January 25, 2021
President Joe Biden plans to issue two Executive Orders on Friday, January 22—aimed at speeding additional federal aid to American families struggling to afford food amid the COVID-19 pandemic; as well as at helping workers stay safe on the job, The New York Times reports.
Biden, who has vowed to use the power of the presidency to help mitigate economic fallout from the pandemic, will also direct the Treasury Department, now to be helmed by Janet Yellen, to find ways to deliver stimulus checks to millions of eligible Americans who have not yet received the funds.
The president also plans to sign a second Executive Order that will lay the groundwork for the federal government to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage for its employees and contract workers, while making it easier for federal workers to bargain collectively for better pay and benefits.
The actions are part of an attempt by Mr. Biden to override his predecessor, former President Donald J. Trump, on issues pertaining to workers, the economym and the federal safety net, the Times notes. The orders Biden will sign on Friday signal a break from the Trump Administration’s attempts to limit the scope of many federal benefits that Trump officials said created a disincentive for Americans to work.
Mr. Biden has issued a series of economic orders in his first days in the White House, which his aides have cast as emergency relief for Americans struggling in the Covid economy. He has also called on Congress to approve a $1.9 trillion economic rescue package in the coming weeks.
“We are at a precarious moment in our economy,” Brian Deese, who directs the National Economic Council, told reporters in a call previewing the orders. “The American people cannot afford to wait. So many are hanging by a thread.”
The orders that Biden is signing are intended to increase the weekly value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, commonly known as food stamps, for about 12 million families who depend on the program the most, according to White House estimates. The aid would increase weekly benefits by 15% to 20% for a family of four, Deese said. Congress approved enhanced benefits as part of its economic aid efforts last year, but the Trump administration did not expand benefits for households receiving the maximum benefit under the program.
The order also will increase the value of an emergency benefit, also included in economic rescue legislation, to provide money for families to replace the free meals students would have been receiving at school before the pandemic forced students out of classrooms. That expansion would amount to an extra $100 every two months for a family of three.
The president also will seek to allow workers to draw unemployment benefits if they quit jobs they fear are unsafe amid the pandemic, by asserting “that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health, and if they do so, they will still qualify for unemployment insurance,” White House officials said in a fact sheet detailing the orders.
To help struggling individuals and families, Mr. Biden will direct the Treasury Department to find new ways to get stimulus checks, including $600 checks passed in December and $1,200 checks passed in March, to as many as eight million eligible people who have not yet received them.
The second order also will direct federal agencies to determine which of their workers earn less than $15 an hour, and to develop “recommendations to promote a $15 per hour minimum wage for them,” the fact sheet said. Biden has called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers.
Research contact: @nytimes
January 22, 2021
On first full day in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden is expected to sign a second set of executive actions, aimed at making good on his plans to use the might of the federal government to end the coronavirus pandemic, The Guardian reports.
His administration plans a coordinated federal coronavirus response aimed at restoring trust in the government and focused on boosting vaccines, increasing testing, reopening schools, and addressing inequalities thrown up by the disease.
“We can and will beat COVID-19. America deserves a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that is driven by science, data and public health—not politics,” the White House said in a statement outlining the administration’s national strategy on COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness.
- Restoring public trust in government efforts;
- Getting more vaccine doses into more arms;
- Mitigating the spread—including mask mandates;
- Emergency economic relief;
- A strategy to get schools and workers functioning ag;
- Establishing an equity task force to address disparities in suffering involving issues of race, ethnicity and geography; and
- Preparing for future threats.
According to The Guardian, Biden has pledged to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days and reverse the impact of a year of mismanaged response under Donald Trump that saw more than 400,000 people die and more than 24 million infected – by far the worst rates in the world.
But his executive orders are set to go far beyond just boosting vaccination efforts.
The 46th U.S. president plans to re-engage with the World Health Organization—a reversal from the Trump administration’s move to cut ties during the pandemic. In other moves, the new administration says it plans to set up pandemic testing and vaccination sites, and devise a speedy vaccine distribution program.
On traveling, Biden will sign an executive order requiring people to wear a mask on trains, airplanes and maritime vessels. Another Health and Human Services to give guidance on safely reopening schools.
Biden also will release a presidential memorandum utilizing the FEMA disaster relief fund for providing reimbursement for personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning, and costs needed to safely reopen schools.
The Biden administration is also looking to fix supply shortfalls. Biden plans to direct federal agencies to fulfill supply shortfalls using the Defense Production Act.
Biden will restore a White House team on global health risks set up under Barack Obama and dismantled under Donald Trump.
The executive orders aim to help people of color in particular. One will set up the COVID-19 health equity taskforce.
Biden will issue an order to develop a national strategy to reopen schools, hoping to meet his goal of having most elementary and middle schools open within his first 100 days in office and will ask Congress to provide $130 billion additional aid to schools, $35 billion for colleges and universities, $25 billion for child care centers at risk of closing and $15 billion in childcare aid for struggling families.
Research contact: @GuardianUS
January 20, 2021
Speaking from the West Front of the U.S. Capitol after a violent insurrection there claimed five lives on January 6, President Joe Biden’s first words as president offered Americans strong and direct reassurance that the most fundamental component of the nation’s government would remain intact, The Daily Beast reports.
“This is democracy’s day,” he said, minutes after being sworn into office by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts as the 46th president of the United States. “A day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve. Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew, and America has risen to the challenge.”
“The people,” he continued, “the will of the people, has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
Biden, 78, addressed two threats that have worsened under President Donald Trump’s administration, the unchecked coronavirus pandemic and the growing presence of terrorism at home—which only two weeks ago arrived at the very platform from which Biden spoke. Standing resolutely, his jacket pinned with a small American flag on a chilly Wednesday afternoon, the president championed the “restless, bold, optimistic” collective pursuit of restoring what has been lost.
In an acknowledgement of the still bitterly divided national political climate—which is expected to continue long after Biden’s first few days in office—he called on citizens to help de-escalate the rampant partisanship, the Globe said.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal,” he said. “We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes as my mom would say, just for a moment, stand in their shoes.”
Throughout his 20-minute address, Biden strove to provide a positive outlook for the nation’s future, seeking to remind viewers that, despite strife, sadness, and anger, his administration will offer a unified approach. He pledged to pen a new chapter in the “American story.”
A significant part of that book includes an historic start. “Today we mark the swearing in of the first woman in American history elected to national office, Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change,” Biden said, beaming with pride for his number 2, who was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
“My whole soul is in it,” Biden said. “Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this, bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause,” he continued, to applause, listing off the “foes” he plans to combat: “Anger, resentment and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness.”
“America is once again the leading force for good in the world,” he said.
Research contact: @BostonGlobe
January 20, 2021
Did you light a candle in your window on Tuesday night, January 19? President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were slated to speak from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. (ET) as part of a ceremony honoring victims of the COVID-19 pandemic—and the Inauguration Committee chose candles as a symbol that all Americans could display concurrently in a show of unity and support, The Huffington Post reports.
The event was designed to show the Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool—fully illuminated and on camera for the first time ever—according to Biden’s team. The committee has also called on leaders nationwide to light up city buildings in a light amber color and ring church bells.
“We invite Americans across the country to come together for a national moment of unity and remembrance,” the committee said in its statement.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in recorded COVID-19 cases and deaths, with more than 24 million people infected and nearly 400,000 dead. Some public health experts have in part blamed President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric on coronavirus mitigation measures for the virus’ rampant spread.
Biden has released a lengthy plan for combating COVID-19 and recently set a goal of administering 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first 100 days of his presidency, the HuffPost noted.
For months, activists have been calling for a national day of mourning for COVID-19 victims. National observances―such as Veterans Day and Hispanic Heritage Month―typically are enacted by Congress, after which the president issues a proclamation on that day each year and local governments may also hold dedicated ceremonies or events.
Representative Donald Payne Jr. (D-New Jersey) introduced a resolution in the House in November calling for such a national day of mourning for COVID-19 victims. The legislation specifically outlines the disproportionate infection rates and deaths among communities of color.
Biden’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment about a potential national day of mourning.
Research contact: @HuffPost
January 19, 2021
Donald Trump will be clinging to the last vestiges of his presidency—thousands of feet in the air and hours before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration—on Wednesday, January 20, The Huffington Post reports.
As it stands now, Trump is “scheduled to land in West Palm Beach at 11a.m. (ET) Wednesday morning with just 1 hour left in his Presidency. He no longer has access to Air Force One as of noon that day,” CBS’s Ben Tracy tweeted Sunday.
The White House sent out invitations for Trump’s departure event at Joint Base Andrews, which begins at 8 a.m. (ET), Bloomberg reported. Guests can bring up to five other people, must wear masks and should arrive between 6 a.m. and 7:15 a.m, Bloomberg said after viewing one of the invites.
Trump has requested the red-carpet treatment with a 21-gun salute and military band, reports noted.
His helicopter goodbye from the White House’s South Lawn is expected to be a low-key affair. Some White House aides will be there to send off Marine One and attendance will be “limited,” Bloomberg reported. Heightened security around the inauguration and the White House following the Capitol insurrection curtailed the size.
Trump, the only president to be impeached twice and the only president in modern history to not attend his successor’s inauguration, will likely spend the rest of the day at his Mar-a-Lago club.
Palm Beach police recently warned residents that the Secret Service would have a “final road closure near Mar-a-Lago” on January 20 and would be closed for several days, CBS in Miami reported.
“Beyond this, we do not foresee any future road closures related to the presence of a former President,” police wrote.
Research contact: @HuffPost
January 18, 2021
Federal prosecutors offered an ominous new assessment of last week’s siege of the U.S. Capitol by President Donald Trump’s supporters on January 14, saying in a court filing that rioters intended “to capture and assassinate elected officialsn” The Huffington Post and Reuters reported.
Prosecutors offered that view in a filing asking a judge to detain Jacob Chansley—the Arizona man and QAnon conspiracy theorist who was famously photographed wearing horns as he stood at the desk of Vice President Mike Pence in the chamber of the U.S. Senate.
The detention memo, written by Justice Department lawyers in Arizona, goes into greater detail about the FBI’s investigation into Chansley—revealing that he left a note for Pence warning that “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”
“Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government,” prosecutors wrote.
A public defender representing Chansley could not be immediately reached for comment. Chansley is due to appear in federal court on Friday.
According to the HuffPost, the prosecutors’ assessment comes as prosecutors and federal agents have begun bringing more serious charges tied to violence at the Capitol, including revealing cases Thursday against one man, retired firefighter Robert Sanford, on charges that he hurled a fire extinguisher at the head of one police officer and another, Peter Stager, of beating a different officer with a pole bearing an American flag.
In Chansley’s case, prosecutors said the charges “involve active participation in an insurrection attempting to violently overthrow the United States government,” and warned that “the insurrection is still in progress” as law enforcement prepares for more demonstrations in Washington and state capitals.
They also suggested he suffers from drug abuse and mental illness, and told the judge he poses a serious flight risk.
“Chansley has spoken openly about his belief that he is an alien, a higher being, and he is here on Earth to ascend to another reality,” they wrote.
The Justice Department has brought more than 80 criminal cases in connection with the violent riots at the U.S. Capitol last week, in which Trump’s supporters stormed the building, ransacked offices and in some cases, attacked police.
Many of the people charged so far were easily tracked down by the FBI, which has more than 200 suspects, thanks in large part to videos and photos posted on social media.
Michael Sherwin, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, has said that while many of the initial charges may seem minor, he expects much more serious charges to be filed as the Justice Department continues its investigation.
Research contact: @HuffPost
January 15, 2021
One more time with feeling: House Democrats in their second impeachment of President Donald Trump accomplished what they couldn’t in their first: They kept their party unified and brought some Republicans on board, Roll Call reports.
The article outlines Trump’s impeachable conduct, describing how for months leading up to the January 6 joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College votes, he “repeatedly issued false statements” alleging widespread fraud and saying state and federal officials should not certify the results.
Trump reiterated those false claims in a January 6 speech at a rally for his supporters outside the White House in which he also “willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged— and foreseeably resulted in—lawless action at the Capitol, such as: ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore,’” the resolution says.
“Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts,” the resolution reads.
The impeachment article also cites Trump’s “prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification,” like his January 2 phone call threatening Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to overturn the state’s results, as it notes he “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power,” Roll Call notes.
Wednesday’s vote makes Trump the first president in history to be impeached twice. The House first impeached him on December 18, 2019, on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election. The Senate acquitted Trump of both charges on February 5, 2020.
Trump has seven days left in office, and a Senate trial won’t occur in time to remove him any earlier.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump “must be convicted by the Senate, a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the republic will be safe from this man who is so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear and that hold us together.”
Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a note to his conference Wednesday refuting media press reports that have suggested he plans to support impeachment, but the Kentucky Republican left open the possibility he may reach that conclusion.
Ten Republicans, including the No. 3 in House GOP leadership, Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, voted to impeach Trump.
All 222 Democrats supported the impeachment resolution as well.
Republicans besides Cheney who voted to impeach Trump include Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington, John Katko of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Fred Upton and Peter Meijer of Michigan, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Tom Rice of South Carolina and David Valadao of California.
The bipartisan support is different from the first time the House impeached Trump, when no Republican supported either article.
The Senate is out of session until Jan. 19. McConnell on Wednesday rejected Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s request to use a 2004 emergency convening authority to bring the Senate back early, McConnell’s spokesman confirmed.
Whether or not the trial is held while Trump is still in office, lawmakers have said they intend to invoke Amendment 14 of the U.S. Constitution, which, under Section 3, would bar Trump from holding public office ever again.
Section 3 reads: “No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
Research contact: @rollcall
January 13, 2021
Was the insurrection an inside job? Did lawmakers join with President Donald Trump to aid and abet the rioters? Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-New Jersey) revealed on Tuesday, January 12, that she had witnessed Congressional colleagues escorting people through the Capitol on January 5 for what she described as “reconnaissance” ahead of the next day’s violent insurrection that left five dead, Politico reports.
In a 13-minute Facebook video billed as an address to her constituents about the House’s efforts to hold President Donald Trump accountable for inciting the riot, Sherrill included the allegation as part of a call to hold Trump’s allies in Congress accountable as well.
“I also intend to see that those members of Congress who abetted [the outgoing president]—those members of Congress who had groups coming through the capitol that I saw on Jan. 5 for reconnaissance for the next day—those members of Congress who incited the violent crowd, those members of Congress that attempted to help our president undermine our democracy, I’m going see that they’re held accountable,” Sherrill said.
Sherrill did not identify the lawmakers she was referring to, how she was able to describe their activities as “reconnaissance,” or how she knew they were connected to the riots that consumed the Capitol the following day. She told Politico on Wednesday that she’s referred her information to authorities.
The startling allegation comes as lawmakers are still seeking answers about the extent of planning and coordination behind the January 6 Trump rally that became the violent assault on the Capitol. Federal investigators say they’re pouring enormous resources into unearthing details of a potential “seditious conspiracy” and that some of the undisclosed evidence about what happened inside the Capitol will be “shocking.”
Some Democrats, like Sherrill, are also calling for punishment for the Republicans who —like Trump —delivered incendiary remarks that preceded the violence at the Capitol, as well as others who joined Trump’s effort to delegitimize the 2020 presidential election.
Research contact: @politico
January 13, 2021
Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert (R-3rd District) went on the offensive on Monday night, January 11, as Republicans issued a bellicose statement amid growing calls for her resignation following her actions before and during the riot at the U.S. Capitol, The Boston Globe reports.
A first-term lawmaker who ran as an outspoken defender of President Donald Trump, Boebert is facing serious pushback for tweeting about the location of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as legislators were whisked to a secure location to shelter in place while insurrectionists stormed the building.
Boebert accused Democrats of having their “hypocrisy” on “full display” with talks of impeachment, censure, and other ways to punish Republicans for false accusations of inciting the type of violence they have so frequently and transparently supported in the past.”
During the violent siege, Boebert first tweeted that representatives “were locked in the House Chambers” and then only a minute later that the “Speaker has been removed from the chambers.”
“[Democrats] accuse me of live-tweeting the Speaker’s presence after she had been safely removed from the Capitol, as if I was revealing some big secret, when in fact this removal was also being broadcast on TV,” Boebert said.
