with Tobi Raji

Good Wednesday morning. Happy St. Patrick's Day 🌈🍺🇮🇪 Tips, comments, shamrocks? Reach out and sign up for the Power Up newsletter. Thanks for waking up with us. 

On the Hill

TO KILL A FILIBUSTER: President Biden said for the first time yesterday he supports overhauling the filibuster. He told ABC News's George Stephanopoulos he wants to bring back the talking filibuster, which would force opposing senators to talk on the floor to hold up a bill. 

But despite loud calls from progressives to end the procedural maneuver they see as preventing major political change, a Power Up review of Democratic senators revealed ending it only has the clear support of roughly 20 percent of the caucus.

The wind, though, may be shifting as Biden's comments indicated. Some Democrats, like Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), who firmly rejects ending the filibuster, say they could see making its use more “painful” by forcing senators to endlessly stall a bill by talking on the floor. Right now, a simple signal of objection can derail legislation.

  • Warning: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed to block “even the most basic aspects” of business if Democrats eliminate the filibuster in a floor speech sparked by calls from the No. 2 Senate Democrat, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), to change the rules. He threatened a “scored earth” response that would turn the Senate into a “100 car pileup.”
  • “I've long been open to changing the Senate rules to restore the standing filibuster. If a senator insists on blocking the will of the Senate, he should at least pay the minimal price of being present, no more phoning it in,” said Durbin.

Context: Major bills and Democratic priorities passed by the House are already piling up in the Senate as Democrats have little shot at winning at least 10 GOP votes to send the legislation to Biden's desk. Progressives and liberal activists who have long advocated for abolishing the filibuster are as frustrated as ever.

Much of the conversation has centered on opposition to removing the filibuster from Democrats Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.). But roughly a fifth of Senate Democrats have committed to doing so, by our count.

As for leadership, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Monday eliminating the filibuster is “on the table” if Senate Republicans fail to support any pending legislation. 

  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said during a Post Live interview yesterday that he doesn't think the filibuster can be eliminated with a “day 1 declaration” but that once Republicans look like they're operating in “bad faith,” support for reform or elimination of the filibuster will pick up.

Right now, there are three camps among Democrats when it comes to the filibuster, though things seem to be moving quickly and senators are shifting their views by the day.

The ‘yes,’ end the filibuster camp, including: 

  • Sens. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Kristin Gillibrand (N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Edward J. Markey (Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Tina Smith (Minn.) and Alex Padilla (Calif.) 
  • Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.) has said he'd “be prepared to eliminate the filibuster, but I don’t think you have the votes in the Senate to do it.” 
  • At least one Senate Democrat who was previously for preserving the filibuster recently came out in favor of overhaul: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) told HuffPost's Igor Bobic earlier this month the filibuster “has to be reformed,” though it's unclear what kind of change Booker favors.
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) has hinted at his support for scrapping the filibuster entirely but has geared his efforts toward a talking filibuster and other potential options, his spokesperson told Power Up. 
  • It’s very significant, Merkley told NBC News's Sahil Kapur of Manchin's recent shift. “There’s been a tremendous sea change in the Democratic caucus, saying, 'We were elected to solve problems, not to apologize because McConnell stopped us.' That excuse will not fly, nor should it.”

The ‘no’ or change it to a talking filibuster camp: This group includes Manchin and other moderate Democrats, like Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.). But there are other Democrats who might stall momentum entirely on the issue. 

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has yet to weigh in: “The senator is still reviewing it and doesn’t have a statement at this time,” a spokesperson told Power Up.
  • Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), whose office did not respond to request for comment, has only vaguely said he supports “bipartisanship when asked about eliminating the procedure.
  • Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) whose office also did not respond to request for comment, has not issued a public position on the filibuster. 
  • Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) have also previously expressed skepticism to making changes to the filibuster. 

