Editor’s Note: This was excerpted from the May 24 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
Remember all the talk about Biden’s radical, sweeping, transformative agenda? Well it’s pretty much stuck in Congress right now.
The President’s talks with Republicans on infrastructure are in danger of failing over a definition of what infrastructure actually is. Democrats want to include billions of dollars in spending on home health care and broadband. The GOP is into roads, bridges and airports – and opposes reversing some of Trump’s big corporate tax cuts to pay for it all. They suspect the President of trying to stuff the package full of ambitious left-wing social engineering.
A tortuous effort to reach compromise on a minor gun control measure regarding background checks for purchases is also on the brink. Even after new mass shootings, Republicans fear angering their pro-gun voters. There is however a chance for a win on police reform as the anniversary of George Floyd’s death approaches this week; Republicans and Democrats are still negotiating but are hung up on the issue of how to hold individual police officers accountable for misconduct.
Democrats had also been pushing for an independent, bipartisan commission on the Capitol insurrection. But the bill needs 10 votes from Republican senators to pass and the party has no desire to see the likely outcome of such a panel — condemnation for Trump over inciting the rioters. Also in trouble is a massive voting rights bill that would supersede many efforts by Republican state legislatures to limit voting and discriminate against minorities. Democrats can’t even get all of their own members on board; West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin for instance says the legislation goes too far.
Manchin is also against abolishing the Senate filibuster — a rule that effectively allows Republicans to block Biden’s agenda by requiring at least 60 votes in the chamber to pass a bill. There are some procedural gimmicks Democrats can use to pass some bills with budgetary implications and potentially squeeze an infrastructure measure through. But unless his party comes up with some clever tactics and soon, Biden’s big plans look to be heading for stalemate.
’If we can’t find a way to help Palestinians live with more dignity and with more hope, this cycle is likely to repeat itself’
Now that an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire is in place, the US will pivot to “dealing with the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ’ABC This Week.’ “The most important thing is this: What I hope that everyone takes from this is that if there isn’t positive change, and particularly if we can’t find a way to help Palestinians live with more dignity and with more hope, this cycle is likely to repeat itself, and that is in no one’s interest,” he said.
Blinken refused to say whether or not the Biden administration would pursue the peace deal brokered under former President Donald Trump, which was rejected by Palestinians, though he reiterated that the US believes a two-state solution is “the only way” to eventually resolve the conflict.
’We see you’
You might think that a bill meant to shield Asian Americans from a growing number of attacks might be something everyone in Washington could agree on. But such is the state of polarization in the US Capitol that the measure just signed by President Joe Biden drew significant Republican opposition.
The new law addresses a spike in attacks on Asian Americans during the pandemic, specifically speeds up efforts to tackle Covid-19 hate crimes and requires authorities to take steps to tackle racially motivated attacks. Yet 63 Republicans, some fixated on loyalty to ex-President Donald Trump and playing to his radical base voters, found plenty of reasons to oppose what seems like a straightforward and beneficial reform. (One GOP member, Rep Tom Cole of Oklahoma later said he voted against the bill by mistake).
Some Republicans argued that the law was nothing more than an attempt to vilify Trump, who was widely accused of worsening discrimination against Asian Americans by repeatedly referring to the “China virus.” Louisiana Rep. Julia Letlow expressed heartache over the pain of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans but branded the bill “as just another vehicle for delivering cheap shots against our former President.”
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio hit one of the ex-President’s favorite lines when he said the violence was the fault of urban Democrats who “defunded their police departments.” Rep. Chip Roy from Texas argued that collecting data about hate crimes “divvies us up by race” but added “that doesn’t mean it is A or B, you are for hate or you are against hate.” Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley — ahead of a possible future presidential run — stored up a future debate talking point by opposing the law on free speech grounds.
Lawmakers can have sincere disagreements. But it’s also clear many Republicans see no incentive in voting for a bill that Trump’s supporters see conceding that racial discrimination exists.
Biden chose the glass half full approach, noting that the law was one of the few measures to actually make it to his desk through a divided Congress. “My message to all those of you who are hurting is, we see you,” the President said. “And the Congress has said, we see you. And we are committed to stopping the hatred and the bias.”
’If you’re doing this because you think your last name is going to carry you to victory…you’ve got something else coming to you’
Who better than a Kennedy to dispense advice on making the most of a famous family name? After Andrew Giuliani, son of Trump lawyer and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, appeared to count his father’s time in politics among his own qualifications for the New York governor’s office, former Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy remarked: “To think that your family or one’s family has been politically active or engaged in politics somehow qualifies you to be an elected official or Governor of the State of New York – look ultimately that’s a question for the voters, but I’m not so sure that’s the bullet point i’d lead with on my resume.”