Posts tagged with "President Joe Biden"

Biden issues first veto, knocks Marjorie Taylor Greene

March 23, 2023

On Monday, March 20, President Joe Biden vetoed his first bill—blocking the repeal of a Labor Department rule that permitted retirement investing tied to environmental and social goals, reports Politico.

The veto was expected, after the Biden Administration fought Republican-led efforts to pass the rollback three weeks ago. The House and Senate votes attracted support from three Democrats, including Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia—moderates who are up for reelection next year.

“This bill would risk your retirement savings by making it illegal to consider risk factors MAGA House Republicans don’t like,” Biden said on Twitter on Monday.

“Your plan manager should be able to protect your hard-earned savings—whether Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene likes it or not.”

While Republicans who led work on the repeal didn’t get it signed into law, it marked a partial victory for conservatives, who have targeted the rule and other policies that they say encourage major corporations to elevate climate and social goals in their business practices.

“This is trying to parallel financial return with an ideological push,” Senator Mike Braun (R-Indiana), who led the rollback push with Representative Andy Barr (R-Kentucky) told reporters in February. “I don’t like that.”

The Biden Labor Department rule at issue attempted to undo Trump-era policy that discouraged retirement plan managers from incorporating environmental and social factors into investment decisions. The Biden rule allows them to do so but does not require it.

Wall Street firms and their trade groups largely stayed on the sidelines during the fight, despite being the subject of criticism from Republican lawmakers. Lobbyists were confident that Biden would veto the repeal; and the industry is also laying low as the issue makes its way through the courts. The state of Texas is leading a multi-state lawsuit to block the rule.

“There’s just no upside,” said one trade association representative, granted anonymity to speak candidly. “Why bother, especially when you’ve got 25 state attorneys general who already have said they’re going to pony up and litigate?”

The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on overturning the veto, per a floor schedule circulated on Friday, March17. Near-unanimous Democratic opposition makes it unlikely the effort will garner the two-thirds support needed.

Research contact: @politico

Biden creates two national monuments in the Southwest

March 22, 2023

On Tuesday, March 21, President Joe Biden designated two new national monuments in the Southwest—insulating from development a half million acres in Nevada that are revered by Native Americans and 6,600 acres in Texas that were once admired by the writer Jack Kerouac, reports The New York Times.

In southern Nevada, Biden protected a large portion of the Spirit Mountain area, encompassing some of the most biologically diverse and culturally significant lands in the Mojave Desert. Near El Paso, Texas, he will establish the Castner Range National Monument on a former artillery range along rugged canyons and arroyos that rise out of the desert near the Franklin Mountains.

The Spirit Mountain area, also known by the Mojave name Avi Kwa Ame, is the largest such monument that Biden has designated to date, and only the second national monument created specifically to protect Native history.

Avi Kwa Ame is considered the creation site for Yuman-speaking tribes like the Fort Mojave, the Cocopah, the Quechan, and the Hopi. Native tribes, environmental groups, and local and state leaders have been seeking the designation for more than a decade.

Castner Range, located at the Army base Fort Bliss, served as a training and testing site for the U.S. Army during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War until it closed in 1966. The range includes archaeological sites, some prehistoric, that feature cave etchings made by Native Americans and stone shelters built by ranchers more than a century ago. The terrain is filled with Mexican yellow poppies; and serves as a habitat for the checkered whip tail lizard, desert cottontail, and Western desert tarantula.

It has also been littered with thousands of rounds of unexploded ordnance. Once the area is made safe for public access, Castner Range is intended to expand access to nature for the historically underserved communities bordering the range, according to a White House statement. In the 1950s, the novelist Jack Kerouac extolled the view from the range in “The Dharma Bums”—writing of seeing “all of Mexico, all of Chihuahua, the entire sand-glittering desert of it, under a late sinking moon that was huge and bright.”

Biden is using the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish the new monuments, which will insulate them from development.

About 33,000 acres of the Spirit Mountain area already were protected under the Wilderness Act of 1964. The newly expanded monument will create a corridor that links the Mojave National Preserve and the Castle Mountains National Monument in California to the Sloan Canyon and Lake Mead national recreation areas in Nevada and Arizona.

