“The story of the most important thing I’ll ever do”: Kat Calvin on her new book about photo IDs
Plus: Why Hakeem Jeffries thinks Kevin McCarthy would be wrong to keep his members off committees and how the White House plans to support the record new small businesses launched during the pandemic.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
SUPERCREATOR EXCLUSIVE: Ask any author and they’ll tell you that writing a book is an intense undertaking.
So when Kat Calvin, CEO of Project ID Action Fund, an organization that helps people get the photo-issued IDs that they need for homes, jobs, food, medical care and more, told me this weekend about American Identity Crisis, her upcoming book on IDs, the first question I had for her was, well, why?
“In my quest to solve this issue, I know what it is going to take Americans as a whole — it’s not going to be me and my little organization and all of these sorts of other orgs and social workers and whoever else around the country who are working on IDs,” Calvin told me in an exclusive interview. “For the last six or seven years, I’ve been running around shouting about this problem and other folks are but we’re sort of talking individually.”
Calvin said what she needed was a way to tell this story of a massive problem that impacts 26 million Americans, but is extremely hidden, and how it affects all of us to larger audiences to help people understand that this is one of the few American crises that is actually solvable.
“I could do all the interviews I want but writing a book allows me to tell a much more comprehensive story and allows me to get the word out.”
If Calvin’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she and I spoke last September about the IDs for Inclusive Democracy Act, a bill introduced by Democratic Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois, that she helped craft and is working to move through Congress.
The legislation would create a federal photo identification card that is free, optional for the American public, and available at locations outside of the Department of Motor Vehicles, including libraries and post offices, where you can already get a passport. It would save Americans between $50 and $90 DMV IDs and also create a task force of appropriate stakeholders that will create this federal photo identification card through the Social Security Administration.
And now that Calvin has a book, she hopes to use it to persuade members that this is a problem impacting people in their states and districts.
Calvin told me that as far as she and her team can tell, American Identity Crisis will be the first book ever written about IDs and described it as funny although the subject matter she’s writing about can feel depressing or boring.
“It’s very personal. It’s the story of the most important thing I’ll ever do in my life. And the thing that has taken up every second of the last six years,” she said. “So it’s both about the crisis and the idea itself, but also about how really just a random American girl from her bedroom could be like, ‘Oh, I see this problem, maybe I can figure out how to help solve it’ and then can build a team and actually do that.”
The book is also a symbol of what makes activism in America so transformative.
“Every single problem that has been solved has just been a random person being like, ‘Oh, maybe I can do this,’ right? It’s not the king or the queen — there’s always some preacher in Atlanta or some community activist in San Francisco or a woman who’s a journalist in New York being like we can solve this problem,” Calvin said. “And that story is both very serious, but it's also just really sort of funny and ridiculous, and frustrating and inspirational.”
Between now and this fall when the book is released, Calvin said she and her team will be targeting members of Congress to sign onto the IDs for Inclusive Democracy Act and asking people to call their representatives and senators to generate grassroots support. She’s also working with state legislators to expand access to IDs in as many ways as possible and on as many timelines as possible.
“It’s hearing from constituents that make representatives decide to take action,” she said.
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Jeffries tees up battle with McCarthy over committee assignments
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries sent his members a letter over the weekend announcing he and Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached an agreement on ratios for the committees that will handle the legislative, oversight and administrative tasks for the next two years.
But the agreement is now expected to set up a showdown between the two leaders as Jeffries is now expected to formally name Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell of California to the Intelligence Committee and Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota to the Foreign Affairs Committee, three members McCarthy has promised not to seat in the new Congress.
In a letter to McCarthy, obtained by Punchbowl News, Jeffries drew contrasts between Greene and Gosar who were removed from their committees for exhibiting violent thoughts or behavior and his members who haven’t.
“The denial of seats to duly elected Members of the House Democratic Caucus runs counter to the serious and sober mission of the Intelligence Committee,” Jeffries added. He also pointed out that Republicans gave committee assignments to Republican Rep. George Santos of New York who is under fire for all sorts of falsehoods about his career, family and background.
I asked Jeffries earlier this month if he had given any thought to how he would respond to McCarthy’s threat.
“It is my view that we should not allow extreme MAGA Republicans to determine who serves on committees in the 118th Congress on the Democratic side,” he said.
Democrats see McCarthy’s promise as retaliation after Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona were removed from their committees in 2021 in bipartisan floor votes after Gosar posted a photoshopped anime video to social media showing him appearing to kill Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden. Greene was removed after a Facebook post calling for then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be executed and a video showing her harassing gun-control activist David Hogg shortly after he survived the 2018 Parkland mass school shooting resurfaced.