The remainder of her statement was replete with baseless claims about President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Pelosi, and the “far-left,” the Globe reported.
She compared the Black Lives Matter protests — reported to be greater than 93% peaceful — to the dangerous insurrection, referring to them as “the violence over the summer.”
In response to Boebert’s tweets, Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz (D) said late Monday that lawmakers “were specifically instructed by those protecting us not to tell anyone, including our family, where exactly we were, for reasons that remain obvious.”
Schatz continued that it’s not explicitly clear “to what extent the rioters were coordinating operationally with government officials,” so it’s vital that lawmakers and others are “extremely careful in this line of inquiry.”
Congress convened last Wednesday to certify the Electoral College votes, and thus, Biden’s victory. But Republicans in both the Senate and the House — in support of Trump and his baseless election fraud claims — vowed to protest the votes.
While on the floor, Boebert addressed Pelosi directly and said that she had “constituents outside this building right now.”
Boebert, her voice rising during the speech, said that she had promised her voters to “be their voice.” She objected to the Electoral College votes in both Arizona and Pennsylvania, two states Biden decisively won.
Because of her actions, Boebert — who ran on a “pro-freedom, pro-guns, pro-constitution, pro-energy, pro-life, pro-Colorado, and pro-America” platform, according to her campaign website—has faced criticism and calls to step down from fellow lawmakers, including those within her own state.
California Representative Eric Swalwell (D) compared Boebert to a criminal Monday and suggested that she refrain from making any further incendiary remarks.
“Like any citizen who has committed a crime, Lauren Boebert has the right to remain silent,” he said. “I suggest that she use it.”
As of Monday, more than 20,000 tweets had racked up with the hashtag #ResignBoebert.
Research contact: @BostonGlobe
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is on the cusp of majority support in the House to impeach President Donald Trump—part of a two-front effort to punish and remove him from office for inciting the violent and deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week, Politico reports.
Key members of the House Judiciary Committee introduced a single article of impeachment—incitement of insurrection—on Monday, January 11. The resolution already has at least 218 cosponsors and a House majority, according to a congressional aide involved in the process.
“Because the timeframe is so short and the need is so immediate and an emergency, we will also proceed on a parallel path in terms of impeachment,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) told reporters Monday. “Whether impeachment can pass the United States Senate is not the issue.”
“There may well be a vote on impeachment on Wednesday,” he said, according to Politico.
At a brief House session on Monday morning, the House formally accepted the resignation of Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving, who was partly responsible for the failed security arrangements on January 6. And moments later, Representative Alex Mooney (R-West Virginia.) blocked unanimous consideration of a resolution from Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) that would have urged Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment process to remove Trump from power. The House intends to vote on the resolution Tuesday.
Politico notes that, although some Democrats have voiced worry that impeaching Trump with just days left in his term could hamstring President-elect Joe Biden’s early weeks in office, momentum has only grown as new and disturbing footage of the violence wrought by the rioters has emerged. That footage included the beating of a Capitol Police officer, yanked out of the building by a crowd of Trump supporters. The officer in the video has not been identified, but it surfaced after the news that at least one officer, Brain Sicknick, died of injuries sustained during the onslaught.
Every new indication that the rioters included a more sophisticated contingent of insurrectionists has inflamed the House anew, even as Republicans have continued to express wariness, if not outright opposition, to impeachment.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say, Is it the right thing politically to impeach this president? … Will it harm the Democratic Party?” Representative Dan Kildee (D-Michigan) said in a press conference Monday. “In terms of whether it could harm the Democratic party, I could not care less.”
Though some Democrats have also floated the notion of impeaching Trump but delaying transmitting the article to the Senate—a move that would forestall a Senate trial until after Biden’s early term plans and nominees are in place—a top Pelosi ally, Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), indicated Monday he favors an immediate trial.
“If we impeach him this week … it should immediately be transmitted to the Senate and we should try the case as soon as possible,” Schiff said on “CBS This Morning.” “Mitch McConnell has demonstrated when it comes to jamming Supreme Court justices through the Congress, he can move with great alacrity when he wants to.”
Research contact: @politico