D.C. Memo: Timing that is not one’s own choice
Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me looking through some of my photos from this day last year: Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of Joe Biden’s presidency. This week last year was tumultuous to say the least — after the insurrection on Jan. 6, there were rumors that another right-wing protest would come to D.C. to try to stop Biden’s inauguration from happening. Like many protest threats since Jan. 6, that turned out to be false. I got a pretty great vantage point to watch the inauguration (held on the west side of the Capitol building facing the National Mall) from the rooftop of a friend’s apartment above the old Newseum building. It was freezing cold, but I’m glad I got to experience that moment back before I had a congressional press pass. Here’s what’s been going on this week: Democrats’ voting rights package fails, Biden gets a little Trumpy and Klobuchar makes an appearance in Ukraine.
Voting rights bills fail in the Senate
As expected, Senate Republicans filibustered Democrats’ major voting rights package Wednesday night. The vote was 50-50. You might recall that Democrats wanted to use the voting rights issue as a means for reforming filibuster rules, creating a sort of “carve-out” in filibuster rules specifically for voting rights. (This would have meant that voting rights-related legislation would only need a simple majority of 51 votes instead of the usual 60.)
As promised, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a vote on changing the Senate rules to allow the chamber to pass the voting rights bill by a simple majority vote. Predictably, Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona voted against Schumer’s proposal. The pair had been saying for months that they wouldn’t stand with Democrats on filibuster reform. So the attempt to change filibuster rules using the “nuclear option” — a party line vote that would change Senate rules — failed 48-52. Most Democrats will not be happy with Manchin and Sinema right now.
During a press conference ahead of the vote, Sen. Amy Klobuchar got pretty heated with some reporters. She laid out step-by-step the ways in which many state legislatures around the country have restricted voting access, and explained that mail-in balloting has been the status quo for many rural communities for years and that it was incredibly effective during the pandemic.
“No matter which way they did it, it all adds up to one thing,” Klobuchar said. “And that is voter suppression and limiting people’s freedom to vote.”
Klobuchar has been a leader in voting rights legislation: Along with Sen. Manchin, she wrote the Freedom to Vote Act, which was the bill up for debate Wednesday along with the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
Biden being Biden…being kind of like Trump
So, we have to talk about this: President Joe Biden gave a nearly two-hour press conference Wednesday night. This long of a conference has been fairly rare throughout Biden’s presidency, perhaps in an effort to distance himself from his predecessor — Trump tended to have marathon-like meetings with the media, while Biden has so far kept things fairly short.
The conference gave more of a sense of what Biden is like unscripted, which may not be a good thing. Media pundit Van Jones compared Biden’s press briefing to the later years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, calling Biden’s speech “foggy” and “meandering.”
Reporter James Rosen from the conservative Newsmax network said he wanted to raise a “delicate subject.” Referring to a poll released that morning, he asked Biden why a “large segment of the American electorate” had come to “harbor such profound concerns about your cognitive fitness.”
Biden answered quickly: “I have no idea,” he said. And then he moved on.
The president also took questions on the failed voting rights package, answering a reporter who asked him why he did not push for voting rights earlier on in his presidency.
“The fact is that there is a timing that is not of one’s own choice,” he said. “They are dictated by events that are happening in the country and around the world.” He added, though, that “part of the problem is I have not been out in the community nearly enough.”
Biden emphasized that it was Democrats’ responsibility to push for a big turnout in November, especially without federal-level voting reforms.
“No matter how hard they make it for minorities to vote, I think you are going to see them willing to stand in line and defy the attempt to keep them from being able to vote,” Biden said. “I think you are going to see the people they try to keep from being able to show up, showing up and making the sacrifice that needs to be made in order to change the law back to what it should be.”
Finally, in perhaps what may have been the most Trump-esque comment coming from Biden Wednesday night, he responded to a question about how polling shows moderates are unhappy with his job performance.
“I don’t believe the polls,” he said.
Klobuchar visits functioning democracy
Amy Klobuchar made an appearance in Ukraine this week in order to emphasize the United States’ support of the country as it continues to face Russian aggression. Klobuchar joined a group of six other senators in Ukraine, where they met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday.
“This is a democracy, we’re proud it’s a democracy. And we stand with Ukraine,” Klobuchar said during the conference. She also highlighted strong engagement on this conflict in the United States, including in Minnesota’s Ukrainian-American community.
“I have a huge Ukrainian-American population in my state, and I remember after my last trip I ended up doing a town hall meeting in the Ukrainian Hall, and hundreds and hundreds of people showed up … this is something closely followed in America … because we support democracy, but it also hits home,” Klobuchar said.
Women endorsing women
Minnesota’s largest women’s political organization, Women Winning, announced its early endorsement of five pro-choice candidates who are running for re-election in 2022.
The endorsements include Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, State Auditor Julie Blaha, Second Congressional District Rep. Angie Craig, Fourth Congressional District Rep. Betty McCollum and Fifth Congressional District Rep. Ilhan Omar.
“The 2022 Election will determine reproductive rights for generations to come. Women Winning is proud to take early action in these critical races to ensure these pro-choice women leaders are re-elected and that reproductive rights are protected in our highest offices,” said Alyse Maye Quade, Political Director of Women Winning, in a press release of the announcement.
Fun fact: Erin Maye Quade, who is running for state Senate and is very loudly pro-choice, is married to Alyse Maye Quade of Women Winning. Talk about a power couple. The more you know!
What I’m reading
- “I got sober in the pandemic. It saved my life,” Jezebel. This is a gorgeous and gutting read, and I can already tell it will stick with me for a long time. Author Danielle Tcholakian wrote an incredibly honest account of the first few months of her sobriety — which coincided with the first few months of the pandemic — and how she started to feel her thoughts and body change during her recovery. The last paragraph really sat with me, as she said that instead of turning to isolation and numbing when she feels down, she now turns to gratitude and community. “It’s also so achingly beautiful and nourishing, and it is saving my life minute by minute.”
- “Why Wordle is the diversion we need now,” USA Today. Have you played Wordle yet? If you haven’t, and you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably at least been annoyed by people sharing their scores every day. It’s an obsessive word game, and I have fallen prey to the little gray, yellow and green boxes. Can’t start my day without them now. This funny column goes into why the Twitterverse has suddenly become obsessed with this simple game and how it’s suddenly become a part of public discourse. I would suggest you play it too, but at your own risk. You’ll likely get addicted just like the rest of us.
That’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to send any questions, comments or your Wordle scores to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter at @byashleyhackett.