“I think there’s a stark difference between threatening to kill another member of Congress and whatever politicking they’re trying to do,” Ocasio-Cortez told me.
Omar, whom Republicans want to remove over anti-Semitic comments that she’s made in the past and has since apologized for, told me that McCarthy has been making the promise to unseat her before she was sworn in for her first term and 2019.
“It’s obvious he just doesn’t believe somebody who has my opinions with my background should be on the committee.”
As for her own leader, Omar expressed gratitude for Jeffries’s advocacy.
“It’s great because he knows how impactful I’ve been on the committee.”
How the White House plans to support the record number of new small businesses launched during the pandemic
The White House last week announced that 10 million total new small businesses were created in the first two years of the Biden administration, a record period for growth.
“We are excited by the increased number of small business applications shared by the White House in a recent statement. We are especially encouraged by the record number of people from marginalized communities who became the drivers of new businesses and job creation,” John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, said in a statement to Supercreator. “As a result of the pandemic, many people were laid off and became worried about their financial situation. In the wake of the pandemic, those who were able to keep their jobs joined the ‘Great Resignation’ to pursue independence.”
But as your creative experience has probably proven, the challenge is not just starting a business but sustaining it so it secures your health, wealth and well-being.
Small Business Administration Isabel Guzman told me last week that her agency is focused on three areas of opportunity: Making sure that small businesses have the training that they need [and] access to information and resources to help sustain their small businesses; providing revenue growth opportunities are really important for businesses as they navigate their current economy; and filling gaps in the marketplace with affordable capital.
Gene Sperling, the White House Implementation Coordinator of the American Rescue Plan, added that one of the lessons the administration learned during the pandemic is that it’s not good enough to have these loans and capital available if they’re not working just as hard to make sure that people know what they are eligible for, know how they can get it and know how they can receive it without having to pay for expensive consultants.
Arensmeyer said that policymakers are in a position to boost innovation and the nation’s economy by supporting forward-thinking legislation that creates pathways toward equitable access to capital. Federal benefits such as health care, child care, [and] paid family and medical leave are also essential to growing the small business ecosystem.
“Through these efforts, our smallest businesses — especially those owned by people of color, women, rural business owners and other under-resourced communities — will be able to thrive,” he said. “ We must also strive to enact policies that would support entrepreneurship for marginalized communities, including justice-impacted individuals. We need to deploy these solutions to sustain start-up growth going forward.”
IN THE KNOW
VP ON ROE: “HOW DARE THEY?”: Vice President Kamala Harris reprised her role as the face of the White House’s resistance to the anti-abortion movement on Sunday in a speech in Florida on the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision during which she reminded the 1,500 attendees that the fight for freedom is not inevitable and will only happen with steadfast determination and dedication.
“The right of every woman in every state in this country to make decisions about her own body is on the line,” Harris said. “ And I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: How dare they?”
The vice president also discussed a memo President Biden signed that directs his cabinet and federal agencies to identify barriers to access and recommend actions to make sure that doctors can legally prescribe and dispense medication abortion and that women secure access to it.
“America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. But let us ask: can we truly be free if a woman cannot make decisions about her own body?” Harris asked. “Can we truly be free if a doctor cannot care for her patients? Can we truly be free if families cannot make intimate decisions about the course of their own lives?”
See also: President Biden’s statement on the 50th anniversary of the decision … President Biden’s proclamation on anniversary … Presidential memo on new actions to protect access to reproductive health care … Fact sheet on the presidential memo on medication abortion … Former President Barack Obama’s Twitter thread on Roe
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS RESPONDS TO FL COURSE BAN: In addition to her Roe speech, Harris spoke with Florida House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell and Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book about the decision by the state’s Education Department to block an AP course on African American history, per a White House official.
“Every student in our nation should be able to learn about the culture, contributions and experiences of all Americans — including Black Americans — who shaped our history,” Harris said. “Unfortunately, in Florida, extremist so-called leaders ban books, block history classes and prevent teachers from freely discussing who they are and who they love. Anyone who bands teaching American history has no right to shape America’s future.”
Related: On Wednesday, students, teachers, legislators, faith leaders, community leaders and groups will come together for a “Stop the Black Attack” rally on the steps of the Florida Capitol, where they will push back against statewide attacks on Black Floridians, trans youth, education, immigrants and voting rights. Driskell, State Senator Shevrin Jones and attorney Ben Crump will be among the event’s speakers. (Register to attend)
SUSPECT IN MONTEREY PARK SHOOTING DEAD: The 72-year-old suspect in a Saturday mass shooting at a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, California died from a self-inflicted gun wound on Sunday as police enclosed the white van he allegedly fled the scene in around 12 hours earlier. 10 people were killed and another 10 were wounded in the shooting.