That would ensure a migratory path for desert bighorn sheep and mule deer, and protect critical habitat for the desert tortoises, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, western screech owls, and Gila monsters that are native to the region. Some 28 species of native grasses, a number of them rare, also grow there, as well as some of the oldest and largest Joshua trees in the United States.

Biden also has used the Antiquities Act to create a national monument at Camp Hale, Colorado and to restore three monuments that were diminished by former President Donald Trump: Northeast Canyons and Seamounts, Bears Ears, and Grand Staircase-Escalante.

To date, the Bears Ears national monument in eastern Utah has been the only national monument to explicitly address its Indigenous roots. (Today, the monument is jointly managed by a council made up of delegates from five tribes.) The designation of a second one appears designed by the Biden administration to send a message to Indigenous communities that have long fought for a meaningful say in the management of their ancestral lands.

The creation of the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument could spur pushback from renewable energy companies seeking to gain a foothold in one of the nation’s best regions for wind and solar power at a time when Biden has promised to speed up the country’s transition to clean energy.

But there is currently no wind or solar development within the proposed monument area and much of the land was excluded from energy development under a federal conservation designation, said Melissa Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Interior Department.

There is one pending application for a 700-megawatt solar project on part of the designated land that has been identified as an exception from the conservation designation, the Schwartz said.

And a California-based solar company, Avantus, has sought access to part of the land that will be included in the expanded Spirit Mountain monument in order to use existing transmission lines and access roads from a shuttered coal-burning power plant in nearby Laughlin, Nevada. But the Interior Department has not yet begun processing the company’s application.

Outside the boundaries for the proposed national monument, the federal government has identified nine million acres of public lands in Nevada for large-scale solar development and nearly 16.8 million acres of public lands for potential wind development.

Research contact: @nytimes

Biden, decrying gun violence near massacre site, signs executive order

March 16, 2023

On Tuesday, March 14, President Joe Biden visited Monterey Park, California—where residents still are in mourning following the mass murder of 11 people in January—and used the occasion to announce an executive order increasing the number of background checks for gun sales, although he acknowledged the action falls short of what action by Congress could achieve, reports The Washington Post.

In this largely Asian suburb of Los Angeles, where a day of jubilation to celebrate the Lunar New Year in January turned to anguish and terror as a shooter opened fire inside a dance studio, Biden attempted to draw renewed attention to the pain inflicted on communities that experience spasms of violence.

“Enough. Do something,” Biden told a crowd of about 200 at the West San Gabriel Valley Boys and Girls Club. “I’m here with you today to act.”

In addition to the background checks, Biden’s executive order directs his Cabinet to develop a proposal on how the federal government can better assist communities after a mass killing—aiming to mobilize resources for human-caused disasters in the way that Washington already does for natural disasters.

Biden also is urging the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public report that would analyze how gun manufacturers market firearms to minors.

Together, the actions amount to the president’s latest attempt to use his executive authority to crack down on gun violence—efforts that necessarily are narrower in scope than measures urged by gun-control activists that would require congressional approval. While Biden’s aides acknowledge the constraints imposed by the U.S. Constitution and the current congressional reality, he is hoping to reignite a debate around mass killings and the country’s struggles to come up with a response.

Biden’s appearance also marked the latest turn in what increasingly looks like an all-but-certain reelection bid. The visit to Monterey Park came during a three-day West Coast swing that is featuring a signature foreign policy accomplishment, fundraisers at glitzy locations, and an appearance in Las Vegas on Wednesday to discuss prescription drug prices.

On Monday night, Biden spoke at a home estimated to be worth more than $8 million in Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego, raising some $1 million from about 40 attendees. On Tuesday night, he was scheduled to host another fundraiser in Las Vegas.

And while his efforts on gun control are not likely to introduce the sweeping change that many Democrats want on the issue, Biden is sure to continue using it as an electoral rallying cry.

He has continued to call for an assault weapons ban, background checks on all gun sales and the repeal of gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability. But those kinds of bills are unlikely to pass Congress, particularly with Republicans in control of the House and Democrats holding a narrow Senate majority.

