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Harris allies granted call with Biden campaign after Dodd blowup

The conference call included several of the state’s highest-ranking elected officials and labor and business leaders, including Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, state schools chief Tony Thurmond, state Treasurer Fiona Ma and Chad Griffin, a Democratic consultant and former head of Human Rights campaign, according to organizers.

Representing the Biden campaign were the four main members of his vetting team: Dodd, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; and Biden’s former White House and Senate counsel, Cynthia Hogan.

Harris was not involved in organizing the call, they said.

A person on the call said Harris’ allies wanted the campaign to hear from people who know her best. The implication was that others who’ve criticized Harris to the media, and compared her unfavorably to another contender for VP from California, Rep. Karen Bass, were not providing an accurate reflection of Harris or her record.

One person briefed on the call said the Harris allies wanted to “correct the record,” and directly referenced the POLITICO reports.

“This was about us sharing how much Kamala would be a stellar vice president,” said one official who participated on the call, referencing Dodd’s earlier remarks.

“He spoke at length about her and said very nice things,” the person said of Dodd’s comments about Harris on the conference call.

POLITICO alluded to the call in a Wednesday story, but the extent of the organization behind it was unclear at the time. Dodd said “very supportive things” about Harris during the call, according to Kounalakis.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who was on the call, said he wanted to convey some of Harris’ attributes.

“We love Senator Harris, and will continue to share her incredible work and record here in California,” Garcia said. “She’s extremely loyal and has the highest integrity and character.”

Biden has said he’d name his running mate sometime next week, but aides now expect the announcement will come the second week of August.

Biden’s campaign faced a backlash over Dodd’s remarks to the donor. A second source has since told POLITICO that Dodd made similar comments about Harris on at least one other phone call during the vetting process.

A source close to Dodd said that he thinks highly of Harris, has spoken with her several times during the vetting process and that he supported Harris’ campaign for Senate.

Critics suggested that Dodd was questioning a woman for being ambitious. In a sign of the extensive damage control the campaign did in the aftermath, Biden’s campaign manager tweeted later this week: “Ambitious women make history, change the world, and win. Our campaign is full of ambitious women going all out for Joe Biden.”

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Is the Senate Filibuster a ‘Jim Crow Relic’ That Should Be Abolished in the Name of Democracy? –

During his eulogy yesterday for Rep. John Lewis (D–Ga.), a leading figure in the civil rights movement, former President Barack Obama expressed support for eliminating the Senate filibuster, which he called a “Jim Crow relic.” That position contradicted the one Obama took as senator in a chamber controlled by Republicans, and his historical framing was more than a little misleading. The filibuster, which in its current form prevents a vote on legislation without 60 votes to cut off debate, was first used in 1837 during the controversy over the Second Bank of the United States, and it has been deployed many times since for reasons having nothing to do with government-enforced white supremacy.

It is true that segregationists used the filibuster to oppose civil rights legislation in the 1950s and ’60s. Most famously, Sen. Strom Thurmond, then a Democrat representing South Carolina, spoke for more than 24 hours to impede passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which aimed to protect the voting rights of African Americans in the South. Southern legislators—including Sen. Robert Byrd (D–W.Va.), an ardent defender of Senate traditions—also used the filibuster in an unsuccessful attempt to block the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned segregation in public schools and racial discrimination in voting requirements, employment, and places of public accommodation.

But that is just a snapshot of the filibuster’s potential uses, which can be either malign or beneficial, depending on the target and one’s view of the legislation’s merits. Just as the principle of federalism does not qualify as a “Jim Crow relic” simply because segregationists invoked it, the filibuster cannot be deemed irredeemable simply because they found it useful. Like other restraints on the majority’s will—including those mandated by the Constitution, such as requiring bicameral approval of legislation and the president’s assent in the absence of a congressional supermajority—the filibuster is an ideologically neutral obstacle that makes it harder to pass laws. Whether you think its net impact is good or bad is apt to depend not only on which party happens to be in power but also on your general view of the work that Congress does.

The filibuster was not part of the original constitutional design. It arose from a rule change that Vice President Aaron Burr urged in 1805. As George Washington University political scientist Sarah Binder explained during a 2010 Senate hearing, Burr thought the chamber’s rule book was cluttered with unnecessary provisions, including what was known as the “previous question” motion, which it turned out could be used to close debate with a simple majority. Unlike the Senate, the House of Representatives retained that rule.

“Today, we know that a simple majority in the House can use the rule to cut off debate,” Binder said. “But in 1805, neither chamber used the rule that way. Majorities were still experimenting with it. And so when Aaron Burr said, ‘Get rid of the previous question motion,’ the Senate didn’t think twice. When they met in 1806, they dropped the motion from the Senate rule book.” In other words, “the filibuster was created by mistake.”

However inadvertent its inception, the filibuster has proven useful to legislators of various parties during the last two centuries, as its persistence demonstrates. And while the very term filibuster—derived from the French flibustier, referring to pirates in the West Indies—suggests a lawless hijacking, there is nothing illegitimate about the tactic, since it is authorized by the Senate’s rules.

When they are in the majority, senators may complain that the filibuster is undemocratic. But the same could be said of many constitutional provisions that prevent a legislative majority from doing whatever it wants, including the restrictions imposed by the Bill of Rights, not to mention the basic principle that Congress may exercise only those powers it has been explicitly granted.

Three decades elapsed between the Senate’s rule change and the first recorded use of the filibuster. In 1837, Whig senators used the tactic in an attempt to keep Democrats from expunging an 1834 resolution that censured President Andrew Jackson for removing federal funds from the Second Bank of the United States. The Democrat-controlled Senate nevertheless nullified the resolution by a five-vote margin.

