President Biden said Thursday that he plans to seek reelection in 2024 with Vice President Harris as his running mate; indicated that he was open to revamping the filibuster to get his policy priorities, including voting rights, passed; and said that he does not picture U.S. forces in Afghanistan next year, though meeting a May 1 deadline for withdrawal would be tough. He answered reporters’ questions for a little over an hour at his first formal news conference.
Later Thursday, Biden met virtually with European Union leaders about his desire to revitalize U.S.-E.U. relations that were strained during the tenure of President Donald Trump.
Georgia lawmakers approved a sweeping voting measure that proponents said is necessary to shore up confidence in the state’s elections but that critics countered will lead to longer lines, partisan control of elections and more difficult procedures for voters trying to cast their ballots by mail.
More than 60 House Democrats pressed Biden to take “lifesaving action” and sign an executive order that would ban the importation of assault weapons after back-to-back mass shootings about a week apart killed 18 people in the United States.
North Korea fired two more missiles, Japanese, South Korean and American officials said, in a sign of growing tension between Washington and Pyongyang over military exercises the United States carried out with South Korea earlier this month.
The Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked over the nomination of Vanita Gupta for associate attorney general, the No. 3 position at the Justice Department, after advancing the nomination of Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general, the department’s No. 2 position.
Georgia lawmaker arrested while trying to watch Gov. Kemp sign voting bill, reports say
State Rep. Park Cannon (D) was arrested Thursday after trying to watch Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sign a new voting bill, SB 202, into law, according to multiple videos and reports from the Georgia Capitol.
Facebook Live video taken by Tamara Stevens, who was at the Capitol to protest the voting bill, shows Cannon knocking on a door where Kemp (R) was holding a news conference about SB 202. Two officers approach Cannon, who steps back from the door and at one point takes some hand sanitizer from a nearby dispenser. When she approaches the door and knocks again, one of the officers tells her, “You’re under arrest,” to the outrage of a group that was there with Cannon.
A live stream of Kemp’s news conference abruptly cut off about seven minutes into the event. Instagram Live video taken by Hannah Joy Gebresilassie, an independent journalist, and posted about the same time the news conference ended, shows two officers taking Cannon through the building and into an elevator, as a group follows them, shouting, “Why are you arresting her?” and “What did she do?!”
Members of the group defending Cannon said later in the video that they were simply trying to watch Kemp sign the bill.
“If Governor Kemp is so proud of this bill and the Georgia GOP is so proud, why are they doing it behind closed doors?” shouted one woman holding a sign that read “SHAME ON THE GEORGIA GOP.”
After the elevator doors closed on Cannon and two officers, the video shows Georgia state Rep. Erica Thomas (D) demanding a moment to speak.
“And all we ask is for her to be able to see them sign a bill that is signing our rights away, and you arrested her!” Thomas shouts. “She did not touch anybody! She did not say any slanderous words … but you’re going to tell me that you arrested a sitting state representative for nothing. She didn’t do anything but knock on the governor’s door. I’m done! I’m so done! I’m so done. Protect and serve who?”
“I’m concerned that this happened,” Griggs told the newspaper. “I’ll fight to get her released.”
It is unclear what charges Cannon is facing. The Georgia Department of Public Safety did not respond to a request for comment or questions about the incident.
SB 202 is one of the first major voting bills to pass as dozens of state legislatures consider restrictions on how ballots are cast and counted in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, when then-President Donald Trump attacked without evidence the integrity of election results in six states he lost, including Georgia.
The legislation imposes new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtails the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allows challenges to voter eligibility; makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; blocks the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevents local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Thursday signed into law a sweeping voting measure that proponents said is necessary to shore upconfidence in the state’s elections but that critics countered will lead to longer lines, partisan control of elections and more difficult procedures for voters trying to cast their ballots by mail.
The measure is one of the first major voting bills to pass as dozens of state legislatures consider restrictions to how ballots are cast and counted in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, when former president Donald Trump questioned the integrity of election results in six states he lost, including Georgia.
The bill would impose new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtail the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allow challenges to voting eligibility; make it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; block the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevent local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is pushing back against criticism that she is unfairly allowing an investigation that could overturn the results of an Iowa congressional race to go on.
Republicans and moderate Democrats are criticizing the House Administration Committee and leadership for looking into whether a six-vote margin of 400,000 votes cast in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District is enough to overturn the results or call for a new election.
Pelosi noted that under the Constitution, the House has the right to determine the outcome of its own elections if an appeal is made by the losing candidate and federal law assigns the jurisdiction to the committee. Democratic candidate Rita Hart alleges that 22 ballots with envelope issues were not counted during the initial canvass and recount, allowing Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks to be seated in Congress.
“If I wanted to be unfair, I wouldn’t have seated the Republican from Iowa because that was my right on the opening day. I would’ve just said, ‘You’re not seated,’ and that would be my right as speaker to do. But we didn’t want to do that, we just said, ‘Let’s just go through this process,’ ” Pelosi said during a virtual news conference Thursday.
While the Administration Committee has not come anywhere near making a recommendation to the House on how to proceed with the election results, a sizable group of Democrats have already voiced their opposition to possibly unseating a Republican member of Congress.
“Losing a House election by six votes is painful for Democrats. But overturning it in the House would be even more painful for America,” Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) wrote on Twitter Monday. “Just because a majority can, does not mean a majority should.”
Asked for her reaction to the opposition within her own caucus, Pelosi said that she did not “know that they’ve come out opposed to that” and recalled how many Democrats were initially urging her not to swear in Miller-Meeks in January.
“It would’ve been, under the rules, allowable for me to say we’re not seating the member from Iowa. We did not do that, so I want credit for that.”
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Nearly three months after Jan. 6 assault, House makes chamber doors bulletproof
Almost three months after the Jan. 6 insurrection raised questions about U.S. Capitol safety and security, the House is making all doors surrounding the chamber bulletproof.
A House Democratic leadership aide confirmed the change, which was first reported by Axios, but noted that the project was planned long before the deadly attack by a pro-Trump mob. The aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe security measures, said the decision to bulletproof the chamber doors was made before the attack “as part of a general revamp.”
Even so, the decision to secure the doors is notable given that rioters got dangerously close to the House floor where members, staff and reporters were barricaded. One woman was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer who was protecting the floor as a large group attempted to push their way through the locked doors of the Speaker’s Lobby. Rioters were successful in taking over the Senate floor.
Members of Congress are back in their districts for three weeks, allowing for such renovations to take place.
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Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club to reopen following coronavirus-induced closure
Former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club will reopen Saturday following a partial closure due to employee infections from the coronavirus, according to an email sent to club members Thursday.
“Thank you for your patience and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to the club!” said the email, obtained by The Washington Post. The club will start serving lunch again Saturday and dinner Wednesday, according to the message.
Last Friday the club announced the closure in a separate email to members, saying that as “some of our staff have recently tested positive for COVID-19, we will be temporarily suspending service at the Beach Club and à la carte Dining Room.”
The Trump Organization declined to say how many workers were affected at the Palm Beach club, where Trump has made his post-presidency home.
In his news conference Thursday, Biden defended himself when asked whether he had rejected bipartisanship by claiming that “Republican voters agree with what I’m doing,” referring to the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that received no support from Republicans in Congress.
Yet polls show majorities of Republicans across the country opposed the stimulus bill, although polls show most Republicans supported some key parts of the legislation. Across five national polls since late February, between 54 percent and 73 percent of Republicans opposed the $1.9 trillion stimulus package. The bill enjoyed majority support from the public overall — from a low of 61 percent to a high of 75 percent in polls by CNN, Monmouth University, the Pew Research Center, CBS/YouGov and YouGov/Economist.
The CNN poll measured support for four specific aspects of the bill, and found 73 percent of Republicans supported larger tax credits for families, 55 percent supported additional funding to help schools resume in-person classes and 55 percent supported sending checks worth of up to $1,400 to most families and individuals. But a 71 percent majority of Republicans opposed $350 billion in aid to state and local governments.
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Three lawmakers introduce ‘No Fencing at the United States Capitol Complex Act’
A trio of lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation that would ban federal funds from being used to install permanent fencing around the U.S. Capitol and its office buildings, amid a debate over how best to secure the complex in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection by a pro-Trump mob.
The measure, the “No Fencing at the United States Capitol Complex Act,” was introduced by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, as well as Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Blunt recently announced that he will not run for reelection in 2022.
“We need to put that terrible day behind us,” Norton said, referring to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. “You can’t do it as long as this fencing is up to remind people that they can’t get into the Capitol.”
In recent weeks, local residents have protested the four-mile-long, razor-wire-topped black metal fencing that has surrounded the Capitol and nearby buildings, arguing that it is not only a nuisance but also a threat to freedom.
A layer of outer fencing had been removed as of Wednesday, but it remains uncertain when the inner fencing, which surrounds the Capitol building, will be taken down.
In a tweet, the Capitol Police said Wednesday that the inner perimeter will remain in place “while the Department works with our congressional stakeholders and law enforcement partners to strengthen our security posture.”
Blunt said Thursday that the bill’s proponents aren’t necessarily against having temporary fencing installed during periods of high alert but believe that permanent fencing would send the wrong message to Americans and the world.
“None of us are saying we don’t want a fence anywhere, anytime,” Blunt told reporters. “And when you anticipate you need it, you can put it up. But it will make a big difference in how this building looks to people that come from all over America and all over the world if it is incredibly hard to get in and it looks like you’ve turned the Capitol of the United States into a fort, not the citadel of democracy.”
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Biden takes several digs at Trump in first news conference
President Biden, who often avoided calling out Trump by name on the campaign trail and during the transition, took several digs at his predecessor Thursday in his first news conference since being inaugurated.
Biden laughed when a reporter noted that by this point in his presidency, Trump had already set up a reelection campaign.
“My predecessor,” he said, chuckling, before he deadpanned: “Oh, God, I miss him.”
When asked if he thought he might be running against Trump again in 2024, Biden scoffed.
“Oh, come on,” he said. “I have no idea. I have no idea if there will be a Republican Party. Do you?”
On the issue of immigration, Biden forcefully defended his rolling back of certain policies that were in place under Trump — including that of separating migrant children from their parents — saying they did not help stem the pace of people migrating to the border.
“Rolling back the policies of separating children from their mothers? I make no apology for that. Rolling back the policies of ‘Remain in Mexico,’ sitting on the edge of the Rio Grande in a muddy circumstance with not enough to eat? I make no apologies for that,” Biden said.
“I make no apologies for ending programs that did not exist before Trump became president that have an incredibly negative impact on the law, international law, as well as on human dignity,” Biden added.
And without naming Trump, Biden implied that the former president had given China a pass on human rights violations and not spoken out forcefully enough against the mistreatment of the Uyghur population in China or the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong.
“I made it clear that no American president — at least one did — but no American president ever backed down from speaking out of what’s happening with the Uyghurs, what’s happening in Hong Kong,” Biden said. “That’s who we are. The moment a president walks away from that, as the last one did, is the moment we began to lose our legitimacy around the world.”
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Biden previews arguments for infrastructure package
Biden offered a preview of the case he’ll make for his administration’s next major legislative initiative, a massive infrastructure package that he plans to detail at an event next week in Pittsburgh.
“The next major initiative … is to rebuild the infrastructure, both physical and technological infrastructure of this country, so that we can compete and create significant numbers of really good paying jobs, really good paying jobs,” he said at his news conference.
Biden said that Republicans used to put a priority on building roads, bridges and other forms of infrastructure and lamented that the United States now lags many countries, including China, in the investment it makes.
“I still think the majority of the American people don’t like the fact that we now rank … 85th in the world in infrastructure,” he said. “I mean, look, the future rests on whether or not we have the best airports that can accommodate air travel, ports that you can get out of quickly. … So there’s so much we can do.”
Biden: America ‘will insist that China play by the international rules’
Biden on Thursday said that his administration would “insist that China play by the international rules” and that there would be no tolerance for human rights violations.
Biden described Chinese President Xi Jinping as “a smart, smart guy” who “doesn’t have a democratic with a small D bone in his body.”
“He’s one of the guys like Putin who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future,” Biden said.
In their first phone conversation as heads of state, Biden said he and Xi spoke for two hours and that he emphasized that the United States was not looking for confrontation, “although we know there will be steep, steep competition.”
Biden also said the United States would need investments in American workers and science to compete with China effectively.
“But (the U.S.) will insist that China play by the international rules, fair competition, fair practices, fair trade,” he said.
The president noted he had recently met with the heads of the other so-called Quad countries — Australia, India and Japan — to discuss how to hold China accountable in the region.
“We have to have democracies working together,” he said. “We’re going to make it clear that in order to deal with these things, we are going to hold China accountable, to follow the rules, whether it relates to the South China Sea, the North China Sea or the agreement made on Taiwan or a whole range of other things.”
Finally, Biden said that he made clear to Xi that Americans value human rights and would continue to call out China’s human rights violations, specifically citing the persecution of the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region and in the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong.
“The moment the president walks away from that (commitment to human rights), as the last one did, is the moment we began to lose our legitimacy around the world,” Biden said. “It’s who we are.”
Biden says he has ‘no idea’ whether Republican Party will exist in 2024
Asked whether he thinks he will be running against former president Donald Trump for reelection in 2024, Biden suggested the Republican Party may not even exist by that point.
“Oh, come on,” Biden said. “I don’t even think about it. I have no idea. I have no idea whether there will be a Republican Party. Do you? I know you don’t have to answer my question, but I mean, you know, do you?”
Trump remains wildly popular among Republicans, and last month he ruled out forming a third party, saying he will instead focus his efforts on defeating Democrats and others whom he views as having opposed his agenda.
Biden said he plans to run for reelection in 2024. “That’s my expectation,” he told reporters at his first formal news conference.
Biden, 78, was the oldest to assume the presidency when he was sworn in on Jan. 20, prompting questions of whether he would elect to not run for a second term. During the campaign and the transition, Biden surrogates have suggested that he would run again.
Thursday’s answer came in response to a reporter who noted that former president Donald Trump had signaled that he might seek the presidency in 2024. “Oh, God, I miss him,” Biden joked.
Biden said he expects Vice President Harris to be on his ticket — “She’s a great partner” — but that he has no idea who will be on the Republican ticket in 2024. “I have no idea whether there will be a Republican Party, do you?”
Biden says he agrees with Obama that the filibuster is a ‘relic’ of the Jim Crow era
Biden said that he agrees with former president Barack Obama that the Senate filibuster is a “relic” of the Jim Crow era but said he is not seeking to abolish it altogether because “politics is the art of the possible.”
Biden was asked if he agreed with comments Obama made in July, at the funeral of civil rights icon and former congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), that the tactic was a “relic” used to suppress voting.
“Yes,” Biden said.
Biden has advocated making changes to the rule to require senators to remain on the floor while pressing a filibuster, which requires 60 votes to break, but he has stopped short of calling for its abolition.
Asked why, he said, “Successful electoral politics is the art of the possible. Let’s figure out how we can get this done and move in the direction of significantly changing the abuse of … the filibuster rule.”
A handful of Democratic senators have said they would not support abolishing the filibuster outright, making such a move unlikely in the short term.
Biden blasts ‘un-American’ efforts to restrict voting in states: ‘It’s sick.'
Biden on Thursday blasted efforts by Republican-led state legislatures across the country to restrict voting rights, saying he was worried about “how un-American this whole initiative is.”
“It’s sick. It’s sick,” Biden said vehemently, citing examples of some states proposing restrictions on bringing water to people standing in line waiting to vote, or to prohibit absentee ballots even under the most rigid of circumstances.
“I’m convinced that we’ll be able to stop this because it is the most pernicious thing. This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” Biden said, emphasizing he would do “everything in my power” to pass legislation to protect voting rights.
Biden also said he would not lay out his strategy to combat voting restrictions outside of passing legislation