“Let’s be clear: none of this absolves Congress from the responsibility of acting,” Biden said. “I am determined, once again, to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”

Tuesday’s executive order instructs Attorney General Merrick Garland to increase compliance among firearms sellers who are flouting the law, either intentionally or inadvertently, by not running background checks ahead of firearm purchases.

“The president is directing the attorney general to move the U.S. as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation,” according to a White House summary. The move aims to further clarify a provision of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which Biden signed last year.

That law, enacted in June following a mass killing at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, was the first gun-control measure that Congress had passed in 30 years. While it expanded background checks and provided mental health funding, it was crafted to be relatively modest to pass a divided Congress.

Garland is also being directed to develop a plan that would prevent firearms dealers whose licenses have been revoked or surrendered from continuing to sell guns.

Biden also is instructing his Cabinet to raise public awareness of “red flag” laws, which allow Americans to petition a court to determine whether someone is dangerous and should have their access to firearms temporarily removed. The president also wants more attention on the safe storage of guns, so that children or other inappropriate individuals can’t access firearms.

“Every few days in the United States, we mourn a new mass shooting,” Biden wrote in the order. “Daily acts of gun violence—including community violence, domestic violence, suicide, and accidental shootings—may not always make the evening news, but they too cut lives short and leave survivors and their communities with long-lasting physical and mental wounds.”

“Thank you, President Biden,” said Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman and gun-violence survivor who founded an advocacy group to curb gun violence.

“Our diversity is the strength of this nation,” the president said. As he closed out his remarks before meeting privately with family members, he looked out at the audience and said, “God bless you all. I admire you so damn much.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Biden’s trip to Kyiv becomes ‘the ultimate humiliation’ for Putin—and Trump

February 21, 2023

Kennedy, and then Reagan, in Berlin. Now Biden in Kyiv. Periodically, during the past sixty years, American presidents have stood up at the Eastern edge of Europe and looked to Russia to say, “We stand with our allies. Our resolve is unshakeable.”

Kennedy said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev tear down that wall.”

And Biden, on his surprise President’s Day visit to Kyiv said, “One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” reports David Rothkopf in an opinion piece for The Daily Beast.

Stirringly, Rothkopf noted, just days ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal offensive against Ukraine, Biden walked through the streets of Kyiv, paid his respects to those who had fallen in defense of Ukraine, and said, “Freedom is priceless. It’s worth fighting for, for as long as it takes.”

Biden also invoked the conversation he had with Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelensky last February, as Russia’s massive escalation of its nine-year-old war of unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. He recalled with Zelensky at his side, “You said you didn’t know when we’d be able to speak again. That dark night … the world was literally bracing for the fall of Kyiv … perhaps even the end of Ukraine.”

Of course, the symbolism of the American president standing alongside Zelensky, walking through the Ukrainian capital even as air raid sirens sounded, carried many other messages as well.

To those fighting for Ukraine, it was a vitally important message of solidarity that came with further commitments from Biden of military support for Ukraine.

To Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, it was Biden’s way of saying, “I am here in Kyiv and you are not. You not only did not take Kyiv in days as some predicted, but your attack was rebuffed. Your army suffered a humiliating defeat from which it has not recovered.”

“We cannot know. But what we know today is that, thanks to the resolve of Biden and the West, and the inspiring courage and resilience of the people of Ukraine … Russia’s army has been weakened, depleted and revealed to be profoundly dysfunctional,” wrote Rothkopf.

“We also cannot know what challenges the next phases of this war are likely to present. But thanks to Biden’s visit today, it is crystal clear that Ukraine will not be facing them alone and that Ukraine’s enemies and their current and potential allies should never again underestimate the resolve of the United States and NATO to do what they have been doing for decades, since Kennedy’s trip and Reagan’s, to defend with whatever it takes our values, our democracies and the security provided by an international order based on the rule of law.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

In State of the Union address, Biden mixes bipartisanship with defiance

February 9, 2023

President Joe Biden, facing a vocal and divided Congress, used his second State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 7, to emphasize popular ideas from job creation to healthcare—aiming to throw Republicans on the defensive and pitch himself as a friend of ordinary Americans, reports The Washington Post.

In a speech that foreshadowed his potential 2024 campaign message, Biden defended his record, made a direct appeal to blue-collar workers, and sought to shift voter attitudes about the economy by touting his administration’s massive investment in the nation’s infrastructure.

Alternating between calls for Republicans to unify with Democrats and condemnation of the GOP’s least popular policies, Biden showcased both the potential for future cooperation and the likelihood of nasty partisan fights over the next two years.

“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together and find consensus on important things in this Congress as well,” Biden said. “The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict gets us nowhere.”

That remark was met with applause, but the comity quickly gave way to acrimony as GOP lawmakers began interrupting the president with shouts of opposition. The break in decorum came as Republicans took exception to Biden’s remarks on issues ranging from the fentanyl crisis to the national debt—and he often fired back.

The speech—taking place just weeks before Biden’s expected announcement that he will seek reelection—was widely viewed as a soft launch for a campaign for a second term. Adding to the tension of the moment was a looming partisan fight over the debt limit and the approach of the one-year mark of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Biden presented himself as an elder statesman capable of working across the aisle while also cutting the figure of a shrewd politician with strongly held beliefs. He outlined areas for potential bipartisanship—including technology, health care and foreign policy—but sharply rejected Republican proposals on issues ranging from immigration to taxes to Social Security and Medicare.

He adopted “Let’s finish the job” as a mantra, a phrase that seemed designed to temper his triumphant declarations with a recognition that many Americans remain anxious and are far from feeling secure or prosperous.

And he sought to shape a political message of empathy and help for ordinary Americans: “Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades, too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible. Maybe that’s you, watching at home,” Biden said. “You remember the jobs that went away, and you wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away. I get it.”

The night’s most unexpected drama was a back-and-forth between speaker and audience that is highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented in a presidential address to Congress. When Biden began decrying the opioid crisis, GOP lawmakers shouted back about the border.

When he noted disapprovingly that some lawmakers want to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, some Republicans cheered. Biden ad-libbed dryly, “As a coach of mine used to say, ‘Good luck in your senior year.’”

When Biden said the Trump Administration was responsible for nearly 25% of the national debt, GOP lawmakers protested vocally; Biden responded: “Check it out. Check it out.”

But the most forceful Republican response, a cascade of boos and denials, came when Biden said that some Republicans want to cut Medicare and Social Security. Several Republicans shouted loudly enough to interrupt Biden’s speech, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who exclaimed “Liar!”

The president responded by professing surprise that they had changed their position and now liked those programs, saying, “I enjoy conversion.” Adding that he would veto any effort to cut Social Security and Medicare, he added wryly, “But apparently it’s not going to be a problem.”

Greene shouted interruptions during Biden’s speech several times. When Biden addressed U.S. competition with China, she shouted, “China’s spying on us!” That prompted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) to try to shush her from behind the dais.

With Republicans planning to use their majority to frustrate much of Biden’s agenda, many of the proposals Biden endorsed on Tuesday night were unlikely to be realized over the next two years, the Post said. In effect, he was using the biggest stage of his presidency as an opportunity to sell his vision, his record and his agenda heading toward the 2024 election.

From the record pace of job creation to growth in the manufacturing sector, to new semiconductor plants and infrastructure projects, Biden presented a broadly optimistic view.

“Two years ago the economy was reeling,” he said. “I stand here tonight, after we’ve created, with the help of many people in this room, 12 million new jobs—more jobs created in two years than any president has created in four years.”

And in a speech to a chamber with dozens of lawmakers who have questioned the legitimacy of American elections, he described the country’s democracy as “bruised” but “unbowed and unbroken” in the aftermath of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Biden also proposed extending some of his more popular achievements. He called for Congress to pass a provision that would cap the cost of insulin at $35 per month in the private insurance market. Congressional Democrats and the administration tried to pass such a measure last year, but it was modified to apply only to people on Medicare, the health insurance program for seniors, after objections from Senate Republicans.

The expanded proposal is highly unlikely to gain traction among Republican lawmakers despite its popularity across party lines. But White House officials are seeking to use the issue to hammer Republicans for blocking action to lower Americans’ health-care costs.

Biden also addressed the alleged Chinese spy balloon that flew across much of the continental United States last week before a U.S. military aircraft shot it down over the Atlantic coast on Saturday, February 4. Biden said he has made clear to Chinese President Xi Jinping that the United States seeks competition with Beijing rather than conflict, but added, “I will make no apologies that we are investing to make America strong.”