While “there were very few filibusters before the Civil War,” Binder noted, they were common by the 1880s, deployed against civil rights legislation but also against election law changes, nominations, and the appointment of Senate officers. In 1917, Woodrow Wilson, outraged by Republican senators’ filibustering of his proposal to arm merchant ships as a deterrent to German U-boats, demanded reform to disempower this “little group of willful men.” The Senate responded by adopting Rule 22, which empowered a two-thirds majority to cut off debate—a compromise between Democrats who favored a simple-majority rule and Republicans who resisted any change. In 1975, the Senate reduced the majority required for cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths, or from from 67 to 60 votes in a chamber with 100 members.

“Adoption of Rule 22 occurred because Wilson and the Democrats framed the rule as a matter of national security,” Binder noted. “They fused procedure with policy, and used the bully pulpit to shame senators into reform.” While that description suggests senators who opposed American involvement in World War I were engaged in shameful obstruction, a more skeptical view of that senseless and disastrous conflict suggests otherwise, and the defeat of the Wilson-backed bill inspired a chapter of Profiles in Courage.

Whatever your view of Wilson or World War I, it is indisputable that senators have used the filibuster for what they sincerely believed were sound, public-spirited reasons going beyond petty partisan interests. To take an example that appeals to libertarians, Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) protested the Obama administration’s policy of “targeted killing” via drone with an old-fashioned 13-hour talking filibuster against the nomination of CIA Director John Brennan in 2013. Those of a different political persuasion may admire the eight-and-a-half-hour filibuster that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) pulled off in 2010 to protest the extension of federal tax cuts.

Both Democrats and Republicans have used filibusters or the threat of them to block the nomination of judges and justices whose records they found alarming. That option was largely foreclosed in 2013, when a Democrat-controlled Senate, frustrated by Republican opposition to Obama’s judicial picks, approved a rule that allowed a simple majority to end debate on almost all presidential nominations except for the Supreme Court—an exception that was eliminated four years later, after Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2014 and Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. Both changes were accomplished via the “nuclear option,” a parliamentary maneuver that allows a simple majority to approve rule changes.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.), who had opposed the nuclear option as a threat to venerable Senate norms when George W. Bush was president and Republicans ran the Senate, switched positions in 2013. So did Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.), who as the majority whip during the Bush administration had threatened to make the rule change that Reid resisted.

McConnell warned Democrats that they would regret their shortsighted move. And presumably they did once McConnell, converting again, greased the skids for Trump’s Supreme Court nominees and the president began reshaping the federal judiciary. As the Cato Institute’s Gene Healy noted in 2013, “Serious political movements shouldn’t try to knock down all the barriers to power whenever they temporarily enjoy it, because nothing is permanent in politics save the drive for more federal power, and the weapons you forge may someday be detonated by the other side.”

When politicians are in the mood to defend filibusters (i.e., when their party is not in charge of the Senate), they often say that preserving the tactic helps ensure that the minority’s views receive adequate consideration as legislation is crafted. Bipartisanship for its own sake is a dubious goal. Joe Biden, who is trying to replace Donald Trump as the guy who gets to make nominations without worrying about filibusters, has famously cited his collaboration with Strom Thurmond—yes, the same senator who tried to block a civil rights bill with the longest filibuster in U.S. history—as an inspiring example of bipartisanship. That collaboration produced the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, a godawful piece of legislation that set the pattern for a decade of indiscriminately punitive criminal justice policies.

Still, there is something to be said for mechanisms that require the majority to slow down, reflect a bit, and maybe even read legislation before passing it. Biden used to think so. Last February, while he was competing for the Democratic nomination, he said he was against eliminating filibusters. But this week, contemplating a victory that looks increasingly likely, he is having second thoughts.

Despite his adulation of compromise and consensus, Biden now thinks it may be time to remove this impediment to presidential agendas. “It’s going to depend on how obstreperous [Republicans] become,” Biden told reporters on Monday. “But I think you’re going to just have to take a look at it.”

The situational ethics of filibusters could be seen as evidence that the time-honored tradition is nothing more than a tricky maneuver that members of both major parties praise when it’s convenient and condemn when it’s not. But the relevant question is whether that tricky maneuver, on balance, gives us better or worse government. When you think about the gratuitous, pernicious, and blatantly unconstitutional legislation that Congress manages to pass even when the filibuster option is available, it is hard to imagine that eliminating this obstacle would improve the situation.

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Postpone the Election? That Could Mean President Biden

In the absence of an election by January, Trump’s time as president will end on January 20, 2021. Article II of the Constitution provides that a president is elected to serve a four-year term, and Trump’s four years will be up on that date. Without a new electoral mandate, he’s out.

Who, then, steps into the Oval Office if no election has been held, and the states don’t fill the gap with their own electors? Not Vice President Mike Pence; his term also expires on January 20. So the presidency and vice-presidency would both be vacant.

Now things get weird. By statute, the person next in line for the presidency is the speaker of the House. But in a world with no election, the speakership would be just as vacant as the vice presidency. Just as Trump’s term will end on January 20, the current term of every member of the House of Representatives will end on January 3. The House of Representatives would have no members and couldn’t elect a speaker.

Who’s next? The answer, by statute, is the president pro tempore of the Senate. That office would not be vacant. Only 35 Senate seats are up for election in November; the other 65 Senators are now serving terms that extend beyond 2021. So even without an election, there would still be a Senate, though it would have only 65 members.