The wait-and-see camp based on Republican behavior:

  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who has defended the filibuster, recently said  she prefers “to see people working together to get things done, because the best policies that are long-standing.  Murray said if Republicans continue to “say no to everythingthen it's detrimental and we'll have to figure out how I move forward.” 
  • “I do not think we should fully eliminate the filibuster, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) told Power Up. “It’s one of the few things that we have left in the Senate that allows all voices be heard. But I am open to looking at and discussing reform proposals, like the talking filibuster, so we can get back to talking to each other and effectively governing on behalf of the American people.”
  • Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) has said if Senate Republicans stand in the way of and obstruct legislation he willing to reform the filibuster significantly or scrap it all together,” a spokesperson said yesterday. 
  • Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who once supported preserving the filibuster, told the New York Times in January his opinion on the issue could change. I feel pretty damn strongly, but I will also tell you this: I am here to get things done, Tester said. If all that happens is filibuster after filibuster, roadblock after roadblock, then my opinion may change.
  • Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) told our colleague Bob McCartney last week he'd be willing to make an exception and allow simple majority for the passage of bills protecting voting rights: I am still hopeful that the Senate can work together in a bipartisan way to address the enormous challenges facing the countryBut when it comes to fundamental issues like protecting Americans from draconian efforts attacking their constitutional right to vote, it would be a mistake to take any option off the table.”
  • A spokesperson for Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) pointed us to a statement from June 2020: “I will not stand idly by for four years and watch the Biden administration's initiatives blocked at every turn,” Coons told Politico's Marianne Levine. “I am gonna try really hard to find a path forward that doesn't require removing what's left of the structural guardrails, but if there's a Biden administration, it will be inheriting a mess, at home and abroad. It requires urgent and effective action.”

At the White House

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY! Biden and Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin will attend the annual “Friends of Ireland” luncheon today. This year’s celebration will be held virtually.

  • “The two leaders are expected to cover a broad agenda of issues during their virtual meeting, including combating covid-19 and shared global challenges, including climate,” the Irish Central reports.
  • “The Taoiseach will present Biden with the traditional Shamrock Bowl, extending St. Patrick’s Day greetings from the people of Ireland to the people of the United States.”

The luck of the Irish president. “Throughout his political career, Biden has been open about his Irish roots and ancestry, which trace all the way back to the Great Famine,” Insider’s Erin McDowell reports. Here are four times Biden has spoken about his Irish heritage:

  • He invoked U2 during his 2013 induction into the Irish America Hall of Fame. “As the great Irish poet Bono said … ‘America is not just a country, it’s an idea. It’s an idea that has been embraced by the Irish for the last two centuries.”
  • In a 2020 campaign video, he quoted a verse from “The Cure at Troy” by Irish playwright Seamus Heaney. “History says, don’t hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.”
  • Learning to recite poetry by W.B. Yeats helped Biden overcome his stutter. “I used to stutter so badly. At night, my uncle and I would stand in front of the mirror and read Yeats, and I would practice and practice to breath and to get it down.”
  • Biden's Irish heritage and family shaped his drive to succeed. “My mom used to have an expression — she’d say, ‘As long as you’re alive, you have an obligation to strive, and you’re not dead until you’ve seen the eyes of God.’ And the truth of the matter is I think that’s the Irish of it.”

The policies

THE RETURN OF MEDICARE-FOR-ALL: “House Democrats on Wednesday will renew their effort to enact Medicare-for-all, arguing the year-long pandemic was a ‘wake-up call’ to replace the nation’s fragmented health insurance system — and betting they can pressure President Biden to embrace a government-run program that he famously rejected,” our colleague Dan Diamond reports

  • The key quote: “Everybody is seeing the chaos and the destruction that the pandemic has caused,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and one of the bill’s lead authors. “And it’s really making people look and [ask], could we have had something different had we had a Medicare-for-all system in place?”
  • But: “Advocates acknowledge that a Medicare-for-all bill has never cleared a single committee, let alone Congress,” though the bill has 109 co-sponsors in the House.
  • Remember: Biden did not support Medicare-for-all during the campaign, instead opting to embrace changes to Obamacare like adding a public option.

Meanwhile, former president Donald Trump told Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo Tuesday he “does ‘recommend’ that Americans get vaccinated, touting the ‘great vaccine’ as ‘something that works,’” our colleague Colby Itkowitz reports

  • “Trump received a vaccination before leaving the White House but did not do so publicly, which leading infectious-disease doctor Anthony S. Fauci has said would have gone a long way in convincing vaccine-hesitant Trump supporters.”
  • The encouragement comes as echoes of coronavirus hotspots emerge across the country. “After weeks of declining coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations, new hot spots of infection have emerged, and disease experts warn that the spread of a more dangerous variant and a too-rapid rush to return to normal life could prolong the historic health emergency,” our colleagues Joel Achenbach, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Jacqueline Dupree report.
  • Good news: “The Biden administration reported Monday that the United States was averaging 2.4 million shots daily during the past week.”

BIDEN TO MIGRANTS: In the same Stephanopoulos interview, Biden tried to quell the increasingly tense situation at the Southern border by telling migrants, “Don't come over,” per ABC News's Ben Gittleson.

  • The key quote: "Yes, I can say quite clearly: Don't come over... Don't leave your town or city or community," Biden said.

FYI: Migrants aren't overrunning U.S. border towns, despite the political rhetoric, our colleague Arelis R. Hernández writes

  • “Many of those who live along the border in Texas say that while there has been a dramatic increase in the number of migrants caught crossing illegally, the border itself has been heavily restricted for nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.”

The campaign

VICTORY WEEK: “The Biden administration [has] launched a nationwide effort to sell the administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package — a push that will take Biden, Vice President Harris and their spouses to seven states that Biden won in 2020,” our colleagues Ashley Parker and Tyler Pager report.

  • “The travel and public relations push will continue over at least the next three weeks, with each day this week having a different theme, ranging from ‘Help for Small Business’ (Tuesday) and ‘Help for Schools’ (Wednesday) to ‘Help Immediately With Direct Checks’ (Friday).”
  • Friday: Biden will be joined by Harris and Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael G. Warnock in Atlanta to “underscore how they and congressional Democrats fulfilled their promise in delivering $1,400 checks to finish the job of $2,000 in direct relief to millions of Americans.”
  • Meanwhile: “Twenty-one Republican state attorneys general on Tuesday threatened to take action against the Biden administration over its new $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus law, decrying it for imposing ‘unprecedented and unconstitutional’ limits on their states’s ability to lower taxes,” our colleagues Tony Romm and Jeff Stein report

The Democratic National Committee is also running this ad in battleground states: 

Outside the Beltway

NEW 8 DEAD IN GEORGIA MASSAGE PARLOR SHOOTINGS: “Atlanta police said they found four women — who all appeared to be Asian — dead inside two massage parlors across the street from each other. Another four people, including two Asian women, were killed and one more injured at an Asian massage parlor in nearby Cherokee County,” our colleagues Hannah Knowles, Reis Thebault, Jaclyn Peiser and Teo Armus report.

  • “Robert Aaron Long, a resident of [Cherokee County], was taken into custody south of Atlanta in Crisp County. Atlanta police said that based on video evidence, Long is the likely suspect in the shootings at all three massage parlors, although they are still working to confirm the connection.
  • “Authorities said they do not know yet whether the killings were racially motivated, but the shootings raised concerns among advocacy groups, who have called attention to a string of high-profile attacks on people of Asian descent.”

The people

BIDEN SPEAKS OUT ABOUT CUOMO: Biden called on embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign "if an investigation confirms claims he committed sexual harassment," ABC News's Ben Gittleson writes. 

"I know you said you want the investigation to continue," Stephanopoulos told Biden, referring to a probe by New York's attorney general into allegations Cuomo had sexually harassed several women. "If the investigation confirms the claims of the women, should he resign?"

  • "Yes," Biden replied. "I think he'll probably end up being prosecuted, too."
  • The president said "a woman should be presumed telling the truth and should not be scapegoated and become victimized by her coming forward."
  • "Takes a lot of courage to come forward…So, the presumption is they should be taken seriously. And it should be investigated. And that's what's underway now."

Meanwhile, Cuomo’s administration tried to tarnish the credibility of Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to publicly accuse the governor of sexual harassment, the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Jesse McKinley report. 

  • “Days after Boylan accused Cuomo of sexual harassment in a series of Twitter posts in December, people tied to the governor started circulating an open letter that they hoped former staff members would sign.”
  • “The letter was a full-on attack on Boylan’s credibility, suggesting that her accusation was premeditated and politically motivated. It disclosed personnel complaints filed against her and attempted to link her to supporters of Trump … Cuomo was involved in creating the letter.”

And Charlotte Bennett’s attorney says there are more accusers: “There are more women with sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York who have not come forward publicly, an attorney for one of his accusers said on Tuesday,” Politico's Benjamin Din reports. 

  • “Debra Katz, who represents Charlotte Bennett, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that she had been contacted by other women who had experiences of harassment similar to those of her client, but that they have not shared those allegations publicly.”