Posts tagged with "Speaker Kevin McCarthy"

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

GOP removes Rep. Omar from Foreign Relations Committee, citing her comments on Israel

February 3, 2023

On Thursday, February 2, the Republican-led House voted along party lines to remove Minnesota Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Relations Committee over previous comments she made about Israel that members of both parties viewed as antisemitic, reports USA Today.

Omar said on the House floor Thursday that the vote to remove her is about more than silencing her voice: “This debate today is about who gets to be an American,” she said. “I am an American. An American who was sent here by her constituents to represent them in Congress.”

“Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy?” she said on the House floor prior to the vote.

Republican leaders have threatened to take action against Omar over a number of controversial statements she’s made since she came to Capitol Hill in 2019.

But the GOP calls got louder last year when the Democrat-led House stripped Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) of committee assignments for menacing social media posts. Both GOP lawmakers have been reinstated to committees this Congress.

Born in Somalia, Omar fled the country’s civil war when she was eight. The family spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before arriving in the United States, according to her congressional biography. In 1997, she moved to Minneapolis with her family, living in the city that she now represents in Congress.

A prominent progressive in Congress, Omar, who is Muslim, has been a fierce critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and routinely questions U.S. aid to the Middle East ally.

Omar faced criticism in 2019 from both sides of the aisle for comments she made during a town hall and for controversial Twitter replies.

During the town hall event, Omar suggested Israel demands “allegiance” from American lawmakers—adding that “a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, (think) that everything we say about Israel (is) anti-Semitic because we are Muslim.” 

Critics condemned Omar’s comments. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a statement that “the charge of dual loyalty not only raises the ominous specter of classic anti-Semitism, but it is also deeply insulting to the millions upon millions of patriotic Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, who stand by our democratic ally, Israel.”

Omar also faced backlash when she responded to a Tweet from journalist Glenn Greenwald, who shared an article about then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy considering “action” against Omar Tlaib, for their criticisms of Israel.

“It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans,” Greenwald tweeted.

“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar replied on Twitter, referencing $100 bills.

Then, a columnist replied that she “would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess.”

“AIPAC!” Omar tweeted in response, referencing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Omar apologized for the posts the next day and deleted the tweets, but the Twitter reply sparked outrage even among Democratic leadership.

The congresswoman also was admonished in 2021 for a tweet in which she demanded accountability and justice for “unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”

“Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided,” Illinois Representative Brad Schneider and 11 other Democrats wrote in a joint statement in response to her tweet.

Her comment in 2019 that “some people did something” in describing the September 11 attacks drew harsh rebuke from Republicans as well as family members of those killed in the terrorist attack. She said her comments were taken out of context—noting that Muslims across the nation became immediate targets.

“What I was speaking to was the fact that as a Muslim, not only was I suffering as an American who was attacked on that day, but the next day I woke up as my fellow Americans were now treating me a suspect,” she told Face the Nation later that year. “To some people, it’s easy for them to not think of me as an American, as someone who would not have the same feelings as they did as we were being attacked on American soil.”

As he campaigned to help Republicans take back the House last year, McCarthy vowed to strip Omar of her Foreign Relations seat, if he were elected speaker. In an interview last year with the conservative media site Breitbart, McCarthy said removing Omar was due in part to Democrats using a “new standard” in removing Greene and Gosar.

The vote to oust Omar from Foreign Relations, a committee which she has served on since 2019, follows Democrats reappointing her to serve on the committee last week. The resolution to oust her only needed a simple majority to pass—but no Democrat was expected to support it.

“McCarthy’s effort to repeatedly single me out for scorn and hatred—including threatening to strip me from my committee— does nothing to address the issues our constituents deal with,” Omar said in a statement.

Research contact: @USATODAY

Rep. Adam Schiff to run for Senate in California

January 30, 2023

Representative Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who emerged as one of former President Donald Trump’s chief congressional tormentors from his perch atop the House Intelligence Committee, announced on Thursday, January 26, that he would seek the Senate seat long held by Dianne Feinstein, reports The New York Times.

“I wish I could say the threat of MAGA extremists is over,” he said in a video on Twitter. “It is not. Today’s Republican Party is gutting the middle class, threatening our democracy. They aren’t going to stop. We have to stop them.”

Schiff, 62, is the second member of California’s Democratic congressional delegation to join the 2024 race, after Representative Katie Porter.

He enters the campaign with the largest national profile, according to the Times—built from his position as the manager of Trump’s first impeachment trial. He later served on the House committee responsible for investigating the origins of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

On Tuesday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, exiled Schiff and Representative Eric Swalwell, another California Democrat, from the House Intelligence Committee in retribution for their actions toward Republicans when Democrats held the majority.

Feinstein, 89, has not said whether she will run again in 2024; but is widely expected not to do so as she faces Democratic worries about her age and ability to serve. Last year, she declined to serve as president pro tem of the Senate, and in 2020 she ceded her post as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee after coming under pressure from her party during the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

In an interview with the Times on Thursday, Schiff said he had first apprised Senator Feinstein of his plans several weeks ago, in person, on Capitol Hill and again by phone on Wednesday.

“She was very gracious,” he said. “I let her know that I wanted to make my announcement, and she could not have been nicer about it.”

Schiff said that he did not want to speculate about whether Feinstein might retire, and that she deserved to set her own schedule for making an announcement about her political future.

“Once more, I have a genuine admiration and affection for her, and wanted to do everything I can to respect that,” he said.

A former federal prosecutor, Schiff served in California’s State Senate before being elected to a Los Angeles-area House seat in 2000.

In Congress, he became a close ally of (former) Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who tapped him to play a leading role in Trump’s impeachment trial and then on the January 6 committee. Last fall, Schiff passed on a chance for a slot on the post-Pelosi House leadership team in order to focus on a planned run for the Senate.

During and after the Trump years, Schiff became one of the most prodigious fund-raisers in Congress. During the 2018 election cycle, he raised $6.3 million, and then his fund-raising surged to $19.6 million in 2020 and $24.5 million in 2022 — without a competitive election of his own to wage. He has not faced a serious challenge since arriving in Congress, winning each of his general elections by at least 29 percentage points.

According to the latest Federal Election Commission reports, Schiff had $20.6 million in campaign money at the end of November; compared with $7.7 million for Porter and $54,940 for Representative Barbara Lee, who has told donors of her plans to run.

While Schiff and Lee’s House seats are safely Democratic, Porter’s is far more contested; she won re-election in November by three percentage points.

California—the nation’s most populous state with nearly 40 million residents—has not hosted a highly competitive contest for an open Senate seat since 1992, when Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, a fellow Democrat, were both elected for the first time.

Feinstein, who is in her sixth term, has been trailed by questions about her fitness to serve. Problems with her short-term memory have become an open secret on Capitol Hill, although few Democrats have been willing to discuss the subject publicly.

She has made no moves to suggest she will seek re-election in 2024. She has not hired a campaign staff and, in the latest campaign finance report for the period ending in September, had less than $10,000 in cash on hand—a paltry sum for a sitting senator.

Not since the early 1990s have both sitting senators from California been men. When asked whether electing a woman might be a priority for some voters after the Supreme Court’s repeal last year of Roe v. Wade, Schiff played down the potential role of gender in the race.

“I’m very proud of my fierce efforts to protect women’s reproductive freedom and my pro-choice record is a stellar one,” he said.

Schiff had earlier suggested that his election to the Senate could be symbolic in another way: “I think a lot of Californians will relish the idea of making Adam Schiff Kevin McCarthy’s home-state senator,” he said.

Research contact: @nytimes

George Santos now indicates $625K of loans to his campaign might not be ‘personal’

January 27, 2023

New campaign disclosures from embattled Representative George Santos (R-New York) suggest that at least $625,000 in campaign loans he had previously reported as self-funded might not be sourced from his “personal funds,” reports ABCNews.

Campaign finance experts say Santos may be violating campaign finance laws by not properly disclosing the original sources of those loans.

In a series of amendments filed on Tuesday, January 24, Santos marked two loans that he had previously reported as loans from himself— $500,000 from March 2022 and $125,000 from October 2022—as not from “personal funds from the candidate.”

In a previous version of his campaign disclosure, the $500,000 was reported as a loan from George Anthony Devolder-Santos, with a checked box indicating it was from “personal funds of the candidate.” But in an amendment to that report filed on Tuesday, that box was left unchecked.

Similarly, in another amendment filed on Tuesday, the $125,000 loan was reported as a self-loan from Santos but it had an unmarked box now indicating that it’s not from his personal funds. That loan was previously reported under the contributions section, with a memo that it was a self-loan from Santos.

Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance expert and the deputy executive director of Documented, said a campaign loan reported under a candidate, but not marked as “personal funds of the candidate,” usually means that the loan is secured through a bank or another person.

Under campaign finance laws, disclosures of such loans are required to be accompanied by the original source of the loans as well as the due date and the interest rate, Fischer said. But Santos’ amended filings did not disclose any of that information.

Santos declined to comment on the changes when asked by reporters outside his office on Wednesday: “I have no comment for you on that … I have no clue on what you are talking about,” he said.

Fischer said Santos’ new amendments “make no sense” and added that “unchecking the box is not going to absolve Santos from any legal liabilities.”

Adav Noti, former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission and now senior vice president and legal director of Campaign Legal Center, said the possibility of the changes being unintentional clerical errors, which the Santos campaign has a history of, should not be discounted at this point.

“I don’t think the amendments shed light either way on anything that happened,” Noti said. “There’s one checkbox on one form that was changed. There’s no indication that that was intentional, and there’s all sorts of indication that it might have just been sloppiness.”

Regardless of the intention of the changes, campaign finance lawyer and Deputy Executive Director of the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation Paul Seamus Ryan emphasized the importance of proper disclosures of campaign funds.

“Disclosure of the source and terms of such a loan is important because federal law requires that loans obtained by a candidate for use in the candidate’s campaign must be on the usual and customary terms that would be offered to any similarly situated borrower,” Ryan said.

“I’m not sure what Santos’ motivation was for the loan-related amendments, but he hasn’t cleared up potential violations of federal law,” Ryan added.

Santos, who was elected in November to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District, has been under mounting scrutiny over his finances—with 2022 disclosures indicating millions in assets after previously disclosing less than $60,000 in income in 2020—as well as a string of falsehoods and embellishments he told about his background.

Democrats also have filed a complaint against him with the House Ethics Committee.

Santos has insisted he is not a criminal and has vowed to serve his term for his constituents—suggesting it’s up to them to reelect him or vote him out of office. He was recently given assignments on two lower-level congressional committees: the panels for small business and science, space and technology.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday that “I will hold  him [Santos] to the same standard I hold anyone else elected.”

If Santos is found to have broken the law, then “we will remove him,” McCarthy said, though it was unclear what punishment McCarthy was promising.

Research contact: @abcnews