The next critical question, of course, is who that president pro tempore would be. By Senate practice stretching back to the 19th century, the most senior member of the majority party is selected as president pro tem. Today, it’s Iowa’s Chuck Grassley. If there is no election this fall, however, Grassley would no longer be in the majority party. Of the 65 Senators whose terms continue past 2021, and who would therefore compose the Senate after January 3 in the absence of a new election, 35 are Democrats.

So, by default, the Democrats would control the Senate. To be clear, exactly 18 Democrats could control the Senate, since they’d make up a voting majority of the caucus.

By the usual rules—most senior member of the majority party—the president pro tem, and thus the president of the United States, would be Vermont’s Pat Leahy.

But the pro tem process isn’t a law. It’s just a tradition. And in a world this bizarre, where there’s no election, no president and no House, there’s no reason to assume the Senate Democrats would follow tradition. Legally, they can pick whomever they like. And if what they are really picking is the president of the United States, rather than a ceremonial officer, they might want to exercise some actual choice. They could elect President Amy Klobuchar or President Elizabeth Warren.

But would they? Neither the Constitution nor any statute restricts the choice of president pro tem to a current member of the Senate. (Similarly, the House of Representatives can decide to elect a speaker who is not a member of the House.) So the Senate Democrats could choose anyone at all with the constitutional qualifications to be president—that is, any natural-born U.S. citizen over the age of 35 other than Barack Obama, George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. If they were in a mood to right historic wrongs, they could choose Hillary Clinton. Or for that matter, Al Gore.

The most logical choice, though, would be Joe Biden. He is, after all, the person whom the Democratic Party will have named as its choice for president. He will have campaigned for the office, and he’ll have a transition team ready to go. He also happens to have good relationships with many of the 35 people making the choice.

So in the end, if no election is held this fall, and the process unfolds legally, the logical result isn’t that Trump stays in office. It’s that on January 3, Joe Biden becomes president pro tem of the Senate, and 17 days later, in the absence of a better claimant, Chief Justice John Roberts swears him in as president of the United States.

To be clear: None of this is going to happen. The House of Representatives under Nancy Pelosi is not going to approve a bill to postpone the election, and the Republican-controlled Senate wouldn’t want to do it either. Maybe Trump hasn’t fully thought through who would legally be entitled to the presidency next January if no election intervenes, but it’s a good bet that Senator Mitch McConnell has, or at least that he would, long before any bill to postpone the election came to a vote.

All this means, though, is that there will be no legally valid decision to postpone this November’s election. So why is Trump calling for a postponement? One possibility—and it cannot be ignored—is that he is laying the ground for a unilateral announcement of a postponed election. It wouldn’t be legally valid, but his experience as president so far has been that Congress rarely stops him from doing what he wants. And if Trump can bully the country into postponing the election, he may figure that when push comes to shove he will fill the void himself, by demagoguery or force.

Perhaps the most realistic explanation, though, is that Trump expects the election to occur on schedule and he is laying groundwork for impugning the integrity of its result. He knows Congress won’t postpone the election, and even he might think it’s too risky to try doing it unilaterally. But by constantly proclaiming that an election held on schedule cannot be trustworthy, he primes millions of people to be ready to refuse to accept the result of that election, if it goes against him.

That’s incredibly dangerous. It’s also a natural outgrowth of everything Trump has done so far, stretching back to his refusal as a candidate in 2016 to say that he would respect the outcome if he lost. So it is crucially important—as important as anything in American politics has ever been—that as many people as possible, in office and on the street, be prepared to stand up to him. And that they act between now and November in ways calculated to prevent us from getting to the point where law no longer matters.

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Trump’s own intelligence officials contradict his repeated claims of mail-in voting fraud

The closed-door House briefing was led by the US intelligence community’s top election official, Bill Evanina, and senior intelligence officials who specialize in election security. Officials dismissed the possibility of foreign powers being able to interfere on a mass scale to produce and send fake ballots to voters and election authorities, a source said.

The issue of forged ballots only came up when a lawmaker asked about it, a source in attendance told CNN. Evanina didn’t raise any alarms about that possibility, the source said.

The briefing highlighted the regular clash of views on election security between Trump and the administration’s top officials charged with keeping the November vote secure, both in public and in classified briefings.

For months, those officials have routinely warned that the most serious foreign threats are hacking of election and campaign infrastructure, along with disinformation campaigns, largely from China, Russia and Iran. The issue of fake ballots is an issue that they don’t raise, according to multiple sources familiar with the ongoing briefings.

That’s night and day from the President’s almost singular focus on mail-in ballots, which he alleges will lead to a ‘rigged’ election this fall. So great is the threat, the President said Thursday, he raised the possibility of delaying the vote.

On Friday at the White House, Trump specifically claimed that foreign countries will be able to forge ballots.

“This is going to be the greatest election disaster in history,” Trump said.

“And by the way you guys like to talk about Russia and China and other places, they’ll be able to forge ballots, they’ll forge up, they’ll do whatever they have to do,” he said.

Laying groundwork for foreign disinformation

The President is so vocal in his distrust of voting by mail that there are concerns among intelligence and law enforcement officials that he is laying the groundwork for the exact sort of foreign disinformation campaigns they warn about.

“They can’t physically do anything about (mail-in ballots) but (they can) create social media narratives to create levels of doubt and play into the debate,” a law enforcement official said. “We are alert for the fact they may take doubts about mail-in ballots and exploit that online.”

Roundly debunked by election experts, a source close to the Trump campaign rejected the notion that what the President is saying amounts to the kind of nefarious disinformation used by adversaries, but admitted the President’s intention usually is to cause chaos.