He also reiterated his oft-stated view that China is the biggest long-term threat to American interests. “Make no mistake about it: As we made clear last week, if China’s threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country,” he said. “And we did.”

The president then touted the bipartisan infrastructure law, another part of the speech that invited bipartisan applause:

“To my Republican friends who voted against it but still ask to fund projects in their districts, don’t worry. I promised to be the president for all Americans,” Biden said. “We’ll fund your projects. And I’ll see you at the groundbreaking.”

Biden also announced new standards to require construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in the United States, which prompted a standing ovation from both Democrats and Republicans, including McCarthy.

Biden also took on the war in Ukraine, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade the country last February “a test for the ages.” He sought to emphasize why the United States should be committed to the war effort “as long as it takes” at a time when Republicans are showing more wariness about the amount of aid the United States is sending.

The president also addressed the spate of gun violence that has rocked several communities, with dozens of mass shootings already this year. Biden reiterated his call for a federal ban on assault weapons Tuesday, although Republican lawmakers have said such a bill is a nonstarter.

One of first lady Jill Biden’s guests at the event was 26-year-old Brandon Tsay, who disarmed a man who is accused of killing 11 people in Monterey Park, California, last month. Tsay was among several guests recognized by the president, who called on Congress to go beyond praise for the young man and take action to reduce gun violence.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

McCarthy: Social Security, Medicare cuts are ‘off the table’

January 31, 2023

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, January 29, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said ahead of a meeting with President Joe Biden this week that cuts to Medicare and Social Security are off the table in talks around raising the debt limit, reports The Hill.

McCarthy has said that Republicans want commitments to spending reductions in exchange for raising the debt limit—but has been unclear about what exactly the GOP would be willing to cut. While he said Medicare and Social Security slashes are off the table in his interview, he essentially said everything else, including defense spending, is under the microscope.

“I want to make sure we’re protected in our defense spending, but I want to make sure it’s effective and efficient,” McCarthy said. “I want to look at every single dollar we are spending, no matter where it is being spent.”

McCarthy came under fire from some in his party for possibly eyeing defense cuts. In order to become Speaker, he made a deal with some Republican holdouts that he would roll back defense spending to 2022 levels. The agreement drew the ire of some conservatives, who said any cut to defense spending would be irresponsible.

“You’re gonna tell me inside defense there’s no waste?” McCarthy asked on Sunday. “We shouldn’t just print more money. We should balance our budget.”

The White House has said that it will not negotiate with Republicans on spending cuts, but McCarthy sounded more optimistic about the possibility that Biden would make concessions on spending in a meeting with the Speaker this Wednesday.

“I know his staff tries to say something different, but I think the President is gonna be willing to make an agreement together,” McCarthy said.

America reached its statutory debt limit of around $31.4 trillion earlier this month, but the Treasury Department is taking measures to be able to pay the government’s bills until sometime in June. Lawmakers must either raise the debt limit or come to an agreement on a short-term extension of the limit.

Research contact: @thehill

Classified documents found at Mike Pence’s home and turned over to DOJ

January 25, 2023

Classified documents have been found in the home of former Vice President Mike Pence and turned over to the FBI for review, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

A lawyer for Pence conducted the search of Pence’s home in Indiana last week and found around a dozen documents marked as classified, sources said. The search was done proactively and in the wake of the news that classified documents from before he was president were found in President Joe Biden’s home in Delaware and in his old office at the Penn Biden Center, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

The Pence documents are undergoing a review by the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and the FBI, sources said.

Pence previously told ABC News’ David Muir that he did not retain any classified information after leaving office.

“Let me ask you, as we sit here in your home office in Indiana, did you take any classified documents with you from the White House?” Muir asked in a November 2022 interview.

“I did not,” Pence said then. Asked if he saw “any reason for anyone to take classified documents with them, leaving the White House,” he said, “There’d be no reason to have classified documents, particularly if they were in an unprotected area.”

CNN first reported the discovery of classified materials.

