You should know Biden’s Supreme Court pick by this time next month
Plus: The latest on the Child Tax Credit ahead of a new round of negotiations next week.
We learned new details about the process to replace Justice Stephen Breyer, the dean of the left-leaning Supreme Court justices who will step down this summer after nearly three decades on the bench.
President Joe Biden said on Thursday during ceremonial remarks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House that he would nominate a Black woman before the end of February.
If Biden sticks to this timeline, he would announce the nominee during Black History Month. The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment on if the president’s decision was coincidental based on the timing of Breyer’s announcement or intentional based on the significance of the nomination.
“It’s long overdue, in my view,” Biden said. “I made that commitment during the campaign for president, and I will keep that commitment.”
The White House team advising the president on the nomination will include some of the president’s closest advisers: Chief of Staff Ron Klain, Director of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond, White House Counsel Dana Remus, Legislative Affairs Director Louisa Terrell and Paige Herwig, a lawyer in the White House counsel's office who focuses on judicial nominations.
“As has been standard in the past, we would anticipate bringing in additional expertise from the outside to advise during the confirmation process,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “I would expect we would have that team in place prior to a selection but that is not finalized at this point.”
Vice President Kamala Harris will also be deeply involved with the process as well.
While she was in Honduras for the Central American country’s presidential inauguration, Harris, who previously was district attorney for San Francisco, attorney general of California and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she wishes Breyer well and expressed gratitude for his legacy.
“The president and I will work closely together on this and [he] will make his choice about who the next person to fill Justice Breyer’s seat.”
The White House says they don’t know who that choice will be.
But you wouldn’t know it from the Republican response to the vacancy with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who also serves as the chair of the committee responsible for electing Senate Republicans, echoing one of the right’s favorite dog whistles — “radical” — in separate statements.
“The President must not outsource this important decision to the radical left,” McConnell said. “The American people deserve a nominee with demonstrated reverence for the written text of our laws and our Constitution.”
Scott predicted Senate Democrats would “wall the plank in support of a radical liberal with extremist views.”
Psaki responded in kind: “If anyone is saying they plan to characterize whoever he nominates after thorough consideration with both parties as radical, before they know literally anything about who she is, they just obliterated their own credibility.”
The historic nature of the upcoming nominee aside, Democrats are speculating if they’ll enjoy a political payoff from what will be a much-needed win.
I spoke to one activist who said that nomination will be inspiring in a similar way to Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate was in 2020. But they also listed voting rights, police reform, a pathway to citizenship and student loan debt relief as issues they want to see action on.
Another political strategist told me they were interested to see how Democrats message the nomination and confirmation on the campaign trail, noting that the party rarely brags as boldly as it could or should.
And who knows how Democrats’ electoral fortunes will look in a few months if the pandemic and inflation turn around, they pass a major bill or two and confirm a historic Supreme Court justice? It’s a lot to ask for but they’ll give it their best shot.
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BUILD BACK BETTER 2.0
5 Senate Democrats call on Biden and Harris to save the Child Tax Credit
In the midst of reporting Justice Breyer’s retirement on Wednesday afternoon, a letter from five Democratic senators to President Biden and Vice President Harris calling on them to keep the Child Tax Credit in any revised Build Back Better package slipped past my radar.
“The consequences of failing to expand the CTC expansion are dire, particularly as families face another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote. “After historic progress, it is unacceptable to return to a status quo in which children are America’s poorest residents and child poverty costs our nation more than $1 trillion per year. Raising taxes on working families is the last thing we should do during a pandemic.”
While the letter was addressed to the president and vice president, it might as well have been delivered to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Senate Democrats will get what Manchin is willing to give. And on the expanded Child Tax Credit, Manchin has opposed including it in any Build Back Better package without a work requirement.
“We’re going to make sure that we can help — and continue to help — those in need,” Manchin said in a radio interview this week. “I’m open to looking at anything and everything that helps people but targeting it better.”
Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, encouraged Manchin to introduce a bill for a means-tested version of the Child Tax Credit in a conversation on Wednesday with The Washington Post. “I think it would pass,” he said. “There is a lot in Build Back Better that he says he’s for, so let’s do that.
President Biden last week said that he expected the Child Tax Credit and free community college to be excluded from a final package. The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment on if the president still held this view or if the administration would support a CTC with a work requirement.
The Child Tax Credit is the crown jewel of President Biden’s economic agenda. As I wrote in December, the American Rescue Plan expanded it from $2,000 to $3,000 per child for children over age six and from $2,000 to $3,600 for children over age six. It also raised the age limit from 16 to 17. The main selling point is that most families would receive the benefit as monthly automatic direct deposits of $250 or $300 per child instead of a refund when they filed their taxes.
Biden initially proposed funding the tax through 2025 with the ultimate goal of making it permanent, but congressional Democrats proposed a one-year extension to keep it in a final package without surpassing the $1.75 trillion total cost Manchin was willing to accept.
As an alternative to the Child Tax Credit, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah introduced a child allowance proposal in 2021 that provided $350 per month for children under age six and $250 per month for ages 6 through 17 in households earning under a certain threshold.
Grace Segars at The New Republic has an excellent article of Romney’s proposal that’s worth a read if you’re interested in the finer details.
“We are focused on continuing the American Rescue Plan expansion of the CTC,” Sen. Brown’s office said in a statement to Supercreator. “While we appreciate Sen. Romney’s support of the child tax credit, the remainder of his proposal guts other critical supports that families rely on.”
Sen. Bennet’s office said he has disagreements with how Romney would pay for his proposal because Bennet thinks lawmakers can pay for an extended Child Tax Credit without reducing support for other low-income families. “The push for Build Back Better is much more fresh and much more important right now and that’s what we’re expecting to be coming back into a conversation about next week.”
Spokespeople for Sens. Booker, Warnock, Wyden and Romney did not respond to a request for comment.
When Senate Democrats resume negotiations, they’ll be doing so from scratch, as Manchin has withdrawn his final offer to the White House.
And though the administration has not set a deadline for the passage of Build Back Better 2.0, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus said in a statement yesterday that her members want the legislation passed by March 1 although the people with the most leverage are fine with taking things slow. (A spokesperson for the Caucus did not respond to a request for comment on if its members would be open to supporting a means-tested Child Tax Credit in a final Build Back Better package.)
“The White House and congressional Democrats confronted the crisis of the pandemic to pass the historic American Rescue Plan as well as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, creating millions of jobs,” Jayapal said. “It’s past time to bring that same commitment to delivering Build Back Better.”
Biden’s head of education lays out his vision
The first event on my calendar Thursday morning was a speech by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on his vision for American education.
The speech was inspiring. But if you’re familiar with Cardona that won’t come as a surprise. He’s earnest with his delivery and optimistic in a way that can make you forget how shambolic the past couple of years have felt for most of us. As I think back on some of my favorite teachers, professors and administrators, I realize it’s a quality the best educators all share.
“This is our moment. It’s our moment, not only to keep schools open but to also address the inequities that have existed in our school systems for far too long,” Cardona said. “It is our moment to finally make education the great equalizer — the force that can help every student thrive, no matter their background, zip code, circumstance or language they speak at home.”
Cardona focused on four areas: student support through the pandemic response and recovery, addressing achievement and opportunity gaps, inclusive and affordable higher education and post-college success pathways.
He imagined a country in which every high school student participated in at least one extracurricular activity in their school.
Cardona set a goal of thirty minutes of tutoring at least three days a week for students who have fallen behind during the pandemic.
He also called on schools to provide all students access to at least one mental well-being professional. But I didn’t hear any concrete timetables for their implementation.
And he spoke of the Department’s work in offering borrowers relief from their student loan debt, investing in teachers and empowering parents.
But Cardona was scant on the actual details of how his agency would deliver on this vision. So I followed up with an Education Department after the speech but a spokesperson did not answer my specific questions.
Instead, I was referred to the press release the Department distributed after the event (which I had already reviewed to compare with my reporting notes). “Please know that the speech was a vision for all of America and our entire education system that included a call to action for all states and districts,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that Cardona mentioned increases to specific grant programs to achieve the vision he articulated. But this was never in dispute. What was unclear to me is how the secretary’s vision will translate at the state level given how politicized public education has become.
And while Sec. Cardona said all $130 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan have been distributed to the states, I did not receive a response to whether those dollars are enough to fund this vision or if Congress would need to appropriate more in the future. And while the secretary encouraged schools to use funds for some of his proposals, schools have been given wide latitude to do with the funds what they please.
I pressed for these details because I agree with Cardona, who warned our students’ success, country’s strength and status in the world are at stake.
TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing this morning before traveling to Pittsburgh to speak on the impact of the bipartisan infrastructure law on America’s supply chains, manufacturing industry and the workforce. The president will return to the White House this evening.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will join senior administration officials this morning for a virtual event recognizing law schools that responded to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s call to action to address the housing and evicting crisis.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
IN THE KNOW
— A major winter storm with the potential for hurricane-force winds and heavy snow affect the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic this weekend. New England is expected to receive the heaviest snow, but New York City, Washington DC and Connecticut will also be impacted. [Tori B. Powell / CBS News]
— The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to take the next step in requiring internet providers to offer “nutrition labels” for its broadband services. The labels, which were first introduced during the Obama administration, disclosing an internet plan’s price, speed, data allowances, including introductory rates and later price hikes, as well as network management practices, like throttling, at the point of sale. [Makena Kelly / The Verge]
— The National Labor Relations Board said Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island won enough support to hold an election for a union. The company is skeptical that the union has obtained enough legitimate signatures and is seeking to understand how the signatures were verified. [Sebastian Herrera / WSJ]
— US consumers lost $770 million in social media scams in 2021. According to the Federal Trade Commission, this figure accounted for about one-fourth of all fraud losses for the year and is up 18 times from 2017. [Sarah Perez / TechCrunch]
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Bethy Squires on why people are adding -ussy to every word:
The insertion of this new suffix into our lexicussy is mostly confined to online speech, but it reflects a general memefication of language and destabilization of meaning that is popular with the young. Especially the “gays and the theys,” people for whom rigid taxonomy has often been oppressive. This -ussification is 1) kind of annoying, perhaps even on purpose. And 2) a great equalizer. It is subversive, it is Bottom Rights. Everybody and everything has been reduced to their hole.
Anna North on our national exhaustion:
This lack of motivation obviously impacts our individual lives, but it also affects our communities and the country as a whole. Americans are disengaged from the news and numb to politics, our circuits overloaded from months of crises and coup attempts. Some experts say we’re losing our ability to empathize with one another; others say we’ve been steeped in badness for so long it’s become difficult to imagine a better world. At this point, “I wonder where people are getting their hope from,” said Kali Cyrus, a psychiatrist and professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Jean Guerrero on “Latinx”:
For some Latinos, particularly older ones, Latinx sounds weird. They find it hard to pronounce the “x” in English, though Spanish pronunciations of “Latin” and “x” can combine into a smooth “Latin-equis,” which rhymes with Dos Equis, the Mexican beer.
Others argue the term doesn’t do enough. Mexican historian and activist Citlalli Citlalmina Anahuac makes the case that both Latinx and Latino are anti-Indigenous, like the term Hispanic, often seen as centering Spanish colonizers. “The term ‘Latin’ is Eurocentric and centralizes whiteness,” she told me. “By adding an ‘x’ or an ‘e,’ we’re just playing with a colonial identity.”
But for many, Latinx feels like an important act of resistance against mainstream exclusion. Afro-Zapotec poet Alan Pelaez Lopez sees the “x” as symbolic of a wound, an important “reminder of the erasure of Black Latinxs,” among other traumas with which the community must reckon.
The intrigue about Klain is partially rooted in his close ties to progressives. From the earliest days of the Biden administration, he’s been known as a vital conduit between the White House and the progressive community—activist groups on issues like climate change and more left-leaning Democrats on the Hill. It’s easy to see how, from the outside, one would think that Klain’s corner of the Democratic Party is the progressive wing of the party, while other longtime inner-circle Biden aides, like White House counselor Steve Ricchetti, handle moderates or other slices of the Democratic Party pie.
Jonathan Chait on the Republican Party’s anti-vaxx wing:
The most telling gauge of the anti-vaxx movement’s progress is the waning resistance from the party mainstream. Republicans have tried to channel anti-vaccine activism into narrower resistance to government mandates of the vaccine. This has the advantage of appealing to a broader share of the public (depending on the exact framing, between one-third and one-half of Americans oppose mandates, much larger than the one-fifth that opposes vaccines themselves.) It also comfortably locates the issue within the traditional bounds of individual liberty and restricted government power, without requiring any uncomfortable defense of pseudoscientific gibberish.
If the goal is to elect a Republican at any cost, it may work. The flaw is that it surrenders any leverage the party elite has against the anti-vaxxers. Their only tool is increasingly comic levels of denial, like western communists in the 1930s who didn’t want to hear about purges or prison camps in their socialist paradise.
Sean Illing in conversation with James Carville on Joe Manchin:
Understand that Joe Manchin is a Roman Catholic Democrat in a state in which not a single county has voted Democrat [for president] since 2008. I repeat: not a single county has voted Democrat since 2008.
Politics is about choices, and he’s up for reelection in 2024. If Manchin runs for reelection, I’ll do everything I can to help him because it’s either going to be Joe Manchin or [Republican Sen.] Marsha Blackburn [of Tennessee]. It ain’t Joe Manchin or [Democratic Sen.] Ed Markey [of Massachusetts]. You got to understand that. It’s really that damn simple.
Look, I’m a liberal Democrat. Always have been. But some of these people bitching about Manchin can’t see political reality straight. Six percent of adults in this country identify as “progressive.” Only 11 or 12 percent of Democrats identify as progressive. So let’s just meet in the middle and say something like 7 or 8 percent of the country agrees with the progressive left. This ain’t a goddamn debate anymore. Someone like Manchin is closer to the mainstream than a lot of these people think, and pretending like he isn’t won’t help the cause.
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