“The Russians and Chinese are actively doing what they do to influence and sway an election,” the source said. “The President’s tweet, although it carries weight, totally different — his intention is different.”

Evanina also briefs the Trump and Biden campaigns as well as the political parties on election threats. In a July 24 statement on election threats with 100 days to go before November 3, Evanina made no mention of mail-in ballots.

Changing actual votes, he said — as the President repeatedly alleges — is “extraordinarily difficult.”

“The diversity of election systems among the states, multiple checks and redundancies in those systems, and post-election auditing all make it extraordinarily difficult for foreign adversaries to broadly disrupt or change vote tallies without detection,” Evanina said in his statement.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to elaborate on Evanina’s views on mail-in ballots, saying the statement speaks for itself. The Trump and Biden campaigns also declined to comment on his briefings to them.

Barr echoes Trump

The only top cabinet official who has echoed Trump’s concerns about the risks posed by mail-in voting is Attorney General William Barr.

“Right now, a foreign country could print up tens of thousands of counterfeit ballots, and it’d be very hard for us to detect which was the right and which was the wrong ballot,” Barr told Fox News last month.

On Wednesday however Barr admitted under oath in testimony to Congress that he has no evidence that’s happening, though suggested it was “common sense” that mail-in voting would lead to fraud.

Senior Trump aide Stephen Miller continued the President’s line of attack on Friday saying universal mail-in voting allows for “massive endemic fraud.”

Complexities of paper ballots

Chris Krebs, who oversees voting security for the administration as the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity arm, CISA, recently all but dismissed the possibility of other countries trying to meddle this way because of the complexities of paper ballots.

“First off, getting special card stock, or paper, from a very small number of vendors that know their customers very well and if it shows up as, you know, the order coming from St. Petersburg and paying in rubles that might not clear the smell test,” Krebs said in a panel discussion two weeks ago with the Brookings Institution’s Dr. Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser.

Christopher Krebs

Krebs has been among the most vocal election officials urging states to do away with purely electronic voting in favor of paper ballots to guarantee an auditable paper trail. CISA routinely participates in the briefings led by Evanina.

“Understanding the different configurations of the ballots — printing them out the right way, getting the right signatures, which get checked on the back end” are all hurdles, Krebs listed, for any foreign country to interfere this way.

A spokesperson for CISA declined to comment further.

In a letter last month to the House Homeland Security Committee, Krebs and the head of the Election Assistance Commission, Benjamin Hovland, wrote that cyber attacks on voter systems do “represent a comparatively higher risk in a mail-in voting environment than an in-person environment.”

“Successful integrity attacks on voter registration data and systems have the potential to impact delivery of mail-in ballots and acceptance of voted ballots unless detected in sufficient time,” they added.

But in unclassified calls with members of the committee over the past few months, Krebs has not brought up his concerns about foreign countries using fraudulent mail-in ballots, a Democratic aide on the committee said.

“We have not had documented cases in any number of presidential elections about forged mail-in ballots or forged ballots,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who attended a Thursday election security briefing. “If the President’s intelligence community or FBI has information, then they should present it to the Congress — plain and simple.”

Asked if she had heard those concerns over forged ballots presented by the intelligence community to Capitol Hill, Jackson Lee said, “I have not.”

Krebs has praised the cooperation with General Paul Nakasone, the director of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command, which play a critical role in thwarting and responding to foreign cyberattacks. He too spoke last week about the increasing capability of foreign adversaries to meddle in the 2020 election but also did not mention voting by mail.

“Our adversaries know that this is a means upon which that they can attempt to have an impact on us and so we’ve seen the growth in terms of programs across all those major adversaries,” Nakasone said, adding, “our number one goal, our number one objective at the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command is a safe, secure and legitimate 2020 elections.”

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White House, Democrats feud over deadlock as millions set to lose jobless aid

“Those four different offers have been actually rejected but more importantly than that they’ve not even been countered with a proposal,” Meadows said at a White House press conference. “The Democrats are certainly willing today to allow some of the American citizens who are struggling the most under this pandemic to go unprotected.”

Pelosi was equally as pessimistic in her weekly press conference on Friday, slamming Republicans for refusing to concede anything in the negotiations and thus making the prospects of a deal seem a distant possibility.

“We don’t have shared values, that’s just the way it is. It’s not bickering, it’s standing our ground,” Pelosi told reporters. “We recognize the gravity of the situation, they don’t.”

The partisan standstill comes as a federal $600 weekly benefit for unemployed Americans from March’s CARES Act is set to expire at midnight. Democrats are pushing for a full extension of the benefit into next year, but Senate Republicans argue the $600 boost provides a disincentive for out-of-work Americans to return to work and want to see it adjusted in any next relief package.

The need, however, has only become more urgent. Coronavirus continues to spread throughout the U.S., with an estimated 1,000 Americans dying a day from the virus, while the economy suffered its worst quarterly contraction on record.

In a sign of how pessimistic Democratic leaders are of reaching a deal soon, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced Friday that members would be sent home with a 24-hour notice to return in August to vote on a relief package once an agreement is reached.

But Hoyer gave no indication of when that vote might occur – offering an unsteady start to what would normally be the kickoff of a five-week August recess for lawmakers.

“We will not start the August district work period until we pass appropriate COVID-19 relief to meet the current health and economic crisis,” Hoyer announced on the House floor.

Republicans offered Thursday to extend the $600 boost for one more week, but Democrats, rejected that offer. Pelosi said Friday the proposal didn’t make sense given how far apart the two sides are on a broader bill. Typically, congressional negotiators will agree to a one-week extension of certain expiring programs to allow time for a larger deal to work its way through both the House and Senate.

But in this case, as Pelosi said, there is no larger relief agreement looming. Instead, both parties remain far apart on several critical issues, including unemployment benefits, state and local funding, federal food assistance and money to prop up the flailing postal service and for election security.

“What are we going to do in a week?” Pelosi said. “First of all, they don’t even have the votes for it in the Senate. Let’s get real about who says what.”

Meadows and Mnuchin met with Pelosi and Schumer Thursday evening for more than two hours, but the meeting – the fourth this week – once again yielded no progress. Pelosi and Schumer will speak with Meadows and Mnuchin by phone Friday and meet in person Saturday.

The dispute over extending the unemployment benefits comes after two weeks of partisan fighting, as well as a Republican intra-party divide over how to approach the next coronavirus relief package. The White House has floated a temporary “skinny bill” that would address unemployment and evictions, but Pelosi and Schumer argue they don’t want a “piecemeal” approach.

“It surprises me that when we talk about compassion and caring about those that are truly in need that a temporary solution to make sure that enhanced unemployment continues has been rejected not once but multiple times,” Meadows said. “The Democrats believe they have all the cards on their side and they’re willing to play those cards at the expense of those that are hurting.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is also trying to step up the pressure on Senate Democrats and took procedural steps Thursday that would allow for floor votes next week on a range of proposals.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) attempted to pass his own proposal Thursday, which would renew federal unemployment payments at 66 percent of lost wages or $200 a week. But Schumer rejected it, and instead offered the House’s $3 trillion Heroes Act, which Republicans have dismissed as a Democratic wish list.

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Senate Republicans Allow Unemployment Benefits to Expire Amid Pandemic, Rising Jobless Claims

Caroline BrehmanGetty Images

If you’re looking for a new barometer of congressional dysfunction, look no further than the fact that The World’s Foremost Legislative Institution has failed to protect even its own members and their staffs from the pandemic. It’s not just that many offices, not just Louie Gohmert’s, are apparently run like chicken-processing plants. It’s also that Congress reportedly “ran out of money dedicated to cleaning the sprawling complex” over a month ago, and the money to start keeping the place COVID-19-level-sanitary again is tied up in the wrangling over the next relief package.

And it’s that package, or the lack thereof, that really deserves our attention. Because the Senate left town on Thursday without passing a damn thing, including any kind of extension on the enhanced unemployment benefits that have probably prevented the current economic cataclysm from becoming a full-on meltdown. The boosted $600-a-week pumped money into the economy through consumer spending, even as people lost their jobs and their wages. But while unemployment claims are once again rising in earnest, Congress will allow it to expire.

Treat yourself to 85+ years of history-making journalism.

Or, more specifically, the Republican-led Senate has allowed it after botching the rollout of its half-baked relief bill earlier in the week—a measure that would have offered just an extra $200 per week to people who are already living on the edge. (The Republican caucus could not even agree on it. Forget getting it through the Senate as a whole.) The Democratic House passed an extension of the $600-a-week back in May, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take it up for a variety of reasons.

These range from an insistence that any bill include legal immunity for employers whose workers get sick when they’re brought back to work—a true statement of values that would introduce repugnant moral hazard, and which even the White House abandoned this week—to the notion that people will not go back to work if unemployment benefits are too generous. On that last point, it’s telling how few of those concerned are interested in raising the minimum wage to something people can live on. It’s also, like the renewed Republican concern-trolling about The National Debt, not the most pressing issue right now. And by the way, how many hours a week are members of Congress working to earn their $174,000 a year?

topshot   us president donald trump participates in a roundtable discussion on donating plasma at the american red cross national headquarters on july 30, 2020 in washington, dc photo by jim watson  afp photo by jim watsonafp via getty images

The president has spent this period yelling about The Suburbs and suggesting the election be delayed.

JIM WATSONGetty Images

Millions of people have a rent bill coming down the pike that they cannot pay, just as eviction moratoriums are expiring across the country. Millions are already choosing between groceries and electricity and keeping a roof over their heads. There seems to be a baseline inability among members of Congress to truly grasp how desperate this situation may become. The people tearing their hair out about a socialist revolution are hopelessly blind to their role in creating the conditions for one. You think Joe Biden is a Trojan Horse for socialism? Just wait until you throw people on the street during a pandemic. It’s not just moral barbarism, it’s incredibly dumb if you’re interested in maintaining the current order of things for a little longer.

Speaking of Biden, Republicans are at the very least setting themselves up to be routed in the coming election. Folks do not need to know that House Democrats have passed a bill and Senate Republicans have not. If any gravitational forces remain in American politics, voters will punish the party whose figurehead occupies the White House, which the Trump folks well know. His chief of staff, Mark Meadows, emerged on Friday to desperately suggest that they’d been open to an emergency extension of the benefits and it’s Democrats who’ve obstructed progress. (Again, the House passed a bill in May. The Senate and the White House simply did not engage with it for months.) It’s amazing they’ve allowed it to get this far before they broke with McConnell and went along with anything that would keep the money in people’s pockets, even temporarily. Like Congress, the president’s team can’t even keep their eyes on the ball long enough to look out for themselves.

united states   july 30 white house chief of staff mark meadows talks with reporters after a meeting in the office of senate majority leader mitch mcconnell, r ky, to continue negotiations on the latest stimulus bill on thursday, july 30, 2020 photo by caroline brehmancq roll call, inc via getty images

Mark Meadows signaled that the White House finally realizes the peril of this situation.

Caroline BrehmanGetty Images

The more perplexing factor here is Republicans in Congress. One possible explanation is that these folks have disregarded the Notorious B.I.G.’s Fourth Commandment, gorging themselves on Fox News until they lost the plot completely. Another theory making the rounds is that many in the party have essentially accepted that they will get spanked in November, and they’re preparing the ground for the same kind of obstruction campaign with which they greeted the Obama presidency. That may be why you’re hearing about The National Debt again, and why they may just allow the economic situation to deteriorate further. They could give Biden the worst lot possible and then try to block any attempt to remedy the situation.

But the dynamics may well be different this time, and not just because the material effects on people’s lives may be even worse than the Great Recession that Barack Obama had to grapple with—and who made many missteps, moral and strategic, in the process. That same Obama threw down the gauntlet Thursday at John Lewis’s funeral, declaring that the filibuster should be destroyed if that’s what it takes to pass the laws to make this nation whole.

What Republicans likely have not accounted for is the prospect of a Democratic Party that no longer cowers in fear of the ghost of Ronald Reagan, and that reclaims its role as an unapologetic defender of the state’s role in shaping the economy. The conservative movement’s perception of reality has grown increasingly deranged even since the days they perceived Obama as some radical leftist, rather than a Clinton-style centrist seeking—in his case, naively—bipartisan compromise. They may well pine for 2009 in the end. Or maybe the whole country really has become unmoored. We’ll soon find out.

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What we know – and what we don’t – about Susan Rice, Biden’s potential VP pick

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has long said that there is one quality in a vice presidential pick he values above all: the ability to be “simpatico” with him.

And only one vice presidential shortlist finalist — former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice — boasts a long personal and professional relationship with the former vice president. The pair worked closely during the Obama years, and she is considered a member of the former vice president’s inner circle. 

Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice and Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama. (Kevin Sanders/AP)

But while Rice is a successful and accomplished diplomat who has already served as a top White House official, not that much is known about her views on matters of domestic policy. She has also never run for elected office, meaning that her appeal to voters is, as of now, completely theoretical. 

Rice’s strength is found in her substantial foreign policy chops. Under President Bill Clinton, Rice served on the national security council and was eventually promoted to senior director of African affairs in 1995. Two years later, Rice became the youngest assistant secretary of state. She was 33. 

Those who have studied Rice say that her time working in Bill Clinton’s state department was a formative experience, in particular her role in guiding the U.S. response to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. Rice argued against intervening militarily, a decision that critics said cost hundreds of thousands of lives. 

In the years since, Rice has advocated for the U.S. to take stronger stands against human rights violations. When she was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she became one of the most public advocates of the NATO intervention against Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. That operation was successful in that it forced Gadhafi from power, although critics argue that the lack of post-war planning allowed Libya to descend into chaos. 

Rice’s position in the Obama White House gave her a high-level view into the possibilities and limits of presidential power. She was also perhaps the most visible Black woman within the administration, which could be a tremendous asset for Biden at a time when the U.S. has been convulsed by protests for racial justice. 

National security advisor Susan Rice with President Barack Obama trade representative Michael Froman. (Brendan Smialowski /AFP via Getty Images)
National security advisor Susan Rice with President Barack Obama trade representative Michael Froman. (Brendan Smialowski /AFP via Getty Images)

Since departing the White House, Rice has joined the board of Netflix and now chairs D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s commission that helps plan the city’s coronavirus reopening stages. She has also authored numerous op-eds for the New York Times since leaving government and has come out in favor of D.C. statehood, a longtime priority for progressives. 

Yet little is known about where Rice stands, exactly, on the domestic policy issues that have come to define the 2020 contest. And that could hamper her ability to be an effective running mate for Biden, who has opened up a significant lead over President Trump in nationwide polls. 

And when it comes to foreign policy, her more hawkish stances in recent years might draw criticism from progressives who are already frustrated with having a centrist at the top of the ticket.

Rice is also unpopular with conservatives who criticize her handling of the 2012 attack against two U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the deaths of American military personnel and Ambassador Chris Stevens. At the time, Rice said the attack was spurred by an internet video that disparaged Mohammed, the central prophet of the Islamic faith. Republicans alleged that Rice’s comments were part of a cover-up, although that claim has been largely refuted

Rice told the hosts of daytime talk show “The View’ on Wednesday that she suspects the GOP will resurface the Benghazi issue if she’s tapped by Biden. 

“Not one of them found that I had deliberately misled the American people, but I don’t doubt that the Republicans will use this, and they’ll attack whoever is Joe Biden’s choice to be his vice president. But let’s be honest about what this is. This is dishonest, and it’s a distraction,” Rice said.

In an interview with the Boston Globe in 2019, Rice says she suspects she was targeted so fiercely because she is a Black woman. 

Susan Rice. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Susan Rice. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“Whether I was a more attractive villain because I was an African-American woman? Maybe. That was my hypothesis. But I’m not certain of it. And I really don’t think it matters,” said Rice. 

“What I do think matters is that you fast-forward to today, and we have the president of the United States demonizing Black women and other women of color. Really calling the dogs on them. Inciting violence against them. And that is not only dangerous and divisive. It’s despicable behavior on the part of the president of the United States.”

Rice’s ability to stand up for herself could be an asset to Biden, who may want a running mate who can take the fight to Trump and the GOP. In 2019, she called South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham a “piece of s***” after Graham was quoted calling Trump’s impeachment trial “a lynching in every sense.”

Paul Musgrave, a foreign policy expert and assistant professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, recalled only one mainstream vice presidential pick in modern history — Sargent Shriver in 1972 –– who was a foreign policy specialist above all else. 

“There are folks who think that Joe Biden could be choosing the Democratic nominee, and I would think that is something that he’d be conscious of: wanting to balance the good working relationship with trying to make sure the Democrats are well set up for the next presidential term,” explained Musgrave.

Joe Biden. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Joe Biden. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

And tapping a foreign policy expert, despite her long credentials, may not be a perfect fit in an election dominated by domestic issues. Biden seems to be beating Trump in nearly all head-to-head matchups on domestic affairs, but choosing Rice could put the spotlight back on Biden’s own lengthy record on foreign policy matters, including his vote in favor of the Iraq War and his role overseeing anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine while his son pursued business opportunities there.

But Musgrave, who views Rice as a “consummate power player,” contends that Rice and Biden’s foreign policy relationship is a boon more than anything.

“If one of the considerations for being a modern vice president is your ability to be entrusted with significant assignments by the president, I’m not sure there would be any two people who would be better matched on that,” said Musgraves.

“That could easily be one of the best working relationships from day one.”


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Fauci, White House COVID-19 task force officials say pandemic will continue for ‘some time’

Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top health officials told a House panel on Friday that novel coronavirus would “likely continue for some time” although they were optimistic the U.S. vaccine effort was on track.

The hearing comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases keep appearing at a worrisome pace. Cases rose above 60,000 on Wednesday — the highest daily tally in more than two months — when more than 1,400 Americans died from the virus.

President Donald Trump has said previously that the virus will suddenly disappear. Fauci disputed that notion in his testimony, as well as suggestions that masks could contribute to infections.

“I do not believe it would disappear because it is such a highly transmissible virus. It’s unlikely it is going to disappear,” Fauci said.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, was put on the defensive early in the hearing as Republican Jim Jordan mounted an aggressive campaign to try to discredit his recommendation that Americans avoid crowds.

Jordan accused Fauci of playing politics with the guideline, which Jordan insisted has shut down churches but let protests grow unchecked.

“I don’t judge one crowd versus another crowd,” Fauci told Jordan. “When you’re in a crowd, particularly if you are not wearing a mask, that increases the spread.”

MORE: Tracking Trump and Fauci’s tense relationship

“No limit to protests?” Jordan asked at one point.

“I’m not going to opine on limiting anything,” Fauci said, noting his job was only to look at health recommendations. “I’m telling you what is the danger. You should stay away from crowds.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, arrives for a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on a national plan to contain the COVID-19 pandemic on Capitol Hill, July 31, 2020. (Pool/Getty Images)

The exchange took place amid the first congressional hearing since the Trump administration released revamped guidelines on schools that heavily favored returning students to the classroom — a suggestion that several of the nation’s school district ignored as they opted for virtual learning until states were able to get the virus under control.

Fauci, who last testified before Congress on June 30, is joined during a hybrid in-person/remote hearing by two other leading officials from the White House Coronavirus Task Force: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, and the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, Adm. Brett Giroir.

“As a grandfather of 11 grandkids and I want these kids back in school,” said the CDC’s Redfield.

MORE: White House blocks CDC director from testifying on schools reopening

But in a joint statement, the government witnesses agreed the virus was here to stay for the time being.

“While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time,” they wrote.

PHOTO: Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, testifies during a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on a national plan to contain the COVID-19 pandemic on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 31, 2020. (Erin Scott/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, testifies during a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on a national plan to contain the COVID-19 pandemic on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 31, 2020. (Erin Scott/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

On the vaccine, Fauci said he’s been assured personally by FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn that politics won’t corrupt the process and that officials will stick to the science when evaluating and approving potential vaccine candidates.

Fauci said he remains “cautiously optimistic” a vaccine will be available by the end of the year or early 2021, and noted it will be distributed in phases. Fauci said there would be no “reckless rushing.”

MORE: What if MIS-C is just COVID-19 for children?

“I know to some people this seems like it is so fast that they might be compromising safety and scientific integrity, and I can tell you that is absolutely not the case,” Fauci said.

Federal agencies will use committees of bioethicists screened for conflicts of interests and other issues to decide which groups, such as health care workers or the elderly, should be prioritized to recieve the vaccine first.

“I don’t think that will have everybody getting it immediately in the beginning. Probably will be phased in, and that’s the reason why we have the committee is to do that prioritization of who should get it first,” he said.

Fauci, White House COVID-19 task force officials say pandemic will continue for ‘some time’ originally appeared on

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Joe Biden narrows down his VP list, with Karen Bass emerging as one of several key contenders

In more than two dozen interviews with CNN in recent days, members of Congress, top Democratic donors, Biden allies and others close to the vice presidential vetting process said California Rep. Karen Bass, the 66-year-old chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has gained real traction in the late stage of the search. Amid furious last-minute lobbying and speculation about Biden’s historic decision, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s former national security adviser, are also believed to be among the most serious contenders.

The search continues to be conducted under extreme secrecy, with even many top campaign advisers in the dark about the vetting process. Several additional women have also gone through extensive examination by the Biden team, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Florida Rep. Val Demings and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Others, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have also received various levels of scrutiny by the vetting team.

Biden’s team has yet to tell any of the women they’ve considered in earnest for the vice presidential role that they are officially out of the running, people familiar with the process said, with one source saying 11 women are still formally being considered.