The surviving victims have not been identified and police did not disclose details on their individual conditions but said some of those survivors were in critical condition, while others had been stabilized. A motive is still unknown but the shooting.
President Biden ordered US flags at federal public buildings and military bases to be flown at half-staff through Thursday at sunset.
FBI FINDS MORE CLASSIFIED DOCS AT BIDEN HOME: The Justice Department announced on Saturday evening that the FBI completed an hours-long search at President Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home on Friday at the request of his lawyers. During the search, agents discovered six more documents with classified markings from Biden’s time as vice president and senator.
The president or First Lady Dr. Jill Biden was not present during the search, White House Special Counsel Richard Sauber said in a statement.
The disclosure marks the fifth time that unsecured documents with classified markings have been found at the president’s home or his think tank at the University of Pennsylvania, dating back to November 2, 2022. And although separate special counsels have been appointed to investigate both Biden and former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents, Biden’s camp says it’s unfair to compare the two because the current president is fully cooperating with law enforcement while Trump’s team didn’t.
“We found a handful of documents that were filed in the wrong place. We immediately turned them over to the Archives and the Justice Department. We’re fully cooperating and looking forward to getting this resolved quickly,” President Biden told reporters last week when asked if he regretted not revealing the existence of the documents before the November midterms. “I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there. I have no regrets. I’m following what the lawyers have told me they want me to do. It’s exactly what we’re doing. There is no there there.”
See also: “Biden, Trump and two very different classified document scandals, explained” (Chris Michael, Andrew Witherspoon and Richard Luscombe / The Guardian)
KLAIN OUT, ZIENTS IN: In other White House news, Ron Klain, the longest-serving chief of staff to a Democratic president in 50 years, is expected to step down after the State of the Union next month. Klain, who was responsible for shepherding the president’s agenda through slim House and Senate majorities during a once-in-a-generation pandemic and in the aftermath of an insurrection incited by the former president, will reportedly be replaced by Jeff Zients, Biden’s first coronavirus response coordinator.
Zients is well-respected inside the administration but outsiders had hoped President Biden would replace Klain with a woman or person of color.
Former Press Secretary Jen Psaki wrote in a lengthy Twitter thread that Klain was the right person for the job because the first two years of the Biden administration were about “not wasting a moment of [the] majority [and] laying the groundwork on [President Biden’s] priorities,” including diversifying the federal courts.
“It’s also the most grueling job there is — and [Klain] more than did his time — tough, loyal, smarter than almost anyone I have worked with and relentless in moving things forward,” Psaki added.
She also noted that every phase of a presidency requires different skills from the chief of staff and the next two years are about flawlessly implementing the huge bills Biden signed into law his first two years and keeping a tired team focused, which Psaki expects Zients to thrive at.
As for the critique that Zients isn’t the same type of political animal Klain was, Psaki says he doesn’t need to be because Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon and Senior Advisor Anita Dunn have that role covered. … Read Psaki’s full thread
TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this morning will return to the White House from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Biden’s week ahead:
Tuesday: The president will host congressional Democratic leaders at the White House before hosting a reception for new members of Congress.
Thursday: Biden will travel to Virginia to speak about the economy and host a Lunar New Year reception at the White House.
Friday: The president will travel to Camp David for the weekend.
Vice President Harris this afternoon will give new Republican Sen. Pete Ricketts the oath of office on the Senate floor followed by a ceremonial swearing-in in the Old Senate Chamber.
The House is out.
The Senate is in and will vote on confirmation of Brendan Owens to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Nicole Narea on America’s unique, enduring gun problem … Ellen Francis and Dino Grandoni on polar bears, which could have more dangerous run-ins with people as ice melts … Teddy Amenabar on “Lucky Girl Syndrome,” the latest TikTok-inspired positive-thinking boon … Jason Del Rey on the battle for the future of Amazon … Jared Schroeder on the lunacy of banning TikTok from university networks … Derek Thompson on what the tech and media layoffs are really telling us about the economy
LAST NOT LEAST
As thrilling as Season 2 of HBO’s meme wonderland The White Lotus was, I wouldn’t mind a few episodes of Saturday Night Live’s Black version of the hit show for no other reason than to watch Ego Nwodim clap back at entitled guests. See the full SNL sketch below: