WASHINGTON (The Hill) — A new NBC News poll shows President Biden’s job approval rating has dipped to another low, with just 39 percent of Americans approving of the job he’s doing and 56 percent disapproving.
Americans are dinging the president on inflation, the economy and border security, as they have been for much of his presidency. Only 37 percent of Americans view Biden in a positive light, according to the poll, which shows his favorability rating hovers around the same percentage currently as former President Trump’s.
Biden appears to have lost ground once again after making some gains. Earlier this month, 42 percent of Americans approved of Biden’s job in a Washington Post-ABC News poll, which was up 5 percentage points from a previous poll in February.
In the NBC News poll, 59 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the coronavirus, where the president has consistently earned the best marks.
But only 33 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the economy, and only 23 percent approve of his handling of inflation and the cost of living, two issues that are likely to be among the most important at the ballot box in November.
Gas prices have surged to record highs this year, topping an average national price of $4.47 per gallon, while prices at grocery stores have also seen steep increases. Last week, reports of a shortage of baby formula triggered another round of anguish among American families.
About 41 percent of Americans say they are “somewhat satisfied” with their current financial situation, according to the poll, with 16 percent saying they are very dissatisfied with their financial situation.
Americans rank cost of living, the economy, voting rights and abortion in that order as the top four issues facing the nation.
The poll was conducted from May 5 to May 7 and then May 9 to May 10 among 1,000 respondents. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.
The Hill’s Brad Dress contributed to the contents of this report.
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — Joe Biden on Monday signed into law a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill at a boisterous ceremony at the White House, sealing a major accomplishment of his first term after weeks of negotiations in the House culminated in a bipartisan vote.
Biden welcomed lawmakers from both parties, from Congress and from state and local governments, to celebrate the passage of the bill and tout what he insisted would be the transformational ways it would improve day-to-day life for many Americans.
Biden used the bill signing to highlight a rare instance of bipartisanship at a polarized time in U.S. politics, even as former President Trump and other conservatives were suggesting House Republicans who voted for the bill should be challenged in primaries or stripped of committee assignments.
After weeks of talks and two trips to the Capitol from Biden, the House voted on the infrastructure bill earlier this month, passing it with a final tally of 228-206, with 13 Republicans crossing the aisle to support the measure, and six progressive Democrats bucking Biden and party leaders to oppose it.
The Senate passed the bill three months earlier in August, with 19 Republicans joining Democrats to move it to the House. The legislation languished there for weeks as progressives sought assurances on the other key piece of Biden’s economic agenda — a social spending bill focused on climate, child care and health care programs that Democrats intend to pass without GOP support through budget reconciliation.
The $1.2 trillion bill, which contains roughly $550 billion in new funding, will provide for new investments in roads, bridges and railways around the country. White House officials have also said it will allow for the replacement of lead pipes to provide clean drinking water to communities, establish a network of electric vehicle charging stations and help expand internet access for swaths of the country that do not have it.
Biden has tapped former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) as a senior White House adviser to coordinate the implementation of the bill, which cuts across several government agencies.
Democrats are hoping that officials will be able to get some projects up and running quickly so the public feels the impact of the legislation, which could help Biden and his party politically ahead of the midterms.
Biden’s approval ratings have been sinking for several weeks and it’s unclear thus far whether the president will see a bump from the infrastructure bill becoming law.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted after the infrastructure bill passed the House found that 41 percent approve of Biden’s handling of the presidency, while 53 percent disapprove, a new low for Biden in the survey.
Attention will now shift to the fate of a $1.75 trillion proposal that is contains many of the priorities of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, including funding to combat climate change, efforts to expand health care access and child care assistance, as well as money toward education and housing programs.
If the House passes the reconciliation bill, it will likely be tweaked in the Senate, where Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has expressed reservations about moving too quickly with such a major piece of legislation.
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to take up a dispute over a Mississippi law that bans virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, potentially setting the 6-3 conservative majority court on a collision course with the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.
The move was announced in an unsigned order, with the justices indicating the dispute would be limited to the major issue of the constitutionality of pre-viability restrictions on elective abortions.
The case was brought on appeal by Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R) after a federal appeals court sided with challengers to the state’s restriction.
The Supreme Court has undergone a dramatic conservative shift since last year when Mississippi first asked the justices to take up its appeal.