Bass’ new emergence as one of the top contenders has been propelled by intensive lobbying on her behalf by some of her colleagues in the House including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, influential California Democrats and top donors. They’ve reached out to members of Biden’s inner circle in recent weeks, making an impassioned case for why the congresswoman should not be overlooked in the search process. Her backers have painted her as a universally liked and respected member of the House, a team player with experience working with Republicans and leading a state legislature, an African-American woman with a compelling biography rooted in humble beginnings and notably, a safe political choice who would not rock the boat.

“I think Karen has been under counted since Day One,” said Steve Westly, the former California state controller and major Biden fundraiser, who said he is glad to see both Bass and Harris on Biden’s shortlist.

“Everybody likes Karen Bass. People are scratching their heads saying, who is this woman?” he said. “When you’ve been speaker of the legislature for a state that’s twice the population of New York and the world’s fifth biggest economy, you know how to manage media, you understand the economy. I think she is stronger than people think.”

Another unmistakable dynamic that has emerged in recent days: an intensive effort by some Biden allies to torpedo Harris’ chances of being chosen.

Even as Biden has publicly praised Harris in recent months, some of his supporters — both in private and public — have continued to raise questions through the press, sometimes using sexist language, about whether Harris would be a trustworthy team player, often bringing up Harris’ famous attack on Biden in a Democratic primary debate over the issue of busing.

One Democratic aide with knowledge of the search process offered this blunt observation: “Biden allies are laying the groundwork for the vice president to have a reason to not choose her.”

In multiple media reports, Biden allies have attacked Harris’ motives. Florida donor John Morgan lamented that Harris “would be running for president the day of the inauguration. For me, loyalty and friendship should mean something,” Chris Dodd, a member of Biden’s VP vetting team, reportedly complained to a donor that Harris showed “no remorse” when asked about her famous clash with Biden on the debate stage.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. and Biden supporter Ed Rendell, who said he currently does not have a favorite in the search for a running mate, said in an interview that Bass is seen as a “very safe choice” in a way that Harris simply is not.

“Kamala can rub some people the wrong way. Karen Bass is not likely to do that,” Rendell said. “The number one rule for picking the VP? Do no harm.”

Biden clearly came prepared to defend Harris at a press conference on Tuesday in Wilmington, Delaware, with a photograph of a notecard listing these bullet points under Harris’ name: “Do not hold grudges.” “Campaigned with me & Jill.” “Talented.” “Great help to campaign.” “Great respect for her.”

The recent attacks on Harris have prompted cries of sexism.

“This isn’t about whining that we’re not being treated fairly, although I would argue these women are not,” said Karen Finney, a top aide to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. “We know that it’s an old trope to say that you can’t trust an ambitious woman.”

Harris herself told women on a Black Girls Lead 2020 conference stream Friday, “There will be a resistance to your ambition, there will be people who say to you ‘you are out of your lane,’ ” addressing the attacks on her trustworthiness and ambition for the first time this week.

“They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be. But don’t you let that burden you,” she said, adding that she’s experienced it her whole career.

The Biden campaign has largely declined to publicly engage the criticism leveled against Harris until this week, when campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon responded to a report that Harris was seen by some as too ambitious.

“Ambitious women make history, change the world, and win,” Dillon wrote on Twitter. “Our campaign is full of ambitious women going all out for Joe Biden. He will make this decision, and this is clear: whoever he chooses from the very qualified options to help him win & unite the country, she’ll be one too.”

One reason Harris has been under fire is that she has long been viewed as a favorite to be Biden’s running mate. Her supporters point to the that she was already vetted on the national stage as a presidential candidate and unlikely to surprise the campaign with any last-minute unknowns. While her 2020 campaign ended well before the Iowa caucuses, Harris’ backers maintain that she gained a loyal following while running for the White House, and that she would make history as the country’s first Black and Asian vice-presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, Rice’s emergence as a serious contender has surprised some in the Biden world, given her limited campaign experience. But her close allies point to her governing credentials from her time in the executive branch and her deep foreign policy background at a time of global turmoil. They also say Biden’s years-long working relationship with Rice is not to be underestimated, particularly given how he has emphasized wanting a partner who is “simpatico with me.”

“If there ever was a time to pick someone without campaign experience, this would be the year,” a Cabinet member from the Obama administration, who knows Rice well, told CNN. “Susan would be the best governing partner.”

With the months of intensive vetting now drawing to a close, the final decision is left to Biden and his wife, Jill, who has emerged as one of his closest advisers in the process. She has held virtual campaign events with nearly all of the potential candidates, but has not participated in any of the interviews conducted by the search committee, according to people with knowledge of the process. The Biden campaign has also started building out the team that will staff the future vice presidential pick, a source close to the campaign said, but would not detail who will be involved.

When Biden told reporters earlier this week that he would choose a running mate in the first week of August, two aides told CNN that the timing of an announcement was more likely to be pushed back until the week of August 10. But Biden’s advisers gave him a deadline of next week to make up his mind, a person familiar with the process said.

Biden enters the final stretch of deliberations as the country confronts a dire public health crisis and a economic recession. President Donald Trump’s approval rating has taken a serious hit over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic — a reality that close allies say should offer Biden the room to choose a running mate without weighing as much as he might in any other election cycle the political and electoral advantages that a specific running mate could offer.

“They don’t need to swing for the fences; they don’t need it to be a distraction. They don’t need to go with someone that isn’t tested or someone who’s flashy or random,” one Biden supporter in close touch with his inner circle said.

“If he’s decided, he hasn’t told anyone,” a longtime friend of Biden told CNN. “But knowing him, he will not make a final decision until the very last moment.”

This story has been updated with comments Kamala Harris made Friday.

CNN’s Arlette Saenz and Annie Grayer contributed to this report.