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What’s next now that voting rights have stalled
From reforming how Congress counts votes to returning to the drawing board on Build Back Better, the White House and Democratic leaders are searching for a legislative win wherever they can get it.
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In the weeks or months ahead, expect Congress to introduce a proposal to clarify how Congress counts electoral votes and strengthen protections for poll workers.
The bipartisan group of senators negotiating the deal say it would prevent another president from attempting to prevent the certification of an election as Donald Trump attempted last year and keep election officials safe amid increased threats of violence from misguided voters.
The White House is adamant that it views whatever bill surfaces from the negotiations as an insufficient replacement for the voting rights legislation that failed late Wednesday night. But Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday President Joe Biden is open to engaging with Republicans and other lawmakers who are interested in moving the electoral reform proposal forward.
It’s a sign of an administration that will take a win to take on the campaign trail wherever it can get it.
But electoral reforms are unlikely to satisfy Democrats, including those who claim these bipartisan efforts do little to solve the problem the rash of statewide anti-voters has created.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer recently branded the proposal the “[Mitch] McConnell plan” for the top Senate Republican, who led the resistance against voting rights but has also expressed a willingness to support an update to the Electoral Count Act. “If you’re going to rig the game and say, ‘Oh, we’ll count the rigged game accurately,’ what good is that?” Schumer asked. “It’s unacceptably insufficient and even offensive.”
Over across the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy also expressed a willingness to entertain the reforms, which could matter if an actual bill comes to the floor and leaders have to whip their members in favor of the legislation.
We’re not there yet. But it’s something worth watching if for no other reason but to see if it squeezes the broader voting rights push into the background or causes it to remain in the spotlight.
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Once Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced his opposition to the Build Back Better Act — the bill the House passed late last year comprised of much of President Biden’s economic agenda on jobs and climate — Democratic leaders and the White House turned their full attention to voting rights.
But now that Manchin, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and all 50 Senate Republicans thwarted a rule change that would enable Democrats to pass voting rights with a simple majority, Biden and company have reset their sights on Build Back Better.
President Biden acknowledged that his plan would likely need to be broken into components if he’s to sign any of it into law. But as I wrote in Wednesday’s newsletter:
I get the politics of breaking up Build Back Better. But from a legislative standpoint, Democrats would have passed individual bills if they could. The reason it was originally such a big proposal is that Democrats planned to use a Senate procedure that enabled them to pass the legislation with a simple majority. Separate proposals would require 60 votes. And good luck finding 10 Senate Republicans to support them.
Speaker Pelosi said as much in her weekly news conference on Thursday too. “Chunks is an interesting word,” she said, referencing the term Biden used at his presser. “What the president calls ‘chunks’ I hope wold be a major bill going forward.” She also indicated she’s still in favor of passing one bill with as many provisions as Manchin will allow instead of separate bills that McConnell’s conference would kill the same way it did voting rights.
Semantics should be the least of the president’s concerns though. Because his negotiators won’t be picking up where negotiations left off last year. Manchin pulled his final offer in what appears to be payback for the White House’s statement after he announced killed Build Back Better the first time.
“We will just be starting from scratch,” Manchin said, according to CNN’s Manu Raju. He repeated his concerns about inflation and the pandemic, although the White House and several outside experts say Build Back Better would lessen inflation because it would lower the cost of living for working people.
My reporting gives me the feeling that Manchin is uninterested in passing Build Back Better anytime soon. And if he is, he could save his colleagues and the president a lot of unnecessary heartache by simply coming out
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I gave President Biden credit on Wednesday for being “sharp, prepared, patient and personable” during an almost two-hour press conference, in which he took questions from 24 reporters.
But that patience was in short supply at a meeting on Thursday with his science and technology council.
As reporters were leaving the auditorium, Jacqui Heinrich, a Fox News White House Correspondent, shouted to Biden: “Why are you waiting on Putin to make the first move, sir?”
It’s a legitimate question because it’s one Ukrainian officials and our allies are asking.
Instead of answering or ignoring the question though, he responded, “What a stupid question.”
POTUS to Jacqui at Fox News: “What a stupid question.”
I’m sure Jen Psaki will be asked about Biden’s response at her daily briefing this afternoon.
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Speaking of Psaki, she had on her boss’s back at Thursday’s briefing in response to Leader McCarthy’s response to Biden’s question about what Republicans stand for other than obstructing the president his agenda.
“We want to answer that question for him,” McCarthy told reporters at the House GOP weekly press conference. “We’re for kids in school. We’re for food on the shelves. We’re for America independence in energy, lowering the gas price so it doesn’t harm us. We’re for stopping runaway spending so we don't create runaway inflation like they have.”
But Psaki again framed Build Back Better as the solution to McCarthy’s critique.
“Are Republicans now against negotiating lower prescription drug prices? Are they now against lowering the cost of childcare? Are they now against lowering the cost of eldercare?” she asked. “I mean, if they allow us to claim all of those things on the Democratic side, we’ll take them. But it is a little perplexing that they would — they would allow for us to own all the ground on that.”
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Today in Politics
→ President Biden will meet virtually with Kishida Fumio, Japan’s prime minister, before receiving his daily intelligence briefing. Then he will speak about the supply chain. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will also speak at the event. After the president speaks at the US Conference of Mayors’ Annual Winter Meeting this afternoon, he’ll travel to Camp David for the weekend.
→ Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will travel to San Bernardino, California this morning and receive a briefing on wildfire prevention and mitigation with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The vice president and Vilsack will then speak on how the bipartisan infrastructure deal invests in wildfire preparedness and resilience. Emhoff will volunteer with AmeriCorps at a local food pantry in Los Angeles and participate in a listening session with legal aid providers. This evening, Harris will arrive in LA.
→ The House is out.
→ The Senate is out.
In The Know
→ The Education Department announced an additional $198 million in funding for communities colleges and other institutions with the greatest needs. The Department also issued guidance on how colleges can use these new and existing federal funds like housing and food security and use existing data to connect students to other federal benefits, such as SNAP and affordable access to internet.
→ The Department of Health and Human Services awarded 45 grantees with $103 million to reduce burnout and promote mental health and wellness among the health care workforce. “I have traveled to many health centers across the country and know that the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified issues that have long been a source of stress for frontline health care workers,” HHS Sec. Xavier Becerra said. “We will continue to promote the well-being of those who have made so many sacrifices to keep others well.”
→ The Federal Reserve released a document that examines the pros and cons of a potential US central bank for digital currency. The paper favors no policy outcome and invites comment from the public on how a CBDC could improve the domestic payments system.
→ Jury selection began in the federal civil rights trial of the three other former Minneapolis police officers who were at the scene of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020. The ex-officers also stand trial in June for state charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s killing. [Holly Bailey / WaPo]
→ Morehouse College, a private men’s HBCU in Atlanta, announced it launched the Black Men’s Research Institute. The institute will study the cultural, economic, personal and social outcomes of issues affecting Black men, particularly where disparities exist in the world. [Eric Sturgis / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
→ Peloton is pausing production of its connected fitness products. The move is a response to waning customer demand as the company looks to control costs. [Lauren Thomas / CNBC]
→ TikTok is testing support for paid subscriptions. The feature is part of a limited test for the time being and is not broadly available and it’s currently unclear how the paid subscription model will be implemented on the app. [Aisha Malik / TechCrunch]
→ Facebook’s parent company Meta launched new games on its Messenger Kids platform to teach internet etiquette to children. Translation: To teach children how to use Messenger Kids now so they’ll seamlessly graduate to Facebook’s full product suite later. [Kim Lyons / The Verge]
Read All About It
Unlike vaccine mandates, which limit the jobs unvaccinated people can hold or the spaces they can enter, withholding medical care would be a matter of life or death. And in such matters, medical care should be offered according to the urgency of a patient’s need, not the circumstances leading up to that need. People whose actions endangered themselves, like smokers with lung cancer or drivers who crash while not wearing a seatbelt, still get treated. Those whose actions endangered others, like drunk drivers or terrorists, also get treated. “We are all sinners,” Carla Keirns, a professor of medical ethics and palliative medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center, told me. “No one has made all the perfect decisions, and any of us could find ourselves in a situation where we are sick.” It is a fundamental principle of modern medicine that “everyone has an equal claim to relief from suffering, no matter what they’ve done or haven’t done,” Daniel Goldberg, a medical historian and public-health ethicist at the University of Colorado, told me.
Jonathan Chait on the filibuster:
As the filibuster debate has taken shape in recent years, partisans on both sides have developed illusions about each other. Liberals frequently proclaim that Republicans will happily end the legislative filibuster as soon as they regain control of government. I highly doubt this; the existing rules simply advantage Republicans too much for the party to risk blowing them up. Conservatives care far more about blocking Democratic bills than passing their own.
Perry Bacon Jr. on the anti-Black backlash:
This backlash to Black political power is not just coming from the right. A more prominent Black left that forcefully challenges the U.S. establishment has unsettled many White moderate Democrats, too. Their response hasn’t been bans. Instead, these moderate Democrats blast prominent Black activists who call for major changes to America’s status quo for hurting the Democrats electorally, even though many of these activists don’t purport to speak for the party or even identify as Democrats. “Woke" has become a vague epithet for anyone with left-wing views on race, with “wokeness” cast as the main cause for the Democrats’ electoral problems.
Bridget Read on the Jackson Women’s Health Organization:
The looming Supreme Court decision is a cap on a few difficult years for the Pink House. Beyond the right-wing encroachment on abortion rights, the pandemic has made access even trickier, with patients suffering financially even more than they already were, making an often overnight trip even less realistic. On top of that, with more people in need streaming in from Texas, the clinic has gotten busier, and hours are longer. And due to a statewide nursing shortage, Hamlin says Jackson Women’s can only perform around six surgical abortions a day when it used to do 12.
Amanda Gorman on why she almost didn’t read her poem at President Biden’s inauguration:
I was scared of failing my people, my poetry. But I was also terrified on a physical level. Covid was still raging, and my age group couldn’t get vaccinated yet. Just a few weeks before, domestic terrorists assaulted the U.S. Capitol, the very steps where I would recite. I didn’t know then that I’d become famous, but I did know at the inauguration I was going to become highly visible — which is a very dangerous thing to be in America, especially if you’re Black and outspoken and have no Secret Service.
It didn’t help that I was getting DMs from friends telling me not-so-jokingly to buy a bulletproof vest. My mom had us crouch in our living room so that she could practice shielding my body from bullets. A loved one warned me to “be ready to die” if I went to the Capitol building, telling me, “It’s just not worth it.” I had insomnia and nightmares, barely ate or drank for days. I finally wrote to some close friends and family, telling them that I was most likely going to pull out of the ceremony.
I got some texts praising the Lord. I got called pathologically insane. But I knew only I could answer the question for myself: Was this poem worth it?
Aja Romano on Wordle:
Wordle, the buzzy new daily word game, is minimal by design. The game is a website, not an app. It updates every evening at 7 pm Eastern with a new word puzzle, with only one available at a time. Players get six attempts to guess the correct word, and the site makes it easy to share the results on social media.
That combination of simplicity and shareability seems to have made Wordle an unexpected viral hit in recent weeks: When’s the last time a game that wasn’t built for an app or a platform took the internet by storm?
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