Last term, a bare 5-4 majority voted to block a Louisiana abortion limit, with Chief Justice John Roberts casting the deciding vote alongside Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the court’s three other more liberal justices.
But the late Ginsburg, a liberal stalwart, has since been replaced by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, cementing a 6-3 conservative court and throwing the future of longstanding abortion protections into question.
At least four justices must agree to hear a case for an appeal to be granted.
Abortion rights advocates expressed concern over Monday’s development.
“Alarm bells are ringing loudly about the threat to reproductive rights,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “The Supreme Court just agreed to review an abortion ban that unquestionably violates nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and is a test case to overturn Roe v. Wade.”
The Mississippi law is among hundreds of abortion restrictions that have been introduced recently in state legislatures across the country. In 2021 alone, more than 500 abortion restrictions, including nearly 150 abortion bans, were introduced in 46 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Of those, just over 60 measures have been enacted.
The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) hailed the Supreme Court’s move on Monday as a chance to give states more latitude.
“This is a landmark opportunity for the Supreme Court to recognize the right of states to protect unborn children from the horrors of painful late-term abortions,” SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.
Mississippi’s appeal comes after losing two rounds in the lower courts. In 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit held that the state’s restriction placed an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy before viability.
“In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” reads the opinion of a three-judge panel. “States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right, but they may not ban abortions.”
The Hill’s John Kruzel contributed to the contents of this report.
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package now awaiting President Biden‘s signature, marking the first measure to address the pandemic that made its way through Congress entirely along party lines.
House Democrats cleared the legislation by a 220-211 vote on Wednesday, after the Senate passed it in a 50-49 vote on Saturday.
Republicans lined up in opposition against the legislation by arguing it is overly partisan and filled with unnecessary provisions that wouldn’t help defeat the pandemic.
“This should be a targeted relief bill, but instead, this is an attempt by Speaker Pelosi to further promote her socialist agenda,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), referring to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
By contrast, past pandemic relief measures enacted last year after protracted negotiations between the Democratic-House, GOP Senate and the Trump administration passed with bipartisan support. But now that Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the presidency, they opted to craft a relief measure without GOP input.
“If you are a member of the swamp, you do pretty well under this bill,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). “I believe the American public wants something different. I believe they were proud of the fact we did something here that was bipartisan.”
Polling shows that the legislation is broadly popular with voters, particularly the expanded tax credits and $1,400 stimulus checks.
A Pew Research poll released on Tuesday found 70 percent overall favored the bill, while a CNN survey out Wednesday found that 61 percent support the relief measure.
But the support dropped sharply among Republicans in both surveys, while Democrats and independents largely favored the legislation.
Only one centrist Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), defected from his party during Wednesday’s vote.
Golden said he believed the Senate went too far in some areas to scale back the bill, specifically the unemployment insurance payments and minimum wage increase, while not going far enough in other areas such as the stimulus checks.
“While the Senate made modest changes to the legislation, some of those changes undermined parts of the bill I do support, and others were insufficient to address my concerns with the overall size and scope of the bill,” Golden said.
Republicans sought a variety of amendments to the bill in the House and Senate, including requiring K-12 schools to reopen for in-person classroom instruction in order to access funding and eliminating $135 million for the National Endowment for the Arts that’s intended to help arts organizations that have faced layoffs and budget cuts during the pandemic.
Senate Republicans briefly secured the adoption of an amendment with the support of centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to keep the weekly supplemental unemployment insurance payments at $300, rather than increasing them to $400 as under the original House bill.
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — Joe Biden’s strike in Syria is reviving a dormant fight over war powers as Congress looks to claw back some of its authority.
The military action sparked grumbling from Democrats who say they weren’t adequately consulted on the strikes and questioned where Biden drew the authority, which the White House says falls under his powers as commander in chief.
The war powers debate will have repercussions beyond just Syria, but senators say it underscores that while the administration has changed since the last time the issue was in the spotlight, the need for action from Congress hasn’t.
“Last week’s airstrikes in Syria show that the executive branch, regardless of party, will continue to stretch its war powers,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
Attempts to rein in a president’s war authorities frequently divide the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and are a landmine of competing and conflicting interests: Presidents are loath to give up power, with Republicans often wary of military restrictions in general, while Congress has increasingly given away its powers in recent decades.
