The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness
The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Ten questions for retiring Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.)

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Good morning, Early Birds. President Biden heads to Colorado today to survey fire damage, and the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the Biden administration's vaccine mandates for companies and health care workers. What else is happening out there? Give us a shout: Thanks for waking up with us.

🚨: The mayors of more than 20 cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Denver, New Orleans and Nashville, are sending a letter to leadership in Congress urging them to add funding to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund in the wake of the surge of the omicron variant.

The letter, organized by the Independent Restaurant Coalition, warns that without urgent action from Congress, 86 percent of independent restaurants and bars that didn’t receive earlier grants from the fund risk permanently closing. “The cold weather has ended outdoor dining and now the omicron variant is reinvigorating fears in guests who are scared to eat indoors,” the mayors write.

The Biden administration has so far declined to commit to pushing for another round of relief for restaurants and other businesses.

“No,” a senior administration officials told CNN's John Harwood and Betsy Klein when asked if the administration was taking additional stimulus spending seriously. “There might be something small for restaurants. But the economy is booming, there are millions of open jobs, and we do not believe people should be sitting at home if they are vaccinated and boosted, as most adults are.”

👀: “The White House is finalizing details with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver 500 million coronavirus test kits to households across the country … kick-starting a key part of Biden’s response to the raging omicron variant,” our colleagues Jacob Bogage and Dan Diamond scooped.

On the Hill

10 questions for Rep. Bobby Rush

Ten questions for … Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.): We chatted with the congressman, pastor and former Black Panther, who announced this week that he'd relinquish the House seat he's held since 1993. This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

The Early: Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) also announced this week that she'd retire, bringing the total number of Congressional Black Caucus members who aren't running for reelection this year to seven. Why do you think so many are retiring or seeking other offices?

Rush: Well, I can’t really speak for the other CBC members. But I’m not retiring. I am returning. I’m coming home to my church, to my family — particularly, my grandchildren — and to my community. About six months ago, my grandson Jonathan, who is 19 years old, I asked him, I said, ‘Jonathan, we need to spend more time together, I want to spend more time with you. Call me sometime.’ He told me, he said, ‘Granddad, I want to call you, I want to talk to you, but I know that you’re so busy.’ Oh, that tore me to my heart.

The Early: You’re a vocal advocate of extending the enhanced child tax credit. What do you make of the refusal of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to extend the credit without lowering the income cap and imposing a work requirement?

Rush: Well, I think that he’s off base. His attitude is flying in the face of the realities of so many people in West Virginia. Maybe he has become too much of a rural elitist, that he can’t identify with the common man, the common woman, the common ordinary family in West Virginia. This notion that everyone who is in need is some kind of criminal, looking for some kind of advantage — I think that is so shortsighted, so morally incomprehensible and incorrect. Maybe Manchin needs to come off that boat that he’s living on and go back to the hills. He is living [on his houseboat] in the midst of the Potomac River, and maybe he has gotten Potomac fever, an extreme case of it.

The Early: You’ve said you plan to endorse a candidate to succeed you. Do you have a specific candidate in mind?

Rush: I have someone in mind. They haven’t announced yet, so I can’t endorse anybody who hasn’t announced.

The Early: Do you know that this candidate is going to run?

Rush: They have not declared. When and if they do that, then I will certainly be willing to offer my experiences, my legacy, my history, my contacts — everything that I have to them so that they can win. So I intend to make a committed endorsement, not just an endorsement.

The Early: Who is your closest friend on the other side of the aisle?

Rush: I’ve been fortunate to have a number of friends on the other side, in the Republican Party. [Former Rep.] Joe Barton [(R-Tex.)]. Congressman [David] McKinley of West Virginia is someone who is a dear friend of mine. He was at my wedding. We spend a lot of time on the phone, we check on each other quite a lot, text each other quite a lot. And [Rep.] Fred Upton [R-Mich.] is someone I get along with quite well also. He’s a fellow Midwesterner.

The Early: What was the last book you finished? And what are you reading now?

Rush: I’m a devout Bible reader, so I read the Bible daily. But the last book I was most inspired by was a book called “Ego is the Enemy.” Another book that I try to read at least on an annual basis is called “Heroic Leadership.” It’s a book about the Jesuits. And I found that that book is also a very, very inspirational book about how the order of Jesuits was created.

The Early: When Barack Obama ran against you in the Democratic primary in 2000, you told the Chicago Reader, “Barack is a person who read about the civil rights protests and thinks he knows all about it. I helped make that history, by blood, sweat and tears.” For those of us who weren't part of the civil rights movement, what books do you recommend?

Rush: Certainly, the historical chronologies written by Taylor Branch are books that I would recommend. A classic book that I would ask or encourage people to read is “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” James Baldwin’s books were relevant then. They are relevant now.

The Early: What is your relationship with Obama like now?

Rush: I don’t see him that often, but we have a very friendly relationship, a very cordial relationship. I’ve always relished that before he decided to run for president, he asked to meet with me. He said, 'I’m thinking about running, I’ve been encouraged to run for president. Do you think I should run? Would you support me if I ran?'

And my answer to him was, 'Senator, I would encourage you to run. If you don’t do it now, you will always regret it for the rest of your life. So do it now.’ And I’m glad I gave him that advice. I think that it helped him to make what turned out to be the right decision.

The Early: Black voters and activists have expressed frustration with Democrats’ inability to pass voting rights bills over the past year. What would you like to see Biden say when he goes to Georgia next week to make the case for the legislation?

Rush: Well, I think that he is finally beginning to understand that this is his legacy — that he does not want to end office as being the president who allowed our democracy to be hijacked. President Biden really has his Lincolnesque moment before him. 

The Early: To steal a question that New York magazine used to ask New Yorkers: Who is your favorite Chicagoan, living or dead, real or fictional?

Rush: My absolute favorite Chicagoan is my friend Fred Hampton [Rush’s fellow Black Panther, who was killed by Chicago police in 1969]. A young man of enormous skill and ability — leadership skill, oratory ability and indomitable courage. He is the only American citizen to be assassinated by the official government of our nation, the only one to have been assassinated for political reasons. Day by day, he is so much a part of my life. Fred Hampton is my most favorite Chicagoan. And he was only with us for 21 years.

At the White House

Vice President Harris was at DNC on Jan 6. when pipe bomb was discovered outside

Jan. 6 could have been much worse: “Then-Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was inside Democratic National Committee headquarters on Jan. 6, 2021, when a pipe bomb was discovered outside the building,” Politico’s Betsy Woodruff Swan, Christopher Cadelago and Kyle Cheney first reported

  • “Harris’s presence inside the building while a bomb was right outside raises sobering questions about her security that day. It also raises the chilling prospect that the riots could have been far more destructive than they already were, with the incoming vice president's life directly endangered.”
  • “Harris had traveled to the DNC to use the committee’s recording studio to tape video messages thanking people who supported President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural committee,” a person familiar with the incident told our colleague Annie Linskey.
  • “The incoming vice president was accompanied by only a handful of staff and had not yet started recording the messages when her security detail told her that she needed to evacuate because of the explosive found outside the building … Harris was at the DNC for about 20 minutes before being whisked out.”

The Media

Weekend reeeads:

Jan. 6 coverage: 


From Reuters photographer Leah Millis: 

Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on Twitter: @theodoricmeyer and @jaxalemany.