground running
Democrats plan to take up veterans’ benefits, government funding and even maybe pandemic relief as they return to DC. Plus: The Bronx fire that has devastated the New York City neighborhood.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Good Monday morning. Shoutout to all my Alabama and Georgia readers rooting for their Crimson Tide and Bulldogs during tonight’s College Football Playoff National Championship game.
One week after their Senate colleagues, the House returns to Congress today with plenty to do. Expectations for passing major legislation during election years are usually pretty low. But with an unpredictable pandemic still dominating our lives, lawmakers have to be more nimble than usual.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an interview on Face The Nation on Sunday that while White House hasn’t made a formal request for more funding, “it is clear from the opportunity that is there” that Congress could do so. “COVID is at the center of it all,” Pelosi said. “It’s about the health of the American people, of course, but it’s also about its impact on our economy, the education of our children, the safety of everyone at work or in school.”
This week the House will vote on legislation to expand eligibility for post-9/11 educational benefits to members of the National Guard and Reserves. There will also be a vote for legislation to extend NASA’s authority to lease unused properties for ten years. The House’s support for veterans will continue after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day recess. Members will vote to automatically enroll eligible veterans in the Veterans Affairs health care system. Additionally, the House will vote to give schools more flexibility to use pre-pandemic data to calculate funding needs and address learning gaps exacerbated by COVID-19 classroom disruptions. All of these issues will likely receive little fanfare but are important to the communities that are impacted by them.
Then there’s the matter of keeping the federal government open as a short-term funding bill runs out in the middle of next month. House Democratic leaders want to pass a full-year package ahead of the Feb. deadline. And Pelosi seemed confident on Sunday Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate will reach an agreement in time. “I believe that left to their own devices on both sides of the aisle that the appropriators can get the job done.”
Members also hope they’ll be able to take up legislation on voting rights. But that depends on what happens in the Senate. It’ll be interesting to see the political outlook after President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris speak on the issue tomorrow in Atlanta.
I’ll also be watching how House members engage each other. Since midway through former President Barack Obama‘s first term, civility between the two parties has eroded. Donald Trump’s election accelerated the decline. And it stands to get worse as we approach Election Day this Nov. because the current media incentives reward the outrageousness that has become synonymous with the modern Republican Party. The partisan rancor definitely makes it harder to govern. And all of this dysfunction costs all of us.
Terrible news from The Bronx
A space heater sparked the deadliest fire in New York City in 25 years, Azi Paybarah at The New York Times reports. At least 19 people, including nine kids, were killed. Another 32 New Yorkers were injured.
New York Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said firefighters arrived within three minutes and encountered smoke that extended the entire height of the 19-story building. “The smoke conditions in this building were unprecendent,” Nigro said. Victims were found on every floor and being rescued in cardiac and respiratory arrest.
“The numbers are horrific,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference on Sunday afternoon. “This is going to be one of the worst fires that we have witnessed during modern times.”
“To all those impacted by the devastating fire in the Bronx today: We will not abandon you,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement posted to her official Twitter account. “We will not forget you. We are here for you.” New York State will launch a Victims Compensation Fund as part of Hochul’s budget later this month to support the victims of the tragedy. See the tweet.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment from Supercreator on if President Biden had been briefed on the fire.
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Today in Politics
President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are scheduled this morning to return to the White House from Camp David. He will then receive his daily intelligence briefing.
Biden’s week ahead:
Tuesday: President Biden and Vice President Harris will speak on voting rights from Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College. Biden and Harris will then lay a wreath at the crypt of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King at the MLK Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The two will also visit Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Thursday: The president will speak on his administration’s COVID-19 surge response.
The House is in. Members will meet this evening to validate the second session of this Congress. They have been asked to wear N95 or KN95 masks on the House floor, regardless of vaccination status, and exit immediately after voting based on guidance from the Office of the Attending Physician.
The Senate is in and will resume consideration of the nominee for an Assistant Secretary of Commerce after remarks from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. A vote is scheduled this evening to advance the nomination.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Gallardo v. Marstiller, a case on Medicare recovery costs.
In The Know
— Get well, AOC: Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tested positive for COVID-19. “She is experiencing symptoms and recovering at home,” a statement from her office said. Ocasio-Cortez received her booster in the fall. The progressive lawmaker is the 10th House member to test positive since Dec. 2021.
— That didn’t take long: Moments after Republican Sen. Ron Johnson announced his reelection campaign, the Democratic Senate Committee responsible for expanding the party’s majority released an ad that attacked Johnson’s record. “Johnson is doing nothing in the Senate except looking out for himself, helping his rich political donors and hurting Wisconsities in the process,” committee spokeswoman Amanda Sherman Baity said. Watch the ad.
— This is unsurprising: Democrats are adopting a hybrid model that blends positions that have traditionally been labeled “moderate” or “progressive” in an attempt to attract the various ideologies that make up the party’s voters and avoid confrontation with their colleagues. Alexi McCammond at Axios reports that Democratic consultants have encouraged candidates to avoid “nationalizing their races” and “focus on everyday people.”
— An unwelcome milestone: Los Angeles county set another daily record on Sunday with more than 45,000 coronavirus cases, Priscella Vega at The Los Angeles Times reports. Nearly two million people have tested positive for the virus in the nation’s most populous county since the start of the pandemic.
— Related: California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday activated the state’s National Guard to add COVID-19 testing sites and expand capacity. The governor said in a statement that more than 200 guard members are being deployed to 50 sites to help with clinical staffing and crowd control. Read the news release.
— NYC’s mayor sticks up for his bro: Eric Adams defended choosing his brother as deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department.
“Let me be clear on this: My brother is qualified for the position. Number one, he will be in charge of my security, which is extremely important to me at a time when we see an increase in white supremacy and hate crimes,” Adams said on Sunday during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I have to take my security in a very serious way.”
In Saturday’s newsletter, I reported that Bernard Adams, a 56-year-old retired New York Police Department sergeant, will oversee governmental affairs but the full scope of his responsibilities was not immediately clear. It’s expected for the Adams brothers to escape noncompliance based on a technicality: Deputy police commissioners are appointed by the NYPD commissioner, not the mayor. (But the mayor appoints the NYPD commissioner.)
— RIP: Bob Saget, the actor and comedian best known for his role as Danny Tanner on the ‘90s TV show Full House and host of America’s Funniest Videos died on Sunday in Florida at 65. Saget later reprised his role on the Netflix reboot Fuller House. “I am broken. I am gutted. I am in complete and utter shock,” John Stamos, who played Uncle Jesse Katsopolis on Full House, tweeted. “I will never ever have another friend like him. I love you so much Bobby.” See the tweet. ... Check out Alyssa Mora’s tribute to Saget’s life and career in photos at Variety.
Read All About It
Julie Beck on how hobbies infiltrated American life:
Social media rewards anything we share with likes and views. This is extrinsic motivation, as opposed to intrinsic motivation, which is doing something because of the satisfaction it brings you in and of itself. As my colleague Arthur Brooks has written, “extrinsic rewards can actually extinguish intrinsic rewards, leading us to enjoy our activities less.” Theoretically, hobbies should be among the most intrinsically motivated things we could do—they are the work we choose to do when we could be doing anything. But the validation we get from others online, and the validation we get from our culture writ large for spending our free time in a productive, virtuous way, muddies that motivation.
Katherine J. Wu on how COVID isolation is a lot like muffin baking:
I apologize if I’m ruining muffins for you. But like infections, all muffins are unique. The ideal time to bake them may vary by ingredients, by oven, even by the color of the pan the batter’s baked in—a whole slew of factors that actually track decently well with how infection also works. With SARS-CoV-2, people who are very sick or immunocompromised might carry and transmit it for longer; people who are young, healthy, vaccinated, and didn’t snarf up too much of the virus might be only briefly contagious. Any decent muffin recipe will account for that degree of variation. Most will give a range of cooking times: 20 to 30 minutes, say, in a 350-degree oven. They’ll also ask you to look for visual cues, and test the batch when it seems to nearly be done.
Our public-health guidelines would benefit from such flexibility. You can think of the virus, crudely, as the rawness of the batter; a proper tenure in a hot oven should burn the contagion out. External appearance, or symptoms, can be a clue. Intense illnesses are like visibly runny, shiny, snotlike (again, sorry) batter—a sign that something’s undercooked. (Fast-resolving symptoms? Golden-brown muffin tops that feel lightly springy to the touch? That’s more encouraging.) Vaccines can play a big role here too, because they’re known to curb contagiousness. Like a hotter oven or a darker-colored pan, they can speed the cooking process along.
E.J. Dionne Jr. on why Attorney General Merrick Garland’s caution is an asset when it comes to holding Trump accountable:
But if Trump is to be indicted, we are better off with an attorney general who is widely seen as cautious, not reckless. Garland is committed to the idea that “there cannot be different rules depending on one’s political party or affiliation … different rules for friends and foes … different rules for the powerful and the powerless.” When you think about it, that’s the antithesis of Trumpism.
Claretta Bellamy on how Jada Pinkett Smith is uplifting Black women with alopecia:
The actress Jada Pinkett Smith revealed her alopecia diagnosis in 2018, and since then, she’s been embracing the challenges of the condition and publicly displaying evidence of hair loss with confidence and candor.
Like Pinkett Smith, many women of color experience alopecia. According to a 2016 survey of 5,594 Black women, 47.6 percent of respondents said they experienced hair loss. A majority of respondents who experience hair loss do not seek help from medical professionals and often go undiagnosed, according to the report.
Pinkett Smith is among the notable women of color who have broken their silence about hair loss, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., who revealed she had alopecia in 2020. Hearing celebrities share their stories inspires those like 43-year-old Mabel Peralta, who was diagnosed in 2014 with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes unpredictable patchy baldness on different areas of the body.
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