“I think the problem is mostly inside these walls. I think it’s really had to define who America’s enemies are today and Congress … generally doesn’t want to get involved in that work, so I think Congress has over the years has just been very used to outsourcing those decisions,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
Kaine and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) led a bipartisan group on Tuesday that introduced legislation to repeal the 1991 and 2002 war authorizations, both of which deal with Iraq. Senators say they want to formally take the Gulf and Iraq war authorizations for the use of military force (AUMFs) off the books to prevent potential misuse down the line.
This isn’t the first time Congress has tried to repeal the decades-old authorizations. Kaine and Young introduced similar legislation in 2019, but it languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The House voted last year to repeal the 2002 authorization, drawing a veto threat from Trump. The measure did not advance in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Even though the 2002 law was authorized to invade Iraq, then-President Obama cited it as legal justification for action in Syria against ISIS, and the Trump administration initially cited it for strikes against Iran.
Kaine said he informed the White House of his bill during a call on Monday evening and sent them a copy, describing them as open to a discussion.
“I’m happy to say the White House seems really willing to engage,” he told The Hill.
Asked about the division lines between the branches of government, Kaine predicted that “we’ll run into it again.”
“The reason that I think it might go somewhere now is you’ve got a number of Republicans who I think were interested in the position last time, but they didn’t want to cross Trump,” he added.
Five House committee chairs also sent Biden a letter earlier this year urging him to support nixing the 2002 authorization and reforming the 2001 law that was passed to fight al Qaeda.
In a symbolic win, Democrats who have long pushed to repeal or revamp the war authorities got language included in the 2020 party platform committing to work with Congress to repeal the AUMFs and “replace them with a narrow and specific framework.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told senators during his confirmation hearing that Biden “feels very strongly” about revamping the military authorizations — but acknowledged a deal won’t be easy.
“For some the porridge is too hot, for others the porridge is too cold. And can we get a consensus around what’s just right? But I would be determined and committed to working on that,” he said.
A push to reform the 2001 authorization could be politically trickier.
Kaine said that he was having discussions with senators about ideas on how to reform the authorization, which was drafted to take military action against those who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” But since 2001, it’s been stretched more broadly to greenlight operations that critics argue have a tenuous or no connection to 9/11.
“We’re engaging in a rewrite of ‘01. … But we don’t yet have a proposal,” Kaine said.
Murphy said Congress should work closely with the Biden administration about how to rewrite the 2001 authorization but noted that it would be “tricky.”
“What I think we should do is sunset the 2001 AUMF, in part as a forcing mechanism to write a new authorization,” he said.
Murphy predicted that the divisions would fall along party lines and less of a gap between a Democratic administration and congressional Democrats.
“There has historically not been much Republican interest in rewriting the 2001 AUMF,” Murphy said.
But Murphy said there are bipartisan conversations ongoing, including with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), about reforming the War Powers Resolution, which lays out things like congressional notification requirements for military action and how long troops can remain without congressional approval.
“There’s a few of us talking across the aisle on war powers reform,” he said. “Mike Lee and myself have been … talking about the entire war powers statue, which is obviously in need of an update.”
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — More than 16 million voters who did not cast a ballot in 2016 have already voted this year, a sign that record-high enthusiasm in November’s elections will lead to an unprecedented turnout across the country.
There are indications that the surge is being fueled by younger voters who have been targets of turnout operations funded by Democratic groups, and by minorities who are motivated to vote like never before, data experts keeping tabs on the early numbers say.
Already this year, more than 4 million people between the ages of 18 and 29 have cast a ballot after sitting out 2016. They represent about two-thirds of all voters in that age bracket who have voted already. In states where voters can register by party, registered Democrats among those youngest voters outnumber registered Republicans by a nearly three to one margin.
“The central through thread from all of our conversations with young people throughout the year and the polls, whether ours or anyone else’s, [is that] they are more motivated to vote than ever before,” said Ben Wessel, executive director of NextGen America, a group funded by Tom Steyer that works to turn out younger voters.
In Florida, more than 335,000 voters between 18 and 29 who did not vote in 2016 have voted so far. Half of those voters are registered Democrats; about a quarter are registered Republicans.
In Texas, which does not register voters by party, more than 2 million people who didn’t vote in 2016 have already voted this year. That includes more than 430,000 Hispanic voters, 140,000 African American voters, and 600,000 people under age 30.
More than 700,000 Georgia voters who did not vote in 2016 have already cast ballots. Almost a third of those voters are African American, and nearly 30 percent are under 30 years old.
Across the nation, 4.7 million voters have voted for the first time this year. Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost half a million, though nearly two-thirds of that group are not affiliated with a party or live in states that do not register by party. Forty percent of those first-time voters are under 30 years old, Bonier’s data show.
“You see younger voters make up a larger share of the early vote electorate than they did in 2016 just about everywhere,” said Tom Bonier, chief executive at TargetSmart Consulting, which tracks early vote data.
There are anecdotal signs of a younger voter surge, too: One precinct in San Marcos, Texas, that covers the campus of Texas State University, surpassed the total number of votes cast in 2016 over the weekend, nine days before Election Day. Half of all registered voters in Johnson County, Iowa, home of the University of Iowa, have already voted.
But, Bonier said, it is not only younger voters who are turning out in higher numbers. Millions of seniors who did not vote in 2016 have cast ballots; to date, more seniors who have college degrees have voted in nine battleground states than voted in all of 2016, either before or on Election Day.
Black seniors have been an especially strong growth market this year. More Black voters over the age of 65 have voted in Texas and Georgia than voted in all of 2016.
“There are actually a lot of seniors who stayed home in ’16, which is not something we really focused on,” Bonier said. “When you look at the non-2016 seniors who have voted already, they’re more Democratic than the inverse, seniors who have voted already who did vote in 2016.”
If there are warning signs for Democrats, they may come from the huge number of non-college white voters who are casting ballots, a group at the core of President Trump’s base. Like other groups, those voters have turned to early options in record numbers.
Nationally, more than 29 million non-college whites have cast their ballots. They represent a lower share of the electorate, 46 percent, than at this point in 2016, 52 percent. But in raw numbers, those voters are still the largest cohort in the electorate, edging college-educated white voters by a margin of nearly 9.5 million.
Some Democratic strategists warned that minority communities, and especially the Black community, is lagging behind in a key state like Florida. Several groups, funded or run by luminaries like the actor Tyler Perry and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum (D), are running special drives to get those Black voters to the polls.
Four years ago, President Trump won Florida on the strength of unprecedented turnout among rural white voters who rarely cast ballots. This year, those voters are showing up again, a promising sign for Trump’s hopes of keeping his adopted home state.
“There’s a disparity when you start cutting the data by race. You’ve got new and sporadic white voters who are turning out on both an absolute and percentage basis more than communities of color,” said Josh Mendelsohn, who runs Hawkfish, a political technology firm founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “African American and Hispanic, Latino turnout just isn’t tracking with the same positive momentum. That’s an area of concern, and I don’t think it can be avoided.”
The pandemic coupled with both parties’ campaigns to get their most ardent supporters to vote early has led to a surge in early votes across the nation, and across demographic groups. Through Wednesday morning, more than 74 million Americans had already cast their ballot, according to the United States Elections Project, run by University of Florida political scientist Michael McDonald.
That represents more than half the 138.8 million ballots cast during the entirety of the 2016 election cycle.
Tens of millions more people will still wait until Election Day to vote, the turnout experts said. Polls show Republican voters, especially, are more eager to vote on Election Day itself, perhaps a reflection of President Trump’s rants against mail-in voting — and in spite of his own campaign’s efforts to get Republican voters to vote early.
As Democrats build a lead in early votes, they are digging a hole from which Trump must extricate himself on Election Day. His path to a majority remains possible, but it becomes more complicated by the day.
“There is logically some level of election day turnout for Republicans that allows them to still win this thing,” Bonier said. “It’s just that as this early voting advantage continues to pile up, that becomes more and more implausible.”
The Hill’s Reid Wilson contributed to the contents of this report.
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — The top negotiators fighting for a deal on emergency coronavirus relief spoke again on Wednesday as they face increasingly dismal odds to secure an agreement before Election Day.
The hourlong phone call between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was a “productive” one, according to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, citing a focused effort to find “clarification on language” — a reference to assurances sought by Democrats that new funding allocated by Congress will be spent on intended programs.
But a deal remains a long shot, as Democrats have held firm to their $2.2 trillion demand; Senate Republicans have balked at even the $1.8 trillion proposal from the White House; and President Trump has confused the debate with a stream of mixed messages regarding what he supports.
“One major area of disagreement continues to be that the White House lacks an understanding of the need for a national strategic testing plan,” Hammill tweeted. “The Speaker believes we must reopen our economy & schools safely & soon, & scientists agree we must have a strategic testing plan.”
Speaking at a public conference shortly after his call with Pelosi, Mnuchin noted the distinct divisions blocking a deal, emphasizing entrenched differences remain over both the amount of new spending and the policy areas it should target.
“I don’t agree with the Speaker’s approach that we have to do all or nothing,” Mnuchin said in an interview with the Milken Institute. He added that securing and executing a deal before the elections “would be difficult just given where we are and the level of detail.”
Another area of disagreement is how much aid should be extended to state and local governments, which are struggling to fund the emergency response to the pandemic while simultaneously being squeezed by a loss of tax revenue.
Democrats had proposed $436 billion in aid for those localities, while the White House countered with $300 billion. Mnuchin on Wednesday said that number marked “an extraordinary compromise” on the part of the administration, suggesting the White House is not ready to raise its offer.
Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) said Democrats are also wary of how the state and local funds are allocated. He accused Republicans of manipulating the language in earlier rounds of emergency relief to ensure that red states benefited disproportionately.
“This is one place where the details matter a lot,” Foster said on a press call. “A small town in Wyoming or Montana got, I think, five times more money than a small town in Illinois.”
Another sticking point surrounds GOP demands for language protecting businesses and schools from liability if workers or students contract the virus — a demand Mnuchin amplified Wednesday.
Democrats are insisting that those liability protections be excluded, and appear equally unyielding in that demand.
“I think that it should be a dealbreaker for us to leave it in there,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “We have to make sure that there is some accountability for safety of workers. And right now, that’s now where they are.”
The persistent disagreements have diminished the chances that the sides can reach a deal before the elections. And Trump, who has remained on the sidelines during the talks, has only muddled the debate.
The Hill’s Mike Lillis contributed to the contents of this report.
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — President Trump plans to announce his nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court on Friday or Saturday, he said in an interview on “Fox & Friends” Monday morning.
“I think it’ll be on Friday or Saturday,” Trump said when asked when he would announce his decision, adding that he wanted to “pay respect” to Ginsburg, who died Friday due to complications from pancreatic cancer, by waiting until after her funeral services.
Trump also said that he had narrowed his list down to five potential nominees. Trump has already committed to choosing a woman to replace Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Allison Jones Rushing are among the individuals Trump is weighing as potential nominees. Barrett and Lagoa are said to be top contenders for the role.
Trump on Monday did not specifically name the individuals whom he is considering to replace Ginsburg, but he described them all as “highly qualified” and “very smart.” At one point, he also appeared to reference Rushing, saying that one of the potential nominees is 38 years old — Rushing’s age.
“It could be any one of them — they’ll all be great,” Trump told the Fox News hosts.
Trump also said during the phone interview that he would prefer a nomination vote be taken before Election Day on Nov. 3, saying that there would be “plenty of time” for his choice to move through the process.
“I think it should go very quickly. We have a lot of time,” Trump said. “Especially if the people we’re talking about, most of them are young and they’ve gone through the process pretty recently.”
Details surrounding services for Ginsburg solidified later Monday. A Supreme Court spokesperson said that the late justice will lie in repose on Wednesday and Thursday at the top of the court’s steps, following a private ceremony inside the corridor. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also announced that Ginsburg will lie in state at the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall on Friday.
A funeral service and burial at Arlington National Cemetery is expected sometime later in the week.
Should Trump follow through in announcing his nominee on Friday or Saturday, the news would come just days before the first presidential debate between the incumbent president and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Barrett, 48, is a former clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Trump nominated her to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in 2017. Lagoa, a 52-year-old Cuban American judge and Florida native, was nominated by Trump to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit at the end of 2019. Both women were confirmed in bipartisan votes by the Senate.
Rushing was nominated by Trump to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in 2018 and was confirmed in a party-line vote the following year.
The Supreme Court confirmed Ginsburg’s death Friday evening, a development that immediately injected uncertainty into the presidential election, which is less than two months away, and ignited debate about whether and how swiftly Republicans should move to fill the empty seat on the high court.
Most Republicans have thus far united behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in saying that Trump’s nominee should get a vote on the Senate floor. However, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have said that they oppose moving forward with a vote before Election Day.
McConnell refused to hold a vote for then-President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to replace Scalia in 2016 because it was during an election year. McConnell argues that the circumstances in 2020 are different, because the same party controls the White House and Senate.
The Hill‘s Morgan Chalfant contributed to the contents of this report.
WASHINGTON — Kamala Harris will likely be presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s pick as running mate, New York Post political columnist Miranda Devine told Fox News on Tuesday.
“I think the interesting thing about Kamala Harris, though, is the fact that she’s coming out to showcase her ways just as she’s becoming the favorite as the vice president pick for Joe Biden,” Devine told “Fox & Friends,” referencing a scheduled event Harris has with DJ’s to support Biden’s campaign.
“As you see with this DJ promotion that she’s doing, she’s trying to inject some cool into the campaign and she is, after all, a good friend of President [Barack] Obama and he’ll be the sort of silent force behind the throne of Joe Biden.”
Meanwhile, The Hill is reporting that Susan Rice, not Kamala Harris, is a favorite within the Biden campaign.
Asked by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow if she is “in talks with the Biden campaign,” Rice responded: “To the extent that it is reported that I am under consideration in a serious way for the vice president slot, let me just say that I’m extremely humbled and honored to be talked about in the context of so many extraordinary women.”
“All I care about is getting Joe Biden elected president of the United States so that we again have competent, compassionate, loyal, effective leadership in the White House and flipping the Senate so that the Democrats control the Senate so we can pursue an agenda of healing for this country, one that tries to address the extraordinary racial and socioeconomic disparities that have been plain for all to see and that can restore our global leadership,” Rice continued.
” (I will do) everything I can, whether it’s the modern day equivalent of licking envelopes or raising money to serve in the capacity that he thinks is appropriate,” said Rice. “I’ll do anything I can to affect this change for our nation because I don’t think there’s any higher imperative.”
Calls for comment to a Biden campaign spokesperson were not immediately returned.
WASHINGTON (The Hill) — President Trump and Congress are on a collision course over whether to rename Army bases that are named for Confederate military officers.
Trump is adamantly opposed to changing the names, tweeting Wednesday that he would “not even consider” doing so. The next day he warned Republicans not to “fall for” for a legislative effort to change the names.
But just hours after making his position clear, news emerged that the Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would require the Pentagon to rename bases and other military assets bearing the names of Confederate leaders.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a committee member, said the amendment shows Trump’s “resistance is so out of touch to be almost irrelevant,” while Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said “it’s part of the reckoning that’s long overdue.”
The House, too, appears poised to adopt a related amendment when it considers its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — increasing the odds that a form of the amendment finds its way to Trump’s desk, forcing him to decide whether to veto a $740 billion bill that includes a pay raise for troops, new military hardware and other administration priorities.
“We’ll work that through, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), an Armed Services Committee member, said Thursday when asked about Trump’s opposition. “And the message is that if we’re going to have bases throughout the United States, I think it should be with the names of individuals who fought for our country. And so I think this is a step in the right direction. This is the right time for it. And I think it sends the right message.”
The rapid moves on Capitol Hill come on the heels of Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Defense Secretary Mark Esper announcing through an Army spokesperson on Monday that they were open to changing the names of 10 bases named after Confederate military officers: Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia; Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill and Fort Lee in Virginia; Fort Polk and Camp Beauregard in Louisiana; Fort Hood in Texas; and Fort Rucker in Alabama.
The announcement, a reversal from a position expressed by the Army as recently as February, came amid nationwide protests over police violence and racial injustices. Protesters, along with state and local governments, have moved to take down multiple Confederate statues and monuments following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Congress is also grappling with how to handle its own Confederate statues, but with Democrats and Republicans proposing different approaches.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has asked for a congressional committee to remove them from the halls of Congress, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) argue it’s up to individual states to decide which statues represent them in the Capitol.
On Thursday, a group of black lawmakers introduced legislation that would remove the statues.
Trump, meanwhile, has been digging in.
Just two days after the Army’s announcement on Monday, Trump put an end to the service’s deliberations.
“These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” Trump tweeted. “Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”
At a press briefing that started minutes later, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Trump would veto an NDAA that required renaming the bases.
At that same time, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were meeting behind closed doors to consider their version of the NDAA.
The amendment approved by the committee was first offered by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), though a committee staffer told reporters on a background call Thursday that changes were made to Warren’s original proposal in order to secure bipartisan support.