Research contact: @abcnews

United States, Canada, Mexico slam Brazil unrest amid questions on Bolsonaro’s Florida stay

January 10, 2023

On Monday, January 9, President Joe Biden and his Mexican and Canadian counterparts denounced the weekend storming of Brazil’s government institutions—pledging to support the recently elected leader of the country, whose predecessor has fueled doubts about his legitimacy, reports Politico.

The statement from the three men came as they attended the North American Leaders’ Summit and as Democrats called for the former Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, to get kicked out of the United States. Bolsonaro is reported to have been staying in Florida after he skipped the inauguration of his recent successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, widely known as Lula.

Unwilling to accept his defeat, Bolsonaro supporters on Sunday stormed Brazil’s presidential, congressional, and Supreme Court buildings. The events echoed the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump—a supporter of Bolsonaro. Like Trump, Bolsonaro has a strongman style and sought to sow doubts about the election which he lost.

Monday’s statement from Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was short and terse, but it put the countries’ full support behind Lula.

“We stand with Brazil as it safeguards its democratic institutions. Our governments support the free will of the people of Brazil. We look forward to working with President Lula on delivering for our countries, the Western Hemisphere, and beyond,” the three leaders said.

Numerous Democratic lawmakers have spoken out against the Brazilian attacks since Sunday, while Republicans, possibly due to concerns about avoiding Trump’s ire, were largely quiet as of Monday morning.

Representative Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from Texas, was among the lawmakers who said the United States needs to kick Bolsonaro out of Florida and back to Brazil, where the former president is under investigation on a number of allegations.

“Bolsonaro must not be given refuge in Florida, where he’s been hiding from accountability for his crimes,” Castro tweeted.

The State Department declined to comment on the type of visa the former Brazilian leader used to enter the United States—saying such records are confidential. But the United States generally has broad leeway to revoke visas.

Since losing office, Bolsonaro has sent mixed signals about his views on what his supporters should do to back his claims of a rigged election. It’s not clear what precisely sparked the attacks on Sunday.

But the former president on Sunday did tweet out a careful condemnation that also dinged his political foes: “Peaceful demonstrations, in the form of the law, are part of democracy. However, depredations and invasions of public buildings as occurred today, as well as those practiced by the left in 2013 and 2017, escape the rule.”

Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, has close ties with Trump-aligned conservative figures in the United States, such as Steve Bannon and Jason Miller, and has been in contact with them since the October presidential election.

On his “War Room” podcast on Monday, Bannon claimed the Bolsonaros have not been involved in the unrest in Brazil; and he mocked allegations that he, himself, orchestrated the assaults. But he has been supportive of the protesters’ efforts.

On Sunday, January 8, Bannon called the protesters “Brazilian freedom fighters.” And he has continued to allege corruption and fraud in Brazil’s election—and on Monday called for Lula to “open up the machines.”

Research contact: @politico

Two women see their signatures printed on U.S. currency for the first time

December 12, 2022

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen traveled to Texas on Thursday, December 8, to mark an important and historic milestone—touring the Fort Worth Bureau of Engraving and Printing facility to observe firsthand the printing of $1 and $5 bills with her signature for the first time, reports CNN.

Yellen became the latest Treasury secretary to sign U.S. currency and the first woman Treasury secretary to have her signature on a U.S. banknote. U.S. Treasurer Lynn Malerba also signed the note, marking the first time the signatures of two women are featured on U.S. currency—and the first time a Native American’s signature has appeared on U.S. currency.

Its been tradition for more than a century that both the U.S. treasurer and the Treasury secretary sign currency to make the bills legal tender. And despite Yellen being in her role since January 2021, it’s taken until now because of the delayed appointment of a new treasurer. In June, President Joe Biden appointed Malerba to the post.

Yellen and Malerba viewed the official engraving plates of sheets of dollars, using magnifying glasses to see their signatures. Yellen was then shown how to engrave a number into a conduction plate that will be used to produce the currency. She even got to push a button to print sheets of new bills.

Yellen said in remarks after her tour that she was “truly honored” by the banknotes, which will be delivered to the Federal Reserve this month and begin to circulate to Americans’ wallets “starting in the new year.”

“You would think this would be a straightforward process. But the founding fathers did not account for what seems to be a common attribute for Treasury secretaries—namely, terrible handwriting,” Yellen joked.

“I will admit I spent some quality time practicing my signature before submitting it,” she added.

The newly printed bills feature the signatures of “Lynn Roberge Malerba” and “Janet L. Yellen,” both written in clear, legible script.

The Fort Worth facility is one of just two places where paper currency is printed in the United States, a Treasury official told CNN, and it prints more than half of new bills every year. The new bills are only being printed at this facility as of now, the official noted; but will begin to be printed at a second facility, in Washington, D.C., eventually.

Research contact: @CNN

Biden pushes South Carolina as first primary state, elevates Georgia and Michigan

December 5, 2022

President Joe Biden has asked leaders of the Democratic National Committee to make South Carolina the nation’s first primary state, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada a week later; and to hold subsequent weekly primaries in Georgia and Michigan, according to Democrats briefed on the plans, reports The Washington Post.

The tectonic decision to remake his party’s presidential nominating calendar for 2024 came as a shock to party officials and state leaders who had been lobbying hard in recent weeks to gain a place in the early calendar, which historically attracts millions of dollars in candidate spending and attention. While many in the party had long anticipated changes, the specific order Biden proposed had generated little if any chatter in Democratic circles. Much of the talk among Democrats had not focused much on either South Carolina going first or Georgia joining the early mix.

The proposal is likely to win approval from the Democratic officials, given the support from the leader of the party. By breaking with decades of tradition, Biden’s move is meant to signal his party’s commitment to elevating more variety—demographic, geographic, and economic—in the early nominating process. Iowa, a largely White state that historically held the nation’s first Democratic caucus and experienced embarrassing problems tabulating results in 2020, would have no early role in the Biden plan.

“We must ensure that voters of color have a voice in choosing our nominee much earlier in the process and throughout the entire early window,” Biden wrote in a letter to members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee that was delivered on Thursday evening, December 1, as members planned to meet for dinner. “As I said in February 2020, you cannot be the Democratic nominee and win a general election unless you have overwhelming support from voters of color—and that includes Black, Brown, and Asian American & Pacific Islander voters.”

The new calendar would run through states that were pivotal to Biden’s victory in the 2020 nominating fight and general election, suggesting he is serious about following through on his public statements about intending to seek reelection. In the Thursday letter, Biden told fellow Democrats that he did not want to bind the party to the same calendar in 2028.

“The Rules and Bylaws Committee should review the calendar every four years, to ensure that it continues to reflect the values and diversity of our party and our country,” he wrote.

The plan is expected to face resistance from some of the affected states. Democrats in New Hampshire said Thursday night that they would not abide by Biden’s wishes. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, has also said he would follow state law and hold his state’s primary a week before any other.

“The DNC did not give New Hampshire the first-in-the-nation primary and it is not theirs to take away,” New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said in a statement. “This news is obviously disappointing, but we will be holding our primary first. We have survived past attempts over the decades and we will survive this.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) called the Biden recommendation “tremendously disappointing.” Senator Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) said in a statement that it was “deeply misguided.”

Iowa Democrats also signaled resistance to the plan. “This is merely a recommendation,” said Scott Brennan, Iowa’s representative on the Rules and Bylaws Committee. “We’re going to stand up for Iowa’s place in the process.”

“This is a principled decision. Fundamentally, he felt that this was an opportunity,” said one Biden adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to more openly describe the president’s decision to prioritize states with more diverse electorates. “He has done it with the Supreme Court. He has done it with his Cabinet and his administration. He just felt it was very important.”

The Michigan delegation greeted the news as a success. “This president knows that any road to the White House has to go through the heartland of America,” said Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan), who had helped to lead her state’s bid. “To me this has been a 30-year quest,” she said, referring to her work with the late Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to get the state on the early calendar.

South Carolina Democrats also welcomed the news. “It appears as though President Biden is not only transforming our country,” Trav Robertson, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, wrote in a text message. “He’s transforming the way in which we nominate presidents. He is going to have a lasting impact on America.”

“I got into politics because of civil rights and the possibility to change our imperfect union into something better,” Biden wrote on Thursday. “For 50 years, the first month of our presidential nominating process has been a treasured part of our democratic process, but it is time to update the process for the 21st century.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost