Posted: January 11, 2022 Filed under: just because
By German cartoonist Gerhard Gluck
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are heading to Atlanta today to give speeches on voting rights, but activist groups in Georgia are boycotting the event. Stacey Abrams says she won’t be there because of a scheduling conflict.
According to The New York Times: Biden Will Endorse Changing Senate Rules to Pass Voting Rights Legislation.
President Biden will endorse changing Senate rules to pass new voting rights protections during a speech in Atlanta on Tuesday, the most significant step he will have taken to pressure lawmakers to act on an issue he has called the biggest test of America’s democracy since the Civil War.
Mr. Biden will not go so far as to call for full-scale elimination of the filibuster, a Senate tradition that allows the minority party to kill legislation that fails to garner 60 votes, according to a senior administration official who previewed the speech. But Mr. Biden will say he supports a filibuster “carve-out” in the case of voting rights, the official said.
Citing “repeated obstruction” by Republicans, Mr. Biden will endorse changing the Senate rules, the official said. The president will contend that the filibuster has protected “extreme attacks on the most basic constitutional right.”
“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation,” Mr. Biden will say on Tuesday, according to a preview of his remarks provided by the White House. “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand.”
That’s apparently not enough for a number of Georgia voting rights groups.
The Guardian: Georgia activists warn Biden against a ‘photo-op’ visit that lacks voting rights plan.
A coalition of influential political activists in Georgia that boosted turnout in a state crucial to Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 is refusing to attend the visit planned on Tuesday by the US president and Kamala Harris to speak on voting rights.
The group had warned the president and vice-president that they needed to announce a specific plan to get national voting rights legislation passed or risk their high-profile trip to Atlanta being dismissed as “a waste of time”….
…[O]n Monday evening, the coalition of activist groups – Black Voters Matter, Galeo Impact Fund, New Georgia Project Action Fund, Asian American Advocacy Fund, Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council – along with James Woodall, the Georgia NAACP president, announced that “we will not be attending” when Biden and Harris speak.
“Instead of giving a speech tomorrow, the US Senate should be voting tomorrow. What we need now, rather than a visit from the president, vice-president and legislators is for the White House and Senate to remain in DC and act immediately to pass federal legislation to protect our freedom to vote,” the groups said in joint statement.
Illustration by Alessia Turchie
More from CNN: Georgia voting rights groups boycott Biden’s Atlanta speech: ‘We don’t need even more photo ops. We need action.’
Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, and representatives of several voting rights groups urged Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to remain in Washington on Tuesday if they don’t have a clear plan to advance voting rights legislation. Some of the groups that urged Biden to skip his Atlanta trip are the Asian American Advocacy Fund, GALEO Impact Fund Inc. and New Georgia Project Action Fund.
“We don’t need even more photo ops. We need action, and that action is in the form of the John Lewis Voting Rights (Advancement) Act as well as the Freedom to Vote Act, and we need that immediately,” Albright told reporters on Monday.
Several major civil rights leaders are scheduled to attend Biden and Harris’ speeches in Atlanta on Tuesday, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League; Derrick Johnson, the head of the NAACP; Melanie Campbell, the chief executive of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and many other civil rights and voting rights leaders will also be attending.
At The Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart argues: Opinion: Georgia voting activists want to turn Biden away. They’ve got the wrong guy.
After months of justified complaints that the White House was prioritizing everything except preserving voting rights, President Biden and Vice President Harris will head to Georgia on Tuesday to bring their spotlight to the fight. But a high-profile group of Peach State voting rights organizations is saying, “Don’t come.”
While the passion fueling their argument is understandable, their actual argument is not. They’ve got the wrong target, and the wrong tack.
“Georgia voters made history and made their voices heard, overcoming obstacles, threats, and suppressive laws to deliver the White House and the US Senate. In return, a visit has been forced on them, requiring them to accept political platitudes and repetitious, bland promises,” the five organizations wrote. “As civil rights leaders and advocates, we reject any visit by President Biden that does not include an announcement of a finalized voting rights plan that will pass both chambers, not be stopped by the filibuster, and be signed into law; anything less is insufficient and unwelcome.”
By Gerhard Gluck
Biden is neither an empowered king nor an autocrat. In our system of equal branches of government, whatever plan the advocates are demanding from Biden will have to stand on its own in Congress. Thanks to Georgia voters and the two Democrats they sent to the Senate, that party does have control of the chamber, but only by Harris’s tiebreaking vote. That dynamic gives recalcitrant Republicans and Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) incredible and irritating sway.
Biden and Harris are going to Georgia to do the one thing they absolutely can do: use the bully pulpit to drum up public support and pressure those standing in the way of progress. Biden must use the occasion to call for a filibuster carve-out for voting rights. And instead of railing against Biden and Harris, advocates should focus on convincing Manchin and Sinema that adherence to a Senate rule in the face of glaring voter suppression and potential voter subversion is a threat to democracy.
As the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol rushes to gather evidence and conduct interviews, how far it will be able to go in holding former President Donald J. Trump accountable increasingly appears to hinge on one possible witness: former Vice President Mike Pence.
Since the committee was formed last summer, Mr. Pence’s lawyer and the panel have been talking informally about whether he would be willing to speak to investigators, people briefed on the discussions said. But as Mr. Pence began sorting through a complex calculation about his cooperation, he indicated to the committee that he was undecided, they said.
To some degree, the current situation reflects negotiating strategies by both sides, with the committee eager to suggest an air of inevitability about Mr. Pence answering its questions and the former vice president’s advisers looking for reasons to limit his political exposure from a move that would further complicate his ambitions to run for president in 2024.
But there also appears to be growing tension.
In recent weeks, Mr. Pence is said by people familiar with his thinking to have grown increasingly disillusioned with the idea of voluntary cooperation. He has told aides that the committee has taken a sharp partisan turn by openly considering the potential for criminal referrals to the Justice Department about Mr. Trump and others. Such referrals, in Mr. Pence’s view, appear designed to hurt Republican chances of winning control of Congress in November.
Linda Herzog, Flying pigs
Maybe Pence would feel better about cooperating if he were subpoenaed. That way he would have an excuse for talking to the committee.
Meanwhile the latest Covid-19 surge continues to worsen, thanks to the Omicron variant.
The Washington Post: U.S. breaks record with more than 145,000 covid-19 hospitalizations.
The United States surpassed its record for covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, with no end in sight to skyrocketing case loads, falling staff levels and the struggles of a medical system trying to provide care amid an unprecedented surge of the coronavirus.
Tuesday’s total of 145,982 people in U.S. hospitals with covid-19, which includes 4,462 children, passed the record of 142,273 set on Jan. 14, 2021, during the previous peak of the pandemic in this country.
But the highly transmissible omicron variant threatens to obliterate that benchmark. If models of omicron’s spread prove accurate — even the researchers who produce them admit forecasts are difficult during a pandemic — current numbers may seem small in just a few weeks. Disease modelers are predicting total hospitalizations in the 275,000 to 300,000 range when the peak is reached, probably later this month.
As of Monday, Colorado, Oregon, Louisiana, Maryland and Virginia had declared public health emergencies or authorized crisis standards of care, which allow hospitals and ambulances to restrict treatment when they cannot meet demand.
Nurses and other hospital staff continued to fall sick themselves, raising patient-to-nurse ratios in some places to high levels.
“Our systems and personnel are under extreme strain and I’m not sure how long we can sustain it,” Russell Buhr, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, said in an email.
Pig’s Kiss on the Cheek, Gerhard Gluck
Check out this analysis by The New York Times’ David Leonhardt and Ashley Wu of the differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans in two cities–New York and Seattle. People who have been fully vaccinated and boosted are still getting sick from the Omicron variant, but tend to have mild illness while unvaccinated people are more likely to be hospitalized or die.
Here’s some good news from the Associated Press: Home COVID tests to be covered by insurers starting Saturday.
Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans. The Biden administration announced the change Monday as it looks to lower costs and make testing for the virus more convenient amid rising frustrations.
Under the new policy, first detailed to the AP, Americans will be able to either purchase home testing kits for free under their insurance or submit receipts for the tests for reimbursement, up to the monthly per-person limit. A family of four, for instance, could be reimbursed for up to 32 tests per month. PCR tests and rapid tests ordered or administered by a health provider will continue to be fully covered by insurance with no limit.
President Joe Biden faced criticism over the holiday season for a shortage of at-home rapid tests as Americans traveled to see family amid the surge in cases from the more transmissible omicron variant. Now the administration is working to make COVID-19 home tests more accessible, both by increasing supply and bringing down costs.
Later this month, the federal government will launch a website to begin making 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests available via mail. The administration also is scaling up emergency rapid-testing sites in areas experiencing the greatest surges in cases.
The insurer-covered testing would dramatically reduce costs for many Americans, and the administration hopes that by easing a barrier to more regular at-home testing, it can help slow the spread of the virus, get kids back into school more quickly and help people gather safely.
Finally, The New York Times reports: Russia Positioning Helicopters, in Possible Sign of Ukraine Plans.
The number of Russian troops at Ukraine’s border has remained steady in recent weeks, despite U.S. intelligence predictions of a surge, but American officials say that President Vladimir V. Putin has begun taking steps to move military helicopters into place, a possible sign that planning for an attack continues.
American officials had expected additional Russian troops to stream toward the Ukrainian border in December and early January, building toward a force of 175,000.
While troop movements have slowed, there are still 100,000 military personnel near the border and now the Russians have positioned additional attack aircraft there, American officials said. Attack and transport helicopters, along with ground attack fighter jets, would be a critical Russian advantage, should Mr. Putin decide to invade Ukraine.
U.S. officials say the Russian president’s window for an invasion is limited, dictated by temperatures that will freeze the ground — allowing for the easy movement of heavy vehicles and equipment — before a spring thaw, which could begin by March, creates a muddy quagmire.
Read more details at the link.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?