The revised amendment, as passed, would create a commission tasked with crafting an implementation plan for renaming bases and other assets, including examining costs and criteria for changing names, such as whether someone fought for the Confederacy “voluntarily,” a staffer said.
At the end of three years, the amendment says, the Pentagon “shall” remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy or anyone who served voluntarily in the Confederate army, the staffer said.
“What we saw yesterday was a very thoughtful process and a bipartisan process of taking a very complicated and difficult issue, and putting in place a commission that will have a three-year period of operation that will carefully look at all the aspects of this issue and will also be able to engage in local communities who have an interest in the names of these facilities,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) told reporters on a conference call Thursday.
But Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), stressing that it is early in the NDAA process, said he opposes the amendment as passed and indicated he would work to water it down.
In particular, Inhofe said he thinks there should be more flexibility in whether the commission can recommend against changing a name and that local communities should have more say in whether bases are renamed.
“We’re talking about input of the community, not just in the process, but also after a product comes out, they have to decide,” he said. “I think they ought to have veto authority.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), also on the committee, said he voted against the amendment. The amendment was approved on a voice vote, so there is no official record of who voted for or against it.
“I just don’t think Congress mandating that these be renamed and attempting to erase that part of our history is a way you deal with history,” Hawley said Thursday.
Trump on Thursday mocked Warren for proposing the amendment and warned Republicans against supporting it.
“Seriously failed presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren, just introduced an Amendment on the renaming of many of our legendary Military Bases from which we trained to WIN two World Wars,” Trump tweeted, using a nickname for Warren that Native Americans and others consider racist. “Hopefully our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this!”
Senators opposed to the amendment could try to strip it out when the full Senate takes up the NDAA as soon as next week. But amending a bill on the floor in the upper chamber is often an uphill battle.
“If it’s in the base bill coming out of the committee … obviously it’s a heavy lift to take anything out of the bill if it’s been signed off there,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican.
Thune said he has yet to take a “view or position” on renaming the bases, but that “it’s a discussion worth having.”
“I know the president’s taken a pretty hard position on this. So I guess that’s something we’ll end up discussing,” he said.
Other GOP leaders signaled they preferred not to get involved, at least at this stage.
Asked if he supported the amendment, McConnell sidestepped. “That will be up to the committee to decide,” he responded.
en. Tim Scott (S.C.), the only African American Republican in the Senate, also said he hasn’t taken a position yet, adding that his focus right now is on the police reform bill he is taking the lead on drafting.
Still, some Republicans say they support changing the base names.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a frequent Trump critic who marched in a Black Lives Matter protest in D.C. last weekend, said he supports changing the names “in some cases” and that Trump’s stance is “not where I’d be.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) questioned the need to “perpetually” name a base after someone.
“There have been a lot of great soldiers that have come along since the Civil War,” he said.
Blunt also noted the historical consensus that “Braxton Bragg was probably the worst commanding general in the Confederate army,” quipping that he’s an “interesting general to name a fort after.”
Lawmakers disinclined to clash with Trump could also have a chance to remove the amendment when the Senate and House reconcile their versions of the legislation.
But with the House likely to include a version of the amendment in their bill, that would make it much harder to eliminate the provision during bicameral negotiations.
Reps. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), an Army veteran who is black, and Don Bacon (R-Neb.), an Air Force veteran, announced Thursday they have introduced a bill to create a commission to rename bases and other Pentagon property within a year.
Brown said in a statement that the name of a base “matters to the Black soldiers serving at an installation honoring the name of a leader who fought to preserve slavery and oppression,” while Bacon said “it is only right that our installations bear the names of military heroes who represent the best ideals of our republic.”
A spokesman for Brown said they plan to introduce the measure as an NDAA amendment when the House Armed Services Committee considers its version of the bill July 1.
Kevin McCarthy said he would reserve judgment until the NDAA is out of committee, but did not dismiss the idea of renaming the bases.
“I know Esper said he would be open to it and look at it as well,” he said. “I know there are a number of people in the armed services that think it could be appropriate to change some, and some would say otherwise not to. So we’ll look to see what comes out of the NDAA. I’ll wait to see what comes out of the NDAA. Not opposed to it, though.”
The Hill’s Jordain Carney and Juliegrace Brufke contributed to the contents of this article.