Posts tagged with "President Joe Biden"

Senators reach bipartisan deal on gun safety

June 14, 2022

It’s a small, but significant, start: Senate negotiators announced on Sunday, June 12, that they had struck a bipartisan deal on a narrow set of gun safety measures with sufficient support to move through the evenly divided chamber—a compelling step toward ending a yearslong Congressional impasse on the issue, reports The New York Times.

The agreement—put forth by 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats and endorsed by President Joe Biden and top Democrats—includes enhanced background checks to give authorities time to check the juvenile and mental health records of any prospective gun buyer under the age of 21; and a provision that would, for the first time, extend to dating partners a prohibition on domestic abusers having guns.

It also would provide funding for states to enact so-called red-flag laws that allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed to be dangerous, as well as money for mental health resources and to bolster safety and mental health services at schools.

The outline has yet to be finalized and still faces what the Times characterizes as “a perilous path in Congress,” given the deep partisan divide on gun measures and the political stakes of the issue. It falls far short of the sprawling reforms that Biden, gun control activists, and a majority of Democrats have long championed, such as a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks.

And it is nowhere near as sweeping as a package of gun measures passed almost along party lines in the House last week, which would bar the sale of semiautomatic weapons to people under the age of 21, ban the sale of large-capacity magazines and enact a federal red-flag law, among other steps.

But it amounts to notable progress to begin bridging the considerable gulf between the two political parties on how to address gun violence, which has resulted in a string of failed legislative efforts on Capitol Hill, where Republican opposition has thwarted action for years.

Democrats hailed the plan, which also would toughen federal laws to stop gun trafficking and ensure that all commercial sellers are doing background checks, as an opportunity to pass the most significant gun safety legislation in decades.

“Today, we are announcing a common-sense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe and reduce the threat of violence across our country,” the 20 senators, led by Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, and John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said in a joint statement, adding, “Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities.”

The backing of 10 Republicans suggested that the plan could scale an obstacle that no other proposal currently under discussion has been able to: drawing the 60 votes necessary to break through a GOP filibuster and survive to see an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader who has played a central role in stymieing gun safety measures in recent years, praised what he called “headway” in the discussions even as he was noncommittal about whether he would ultimately support the package.

“The principles they announced today show the value of dialogue and cooperation,” Mr. McConnell said. “I continue to hope their discussions yield a bipartisan product that makes significant headway on key issues like mental health and school safety, respects the Second Amendment, earns broad support in the Senate and makes a difference for our country.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Pentagon devises plans to send troops to protect U.S. Embassy in Kyiv

May 25, 2022

Plans to send U.S. forces back into Ukraine to guard the recently reopened American Embassy in Kyiv are “underway at a relatively low level,” General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced on May 23, reports The Hill.

The Wall Street Journal first mentioned on Sunday that officials are mulling plans to send special forces to Kyiv to guard the U.S. Embassy. The effort is a delicate one, as it requires balancing the safety of American diplomats while avoiding what Russia could see as an escalation.

“Some of the things that may have been out there in the media, those are planning efforts that are underway at a relatively low level,” Milley told reporters at the Pentagon, seeming to refer to the Journal’s report.

Such plans “have not yet made it to [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] or myself for that matter, for refinement of courses of action and what’s needed,” he noted. 

Milley added that any reintroduction of U.S. forces into Ukraine would require a presidential decision.  

“We’re a ways away from anything like that. We’re still developing courses of action, and none of that has been presented yet to the secretary,” he said.  

The Biden Administration last week reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv after closing it ahead of Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

The embassy’s security currently comes from the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, the Journal reported.

President Joe Biden has pledged consistently that no U.S. troops will be sent into Ukraine to help forces there, although there are thousands of service members based just outside its borders in countries including Poland and Romania.

Milley said there are now about 102,000 American troops based in Europe—a more than 30% increase since the war began.

“Last fall the United States military had about 78,000 in [U.S. European Command]—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Space Force,” Milley said. “In a few short months, we bolstered that by over 30%.”

Rsearch contact: @thehill

Biden finalizes restrictions on ‘ghost guns,’ names new ATF nominee

April 13, 2022

President Joe Biden announced new restrictions on homemade guns known as “ghost guns,” as well as a new nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on Monday, April 11, reports NBC News.

The new rule would require makers of gun kits to include a serial number on the firearms and would mandate that sellers follow the same standard as with other guns, including requiring a background check for purchase.

“These guns are the weapons of choice for many criminals,” Biden said. “We are going to do everything we can to deprive them of that choice.”

Biden also said he would nominate former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach to be head of the ATF, which has been without a Senate-confirmed director since 2015.

The announcement comes nearly one year to the day after Biden announced from the White House the proposed rule on ghost guns and the nomination of a different ATF head, David Chipman. Biden blamed lobbying from gun rights advocates for delaying the finalization of the rule.

The White House withdrew Chipman from consideration in September following unanimous opposition from Republicans.

Biden pledged during his campaign to make stricter gun control measures, like universal background checks, a priority if elected.

But many of those changes require action from Congress, where lawmakers have been unable to reach a compromise on stricter gun control measures. Gun control advocates have been pushing the White House to go further.

“The president has done more to fight gun violence and keep our community safe than any president in history in his first year in office,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday, adding that the issue was obviously one “that is close to his heart, something he’s passionate about and has been for decades.”

Biden said his administration is continuing to go after gun dealers who do not follow the law and gun trafficking across state lines, and is calling for additional funding for community policing programs and the hiring of more police officers.

“The answer is not to defund the police. It is to fund the police and give them the tools and training and support they need to be better partners and protectors of our communities,” Biden said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Mo Brooks hits back: ‘Trump demanded I kick Biden out of White House’

March 25, 2022

Representative Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) hit back at his former pal Donald Trump on March 23 with an extraordinary allegation: In the wake of Trump’s 2020 election loss, the former president demanded that Brooks immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, reinstall Trump, and then hold a brand new election for the presidency, reports The Daily Beast.

Brooks made the accusation in a statement released after Trump ranted that Brooks “went ‘woke’” and “made a horrible mistake” by calling for people to get over the former president’s 2020 election loss.

In a typically vindictive statement, the twice-impeached former president revoked his endorsement for Brooks in Alabama’s U.S. Senate primary, saying it was “very sad” that Brooks—who was accused of helping to organize the “Stop the Steal” rally that took place before the deadly Capitol riot—had “decided to go in a different direction.”

He blasted Brooks for telling attendees at an Alabama rally to move on from Trumpworld’s relentless grievances over the 2020 election.

“Referring to the 2020 Presidential Election Scam,” Trump fumed, Brooks said, “Put that behind you, put that behind you.”

“The 2020 Election was rigged, and we can’t let them get away with that,” Trump wrote, claiming Brooks’ “unstoppable” lead in the Senate race had disappeared because of his comments.

Brooks made the comments way back in August. He nevertheless hit back on Wednesday, insisting it was Trump, not him, who had changed.

“When the President calls me ‘woke,’ there’s not anybody in Alabama with a brain larger than the size of a pea who believes that Mo Brooks is a woke liberal,” he told ABC News in a tweet.

In a statement, he claimed Trump was being manipulated by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) into attacking Brooks. “Every single negative TV ad against our campaign has come from McConnell and his allies. I wish President Trump wouldn’t fall for McConnell’s ploys but, once again, he has,” he said.

Then Brooks went even further—accusing Trump of asking him to rescind the 2020 elections, immediately remove Joe Biden from the White House, immediately reinstall Trump, and hold a new special election for the presidency. In further comments to ABC, Brooks claimed Trump repeatedly asked him repeatedly “off and on since Sept. 2021” to re-do the election.

“As a lawyer, I’ve repeatedly advised President Trump that January 6 was the final election contest verdict and neither the U.S. Constitution nor the U.S. Code permit what President Trump asks. Period,” he said in his statement.

“I’ve told President Trump the truth knowing full well that it might cause [him] to rescind his endorsement. But I took a sworn oath to defend and protect the U.S. Constitution. I honor my oath. That is the way I am. I break my sworn oath for no man.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Biden orders lawmaker access to Trump’s White House visitor logs for January 6

February 17, 2022

President Joe Biden has directed the National Archives to release to Congress former President Donald Trump’s White House visitor logs for January 6—rejecting his predecessor’s claims that the logs are subject to executive privilege, reports Bloomberg. 

“The president has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified, as to these records and portions of records,” White House Counsel Dana Remus wrote in a February 15 letter to David Ferriero, the national archivist of the United States.

Remus directed Ferriero to turn over the records within 15 days of providing notice to Trump, barring a court order. 

“The majority of the entries over which the former president has asserted executive privilege would be publicly released under current policy,” she said.

The panel probing the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has requested logs for White House visitors on that and other days, as well as other Trump-era records. 

A spokesperson for the committee had no immediate comment Wednesday. A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court last month rejected Trump’s bid to block the release of records to the January 6 panel—a victory for the committee and its Democratic chairman, Bennie Thompson. In addition to the visitor logs, the investigative committee has requested all photographs, videos, and other media; including any digital time stamps, taken or recorded within the White House that day.

Trump sought to override Biden’s earlier decision to waive executive privilege and argued that a former president’s need for privacy can outweigh the views of the current chief executive.

The committee has been focusing on the false claims that Trump and his allies pushed about the election outcome and how that played roles in stoking the violence on January 6, 2021. Trump’s lawyers argued that the release “would be a substantial blow to the institution of the presidency.”

In an unsigned, one-paragraph order, the high court said the case didn’t offer the opportunity to decide that question because a lower court found that Trump’s claim would be rejected even if he were still in office. Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative, was the only dissent.

The committee agreed to treat entries associated with sensitive appointments, including those related to national security, as confidential and to refrain from sharing or discussing them without prior consultation, Remus wrote. The committee also will receive the records without birth dates or social security numbers.

Research contact: @Bloomberg

National Archives to hand over Pence’s vice presidential records to January 6 Committee

Febraury 3, 2022

The Biden Administration has ordered the National Archives to turn over records from former Vice President Mike Pence’s time in office,  despite objections from former President Donald Trump, reports The Hill.

A letter dated Tuesday, February 1, from White House Deputy Counsel Dana Remus directed the agency to begin releasing the documents to the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

“Many of the records as to which the former President has made a claim of privilege in this set of documents …were communications concerning the former Vice President’s responsibilities as President of the Senate in certifying the vote of presidential electors on January 6, 2021,” Remus wrote.

Although vice presidential records do qualify for some public records exemptions that restrict access, “they are not subject to claims of the presidential communications privilege,” she wrote.

The letter from Remus follows a January 18 letter from Trump seeking to block the release of more than 100 of the documents. In the letter, Trump claimed the documents would violate executive privilege as well as another privilege that covers deliberative processes.

Remus has consistently ordered the release of various Trump-era documents, noting that President Joe Biden, the sitting commander-in-chief, has not asserted any privilege over the records.

The order to release the records comes as a growing number of former Pence aides are cooperating with the committee and sitting for interviews with investigators.

Greg Jacob, counsel to Pence who opposed plans to have Pence buck his ceremonial duties to certify the election results, met with the committee on Tuesday, February 1. And former Pence Chief of Staff Mark Short testified before the House panel last week.

Research contact: @thehill

Biden leads Trump, DeSantis by similar margins in new poll

January 28, 2022

President Joe Biden is leading two top Republicans—former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—in two hypothetical, head-to-head match-ups for the 2024 presidential election, reports The Hill

A poll just conducted by Marquette University Law School has found that 43% of U.S. adults would support Biden if the 2024 presidential election were held today, while 33% would vote for Trump in a one-on-one match-up. Sixteen percent said they would choose a different candidate, while 6 percent said they would not vote.

In a hypothetical race against DeSantis, however, Biden does not poll as strongly: 41%t of adults nationwide said they would throw their support behind Biden, while 33% would support DeSantis. Eighteen percent of respondents said they would vote for a different candidate, and 8 percent said they would not cast a ballot.

Only 29% of those polled said they want to see Trump run for president again in 2024, while 71% said they did not want to see him seek a second term.

The polling comes as tensions between Trump and DeSantis are mounting amid a possibility that the two GOP figures could face off against one another in a Republican primary to lead the ticket in 2024.

Trump has been grumbling behind the scenes for months regarding DeSantis’s rise in the party. Recent media reports have taken a microscope to the relationship between the two GOP leaders—one that has been characterized as confrontational and marked by private but personal attacks.

The former president appeared to knock DeSantis earlier this month for refusing to disclose if he has received his COVID-19 booster shot. Trump, during an interview, criticized “gutless” politicians who will not reveal their booster shot status.

Trump and DeSantis have not revealed if they will launch bids for the White House in 2024. Additionally, the Florida governor has refused to say publicly whether he will or will not challenge the former president should he wage a reelection campaign.

A Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey shared with The Hill earlier this week found that, in a hypothetical eight-person GOP primary, Trump raked in 57% support, followed by DeSantis at 11% and former Vice President Mike Pence at 11%. No other candidate in the poll pulled in double-digit support.

Biden in December said he plans to run for reelection “if I’m in good health.”

A Wednesday poll from Politico and Morning Consult found that 45% of registered voters would support Biden if the election were held today, and 44% would support Trump—which would make for a tight rematch. Eleven percent said they would not vote.

The Marquette Law School poll surveyed 1,000 adults nationwide between January 10 and January 21.

Research contact: @thehill

Justice Stephen Breyer to retire from Supreme Court, paving way for Biden appointment

January 27, 2022

Justice Stephen Breyer will step down from the Supreme Court at the end of the current term, according to people familiar with his thinking. The liberal justice’s decision to retire after more than 27 years on the court allows President Joe Biden to appoint a successor who could serve for several decades, reports NBC News.

Breyer is one of the three remaining liberal justices, and, in the short term, his retirement would maintain the current 6-3 split between conservative and liberal justices.

At 83, Breyer is the court’s oldest member. Liberal activists have urged him for months to retire while Democrats hold both the White House and the Senate. They contended that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stayed too long despite her history of health problems and should have stepped down during the Obama Administration.

Ginsburg’s death from cancer at 87 allowed former President Donald Trump to appoint her successor, Amy Coney Barrett—moving the court further to the right.

Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in May urging Breyer to retire that there are times “when the stewards of our system must put the good of an institution they love, and of the country they love, above their own interests. They have to recognize that no one, not even a brilliant justice, is irreplaceable, and that the risks presented by remaining are more than hypothetical.”

The progressive group Demand Justice, meanwhile, hired a truck last year to drive around the Supreme Court’s neighborhood bearing this sign: “Breyer Retire. It’s time for a Black woman Supreme Court justice.”

Biden has pledged to make just such an appointment. Among likely contenders are federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Breyer law clerk; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on California’s Supreme Court.

Despite calls from some Biden supporters to add more seats to the Supreme Court to counter its current conservative lean, Breyer said in March that such a move would risk undermining confidence in the court. Advocates of court packing, he said, should “think long and hard before embodying those changes in law.”

Biden is expected to act quickly to nominate a successor who can be ready to serve when the court’s new term begins on October 3. A former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he knows firsthand how the confirmation process works.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden Administration to launch website for free 500 million COVID-19 testing kits on Wednesday

January 19, 2022

The Biden Administration o is set to launch a website where Americans can order up to four free COVID-19 testing kits per person on Wednesday, January 19, according to a senior administration official, reports USA Today.

The tests—which represent part of the Biden Administration’s purchase of 500 million tests last month to help tackle a record surge in infections—will be delivered through the U.S. Postal Service, according to the official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the announcement.

President Joe Biden announced earlier this week that his administration would double its order to 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests amid a shortage of tests nationwide as U.S. cases spike. The second batch of testing kits will also be distributed for free through the website, officials said. 

The White House is ramping up efforts to make testing more accessible and affordable after facing criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over the lack of inventory of COVID-19 tests as the highly transmissible omicron variant ripped across the country—shuttering schools, overwhelming hospitals, and frustrating Americans exhausted by two years of an ongoing pandemic.

Earlier this month, a group of Biden’s former health advisers released a series of articles calling for the administration to change its approach to combatting COVID-19 and urging Americans to learn to live with the virus after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came under fire for issuing confusing guidance on isolation. 

The administration so far has procured more than 420 million of the first order of tests and is working to finalize contracts for the remaining 80 million, according to an official.

The White House also plans to launch a call line to help those unable to access the website to place orders and will work with national and local community organizations to meet requests from the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities, according to officials.

Aside from the free tests available through the website, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight at-home tests per month for people through their insurance plans beginning Saturday, January 22. Americans will be able to either purchase tests for free through their insurance or submit receipts for reimbursement.

The president is also expected to announce next week the steps he’s taking to make high-quality masks available for free, but details of how those would be distributed are still unclear.

The latest White House effort comes as hospitalizations for COVID-19 are setting new records—with some hospitals delaying elective surgeries while states are deploying National Guard members to health care facilities.

The White House is also sending military medical teams to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan, and New Mexico to help confront a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Roughly one in five hospitals has reported having “critical staff shortages” in data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, a USA Today analysis found. One in four anticipated critical shortages within the next week.

Research contact: @USATODAY

Biden to endorse changing Senate filibuster to support voting rights

January 12, 2022

President Joe Biden, in a speech delivered on Tuesday, January 11, in Atlanta, planned to directly challenge the “institution of the United States Senate” to support voting rights by backing two major pieces of legislation and the carving out of an exception to the Senate’s 60-vote requirement, reports the HuffPost.

Coming a week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Biden’s speech at the Atlanta University Center Consortium represents a follow-up to a speech he delivered last week on the first anniversary of the U.S. Capitol riot—characterizing both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act as critical to ensure that the turmoil of January 6, 2021, is followed by a revival of American democracy.

“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation,” Biden planned to say, according to prepared remarks distributed by the White House. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is: Where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?”

Biden, who served as a senator from 1973 to 2009, argues that abuse of the filibuster―the arcane rule that requires 60 senators’ votes for most legislation to pass—has harmed the Senate as an institution and that carving out an exception for voting rights is the best way to protect the reputation and functionality of Congress’s upper chamber.

The Senate is set to vote on both pieces of voting rights legislation this week. While all 50 Democrats are expected to support the legislation, Republicans are expected to remain unified in opposition and block consideration―as they have the previous three times Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has attempted to call up the Freedom to Vote Act.

That unified GOP opposition will almost certainly lead to a vote on whether to significantly weaken the filibuster. But it appears unlikely Democrats will be able to corral the 50 votes necessary for a rule change. Sens. Joe Manchin (West Virginia.), Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) and other moderates are reluctant to change the body’s rules.

White House aides indicated that Biden’s speech points to Georgia as a reason why voting rights legislation is necessary—highlighting how the GOP-controlled state legislature passed laws making it harder to vote after Democrats won the presidential race and two Senate seats there in 2020.

The Freedom to Vote Act is a compromise version of the Democratic Party’s sweeping voting rights legislation, and it would override many of the restrictive voting laws passed by Republicans since the 2020 election and mandate early voting and same-day voter registration. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would restore sections of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 that conservatives on the Supreme Court voted to gut in 2013.

Republicans, up to and including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, had long supported extensions to the Voting Rights Act but ceased doing so after the Supreme Court ruling.

Research contact: @HuffPost