"You’re being a wise guy”: Biden talks inflation, the Supreme Court and the pandemic ahead of the Super Bowl
On the latter topic, he appeared to reflect the caution of his public health experts who feel like the states that are rolling back their guidelines on masking are doing so too quickly.
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During a visit to Virginia on Thursday to promote how his Build Back Better agenda would lower health care costs, President Joe Biden sat for an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt that will air before the Super Bowl this Sunday.
The sit-down, which is the president’s first of 2022 and his first since marking one year in office, came on the heels of news that prices rose 7.5 percent over the past 12 months and 0.6 percent in January, the fastest rate of growth in four decades.
So now, with few legislative solutions, we’re left with what will almost certainly see the Federal Reserve raise interest rates to slow the economy and bring inflation down.
Holt asked the president to define temporary, a word Biden used to describe inflation last summer.
“Well, you’re being a wise guy with me a little bit,” Biden said. “And I understand, that’s your job.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki set out to manage expectations on Wednesday to soften the shock of these distressing numbers. She pointed to leading outside forecasters who continue to project that the costs of goods are expected to fall and moderate over the course of the year.
And in a statement released after the latest numbers were released Biden acknowledged the impact of inflation on people’s budgets, he assured Americans his administration had been using every tool at its disposal to turn it around.
Biden and White House aides are adamant that Build Back Better, the comprehensive jobs and climate plan that once served as the centerpiece of the president’s economic agenda, would alleviate much of this economic stress because it would lower costs on everyday expenses and put more money back into your pockets.
But Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona both released statements after the latest numbers came out that basically said, it’s a no for me, dog, on BBB because they disagree with the consensus from leading economists that the investments would help — not harm — the economy. But to be honest, politicians can talk themselves into voting for anything if they really want to. And Manchin and Sinema’s indifference towards Build Back Better has been on display since it was unlinked from the bipartisan infrastructure deal Biden signed into law last November, which both senators helped negotiate.
Democratic leadership seems to recognize this dynamic. They’ve moved on to other priorities like getting a China competitiveness bill passed, ending forced arbitration for victims of workplace sexual assault and harassment, post-office reform and funding the government through the rest of the fiscal year.
And Republicans, if they can get out of their own way, are chomping at the bit to make the economy issue number-one on the campaign trail leading up the midterms in November.
Democrats, like Rep. Abigail Spanberger who represents the congressional district that Biden visited on Thursday, know this.
“It's fair to say that we should be focused on addressing all the issues that matter to people and certainly, the laundry list of concerns that people bring to me as a representative includes inflation,” she said. “There's not one singular cause of inflation. There's not going to be one singular solution.”
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The president touched on another hot topic during his interview: the pandemic and the restlessness people feel after two years of living through it.
“All the variants have had a profound impact on the psyche of the American people,” Biden said.
But he appeared to reflect the caution of his public health experts who feel like the states that are rolling back their guidelines on masking are doing so too quickly.
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Biden also spoke about his upcoming historic nomination of the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.
He told Holt that he’s done in-depth research on four potential nominees and doesn’t intend for the choice to be an adherent of an ideology, which inspires confidence that whoever he picks will generate at least one Republican vote.
“The shortlist of nominees who are incredibly well-qualified and -documented,” Biden said. “They were the honors students. They come from the best universities. They have experience, some on the bench, some of them practiced law.”
When the president returned from Virginia on Thursday, he and Vice President Kamala Harris met with 10 of the 11 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold the first vote on the nominee before the full Senate does so. (Biden and Harris are both former members of the Judiciary Committee.)
During a media availability after the meeting, the Senate Democrats affirmed their trust in Biden’s judgment, celebrated this historic nature of the nomination and indicated their preference for someone who is persuasive in their arguments.
Seung Min Kim at The Washington Post reports that Biden indicated to the group that he would begin interviewing candidates next week and that the FBI has started background checks on Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, and J. Michelle Childs, a federal district court judge in South Carolina as part of the formal vetting process. (It is unclear, as Kim reported, whether more candidates have gone through the extensive vetting that accompanies an FBI background check. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)
“I’m looking for someone to replace Judge Breyer with the same kind of capacity [retiring] Judge [Stephen] Breyer had, with an open mind, who understands the Constitution, interprets it in a way that is consistent with the mainstream interpretation of the Constitution.”
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TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing this morning before traveling to Camp David for the weekend this afternoon.
Vice President Harris will travel this morning to Newark, New Jersey to participate in a roundtable with local residents on funding in the bipartisan infrastructure law to remove and replace lead pipes. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan will also attend. Harris will return to DC this afternoon.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
IN THE KNOW
→ Black History at the White House: As part of Black History Month celebrations, the White House hosted a convening of Black cabinet members. The event included a discussion about the significance of Black leadership in key policy areas, including military service, housing, environment, foreign affairs and the economy.
→ Related: The White House also hosted a virtual roundtable on Black mental health and wellness. In a discussion moderated by Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, participants spoke about their own mental health challenges, the importance of seeking support and self-care, and their work to end stigma.
Editor’s note: If you or anyone you know may be experiencing a mental health challenge: Help is available and treatment works. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit findtreatment.gov to learn more about mental health treatment options where you live.
Biden names presidential delegation to Liberia: President Biden announced United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield will lead a delegation to the West African country on Monday, Feb. 14. The date marks the arrival of the first Free Black Americans to Providence Island in 1822, which led to the establishment of the city of Monrovia and the Republic of Liberia. Read the full announcement.
→ HIV treatment breakthrough: Democratic Reps. Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres of New York led 56 House Democrats in calling for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to require private and public insurance providers to cover Apretude, a new kind of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), at no cost to patients.
Most PrEP treatments currently require users to take a once-daily oral medication and are fully covered by insurance. But Apretude only requires bimonthly injections to prevent HIV infections, an easier alternative use effectively.
Jones and Torres are the first two Black openly gay members of Congress.
→ Schumer makes an appeal for weed reform: Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Cory Booker of New Jersey sent a letter to their colleagues calling on comprehensive weed reform. Schumer spoke about the issue on the Senate floor Thursday:
This is about individual freedom and about basic fairness. For decades federal cannabis laws have caused immense damage to millions of Americans, particularly Black and Hispanic people who have been unfairly targeted by these laws. We need to change that, we need to create opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses to legitimately pursue new opportunities, and comprehensive federal cannabis legislation is critical, critical to reaching that goal.
→ Proxy voting extended: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in a letter to members that she’s extended the House’s proxy voting protocols for seven more weeks.
As I wrote in this post: “Proxy voting allows House members who are unable to vote in-person to designate a colleague to record a vote for them. House Democrats established the practice in May of 2020 to mitigate the risk of travel during the pandemic so the chamber could do its business with as few interruptions as possible.”
The practice, while established as a pandemic precaution, has devolved into an excuse not show up for work. Here’s Kristin Wilson at CNN: “Seventy members used proxy voting just this past week, including one member who said he was sitting in his car at the Capitol during votes.”
→ Family matters: Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas introduced a bill to support the families of officers who struggle with their mental health or are lost to trauma-linked suicides.
The federal law currently limits the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program to only cover physical injuries and excludes support for mental health challenges.
→ Omar asks for answers: Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack calling for information about reports of a nonprofit organization that laundered over $200 million from the USDA for personal benefits intended to help feed the most vulnerable in her district.
“I am appalled to learn of such heinous acts and the theft of resources strictly meant for our most vulnerable populations,” she said. “I condemn such actions and I am grateful for the work being done by multiple local and federal government agencies to uncover these repulsive, fraudulent actions, and I am eager to know what steps are being taken to protect these critical resources going forward.” Read the full letter.
→ Omicron antidote: Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the department purchased 600,000 treatment courses of a bebtelovimab, a new monoclonal antibody that works against the Omicron variant.
If the treatment receives emergency use authorization, it would be provided to the states free of charge.
HHS said it has provided more than 2.5 million COVID-19 treatments and therapies to states for Americans who get sick with COVID-19 to use, including antiviral pills, monoclonal antibodies, and pre-exposure prophylaxis therapies for people with compromised immune systems. Read the full announcement.
→ Bragging rights: The State Department was named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Employers 2022. See the full list.
→ Mind your business, big tech: 76 percent support restricting companies from collecting and using personal data beyond what's needed for effective service, according to a recent survey conducted by Benenson Strategy Group and Public Opinion Strategies for the bipartisan Future of Tech Commission.
A few other interesting findings:
78 percent of voters support requiring companies to allow consumers the right to "opt-in" before sharing any of their personal data
78 percent of both Democratic and Republican voters surveyed support requiring companies to allow consumers the right to "opt-in" before sharing any of their personal data
74 percent support the federal government committing additional resources to strengthen cybersecurity networks so that Americans can use the internet without fear of data breaches or cyberattacks
75 percent agree that if the United States does not establish rules and guardrails around dangerous or false content online, our democracy could be under threat
→ Whatcha lookin’ at? In a new study at Iowa State University to examine what people look at during virtual meetings, researchers found that while participants did pay attention to whoever was speaking, their gaze drifted off the computer screen more during small group video calls compared to large group sessions. (The study also revealed women spent more time looking at their own image than men.)
→ Monkey business: The primates may feel pressure to perform just like humans, according to a new study at Georgia State University.
Researchers found significant variation in how individual monkeys responded to these trials when researchers removed the difference in difficulty, suggesting that for some monkeys the cues of high stakes were enough to affect performance.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Jennifer Senior on friends:
Were friendships always so fragile? I suspect not. But we now live in an era of radical individual freedoms. All of us may begin at the same starting line as young adults, but as soon as the gun goes off, we’re all running in different directions; there’s little synchrony to our lives. We have kids at different rates (or not at all); we pair off at different rates (or not at all); we move for love, for work, for opportunity and adventure and more affordable real estate and healthier lifestyles and better weather.
Yet it’s precisely because of the atomized, customized nature of our lives that we rely on our friends so very much. We are recruiting them into the roles of people who once simply coexisted with us—parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, fellow parishioners, fellow union members, fellow Rotarians.
It’s not wholly natural, this business of making our own tribes. And it hardly seems conducive to human thriving. The percentage of Americans who say they don’t have a single close friend has quadrupled since 1990, according to the Survey Center on American Life.
Anthony Fantano on how musicians are luring fans into the risky world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs):
These are brand tie-ins. Nothing more, nothing less.
I don’t have anything against the idea of people trading or buying digital art for fun. Some of the overnight success independent artists have seen in the NFT space is genuinely inspiring. But to focus on this is to ignore the lack of regulation in this corner of the Internet, and the amount of scams that result.
This isn’t the kind of world for people who are still learning how to make smart financial decisions. Thousands of Americans have invested in cryptocurrencies in recent years, but the currencies’ prices have cratered since reaching all-time highs in November, wiping out more than $1 trillion in value globally.
Mia Mercado on “Corned Beef,” the color Telfar’s new bag dropping today at noon:
What’s not to love about a $150 bag in the same shade as your lunch? Imagine the absolute thrill of someone admiring your latest accessory, commenting on its color, and you get to say, “Oh, this? It’s just my Corned Beef bag.” It’s the perfect conversation piece if you’re looking for all your conversations to be about corned beef. It’s an elevated addition to the Gaga meat-dress universe. And, of course, it will look phenomenal alongside anything from Telfar’s Margarine collection.
Neel Dhanesha on artificial snow:
Snow machines could also worsen the very problem — climate change — that has contributed to their popularity. They guzzle a huge amount of power, consuming about half of a typical ski resort’s energy costs. While China has committed to powering all of the snow machines at the Winter Olympics with renewable energy, many ski resorts can’t or won’t choose clean power (though some are trying, even going so far as getting into the energy business to ensure their resorts run on clean power). Powering snow machines with electricity from fossil fuels will spew greenhouse gas into the air. This will warm the planet and increase the demand for snow machines, continuing the cycle.
Nicole Karlis on melatonin:
In other words, what is in melatonin supplements doesn't always correspond to what's on the label — and that's because the melatonin market is largely unregulated.
In our bodies, melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, which sends a message to our brains that it is bedtime. People who take the hormone supplement do so because it's easily accessible, “natural,” and inexpensive — they are often the type who would rather avoid prescribed sleeping pills.
But the supplement form of melatonin on pharmacy shelves is synthesized outside a person's body, and labeled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a dietary supplement, which are regulated differently than foods and drug products. For dietary supplements, the FDA only requires “reasonable assurance” that dietary supplements do not pose “a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury.”
Pema Bakshi on “groundhogging”:
In 2022, dating is just as hard, if not harder, than it's ever been. Lockdowns are done but many of us are still feeling a little jaded by the same old DM dances, lingo, awkward hangs — or the dreaded fix-ups. But it's all part of the process, right? And the experience helps us learn more about ourselves and relationships.
The more we date, the more we figure out what it is we’re looking for in a potential match — or what we know we’re not looking for. But whether it’s based on experience or just an inherent preference, we all tend to lean towards having a ‘type’. If not physical characteristics, then maybe it’s the way they dress, their profession, what their drink of choice is, or perhaps their taste in music. And that's fair enough, since establishing common ground is a great foundation for any new relationship. But what if the very idea that the person that’s right for us will fit into this mould, is what's holding us back from meeting really great people?
Well, there’s a name for that fun little habit, and it’s called groundhogging.
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