The virtual summit will feature a dialogue between the eight senators including Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Catherine Masto Cortez (D-Nev.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
The 117th Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse in American history, and the group of senators have unofficially banded together of late on various legislative issues. Their joint summit appearance is the latest show of unity among the them.
Booker, who is only the fourth popularly elected Black U.S. senator, has been spearheading the joint statements and efforts from the group, along with Hirono. There's been some discussion about formally creating a BIPOC Caucus (referring to Black, Indigenous and People of Color), sources familiar with the conversations tell Power Up, but whether they formally announce one next week is still unclear.
- “The Senate has long struggled to be a place that truly reflects the American people,” Booker told Power Up. "And representation matters, especially in a representative body. We've made strides forward in recent years to correct these shortcomings, electing more Black, Latina/o, APPI and indigenous people, and women, to the Senate and bringing new priorities, ideas, and perspectives to the table. But we still have a long way to go, and that's why focusing on bringing greater diversity to the Senate – from the staff level on up – must remain a priority."
- A Democratic Senate staffer cautioned while “there's clearly been interest in working together,” a BIPOC caucus has not yet “materialized in a formal way.”
“There's never been a critical mass of senators of color to even form a caucus – so on the House side, the Congressional Asian Caucus included Hirono and [then California Sen.] Kamala Harris but they didn't have their own caucus in the Senate,” AAPI Victory Fund President Varun Nikore told Power Up.
“Now that this critical mass is at eight, it means there's a lot of issues we can work on together at this very critical time in our history," Nikore added, pointing to voting rights, immigration, and health disparities exacerbated throughout the pandemic.
- From an electoral perspective, Nikore lamented the 2016 “handwringing" over whether the Democratic Party should “double down on the Midwest and reach out to those working-class blue collar voters – part of the traditional Democratic base – or focus on the fact that Blacks, Latinos, and AAPIs are the fastest-growing population.”
- “It was an either or situation when it should have been a collective one,” he added.
- “From 2016 to 2020, with virtually no investment, AAPIs had at least a 46 percent increase in voter turnout, the biggest increase in a generation, enough to help put Joe Biden over the top,” AAPI Victory Fund said in a statement about next week's summit. “Sadly, AAPIs have also experienced a rise in hate directed at them, with Stop AAPI Hate having received more than 6,600 anti-hate reports since March 2020.”
By the numbers: Warnock is the first Black senator to represent Georgia, according to Pew Research's Katherine Schaeffer, and Padilla (D) is the first Hispanic senator to represent California. But there is still a lack of Senate diversity in the Senate, as Warnock and Booker are only two out of a total of 11 Black senators that have served in the Senate.
- "Although recent Congresses have continued to set new highs for racial and ethnic diversity, they have still been disproportionately White when compared with the overall U.S. population,” according to Schaeffer. “Non-Hispanic White Americans account for 77% of voting members in the new Congress, considerably larger than their 60% share of the U.S. population overall. This gap hasn’t narrowed with time: In 1981, 94% of members of Congress were White, compared with 80% of the U.S. population.”
Booker has previously driven efforts to diversify the Senate: in 2017 he was a key player behind the Democratic push to increase diversity in committee and personal office staffs. And Booker has the most diverse staff in the Senate, according to a study conducted in August of 2020 by LaShonda Brenson of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
🚨IT’S HAPPENING: “House Republicans will hold a vote Wednesday on whether to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her position as the third-ranking member of leadership, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced” in a letter to House Republicans, per our colleagues Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis.
- “If we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democrat agenda from destroying our country, these internal conflicts need to be resolved so as to not detract from the efforts of our collective team,” McCarthy said Monday. “Having heard from so many of you in recent days, it’s clear that we need to make a change. As such, you should anticipate a vote on recalling the Conference Chair this Wednesday.”
- “The letter came a day after McCarthy officially endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) to replace Cheney. Despite initially running for Congress as a mainstream Republican moderate, Stefanik became one of [former president Donald] Trump’s most vociferous defenders in the House, and in recent months has revived his false election claims, which have become a central element of her campaign to replace Cheney,” the New York Times’s Nicholas Fandos, Catie Edmondson and Luke Broadwater report.
- Divisions within divisions. Stefanik's moderate voting record has turned off “hard-right Republican lawmakers [who are un]willing to go along. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), wrote on Twitter that Republicans should take ‘a break before we vote on a replacement.’”
A few Republicans have come out in support of Cheney:
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah):
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa):
At the White House
BIDEN TO RELEASE UPDATED HEALTH INFORMATION — ‘SOON’: “The nation’s oldest president in history has yet to get a checkup — or release an update to the three-page medical summary that was last provided to the public some 17 months ago,” our colleague Matt Viser reports.
- “The President is planning to have a checkup later this year, and the results will be released to the public,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said.
- “Biden, 78, vowed as a candidate to be ‘totally transparent in terms of my health.’”
THE WAR ON LABOR SHORTAGES: “Biden appeared to bend in part to GOP criticisms of unemployment benefits on Monday, while continuing to hit back against claims that overly generous jobless payments are slowing the U.S. economy,” our colleagues Jeff Stein and Matt Viser report.
- “Biden said that the White House will ‘make it clear’ that Americans on unemployment must take a job if offered a ‘suitable’ one or lose their benefits. Republicans and business interests have said in recent days that the benefits are discouraging workers from returning to the labor market.”
- “Employers across a range of industries have complained that it is difficult to find workers, even though millions of Americans remain unemployed. Democrats argue that any disruption in the labor market is probably the result of employers that have tried to lure people back with low wages, on top of troubles facing families that continue to struggle to find adequate child care,” our colleagues Felicia Sonmez and Tony Romm report.
Labor shortage v. labor reassessment: “The coronavirus outbreak has had a dramatic psychological effect on workers, and people are reassessing what they want to do and how they want to work,” our colleague Heather Long writes.
- The great reassessment of work in America. “People who used to work in restaurants or travel are finding higher-paying jobs in warehouses or real estate, for example. Or they want a job that is more stable and less likely to be exposed to the coronavirus — or any other deadly virus down the road.”
- “Even among those who have jobs, people are rethinking their options. Front-line workers are reporting high levels of burnout, causing some to seek a new career path. There’s also been a wave of retirements as workers over 50 quit because they don’t want to return to front-line jobs.”
POCKETFUL OF SKEPTICISM: “Biden’s desire to offset more than $4 trillion in spending proposals with higher taxes is struggling to gain momentum in Congress,” our colleagues Jeff Stein and Tyler Pager report.
- “Pockets of skepticism have emerged within Biden’s party over White House plans to raise the corporate tax rate, revamp the international tax system and double tax rates on wealthy investors, among other measures critical to the administration’s plans.”
- “The party faces regional divides over taxes as well, with farm-state Democrats skittish about taxes on heirs and coastal Democrats demanding the repeal of limits on state and local tax deductions, which would amount to an expensive tax cut that would require higher hire taxes elsewhere.”
- “The unease could have major implications for his domestic agenda, as Biden has said he does not want new spending to be added to the deficit. The White House is trying to whip up momentum for the plans, and Biden plans to meet with numerous lawmakers this week in an effort to speed up talks.”
In the agencies
‘AN ECONOMY STRUGGLING TO RECALIBRATE’: “Widespread shortages and production snags are driving prices higher for many everyday items, as an uneven economic reopening leaves Americans facing the unfamiliar risk of inflation,” our colleague David J. Lynch reports.
- “Significant price increases have affected used cars, medical care, appliances, energy, food and cigarettes in recent months, according to government data. Gas prices headed higher on Monday — before ending the day almost unchanged.”
- “The Federal Reserve insists that today’s rising prices — up 2.6 percent over the past 12 months — will not blossom into anything like the economywide, double-digit inflationary spiral of the 1970s. Some economists, including Lawrence Summers, a former treasury secretary, however, warn that Biden’s free spending could ignite inflation that would outstrip wage gains and leave consumers struggling to make ends meet.”
FDA AUTHORIZES PFIZER VACCINE FOR ADOLESCENTS: “The Food and Drug Administration cleared the first coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in children as young as 12 on Monday, expanding access to the Pfizer-BioNTech shot to adolescents ahead of the next school year and marking another milestone in the nation’s battle with the virus,” our colleague Carolyn Y. Johnson reports.
- “Evidence suggests that schools can function at low risk with prevention measures, such as masks and social distancing. But vaccines are poised to increase confidence in resuming in-person activities and are regarded as pivotal to returning to normalcy.”
- What to watch: “Expert advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are scheduled to meet Wednesday to recommend how the vaccine should be used in that age group.”
- “The vaccine can be administered as soon as the CDC director signs off on the recommendation.”
- “D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser set May 21 as the day when the city will end capacity and activity restrictions for myriad places, including restaurants, public and private gyms and public recreation centers, libraries and offices.”
- “Bars, nightclubs and sports palaces such as Nationals Park will lose their restrictions June 11 — although indoors, masking will remain the rule of the day.”
- ‘Normal’: “Home is still the center of daily life for many … But on U Street on a recent Saturday night, the sidewalks were crowded outside Ben’s Chili Bowl and Nellie’s Sports Bar, and there was even a line to get into El Rey, a bar featuring what it touts as a “margarita garden.”
#CANCELED: “NBC announced Monday afternoon that it won’t air the Golden Globes in 2022 because of ongoing controversy with the award show’s voting body, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” our colleague Sonia Rao reports.
- “NBC’s decision arrives after a tumultuous few months for the HFPA, the subject of a Los Angeles Times investigation in February that revealed the group of 87 international journalists didn’t have a single Black member — adding weight to criticism that the Globes had snubbed several worthy projects by Black artists, such as ‘I May Destroy You.’”