Welcome to this week’s D.C. Memo. You’ve got a few more weeks of me doing the memo, so there’s still time to send gifts. I’ll be passing the torch to MinnPost’s new Washington, D.C. correspondent, Ashley Hackett, who starts the second week of March. Meanwhile, this week: Klobuchar calls the Capitol riot ‘planned’; Biden faces challenges ahead; COVID deaths reach a sad milestone; and more.
Klobuchar: Capitol riot ‘planned’
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the co-chair of a Senate hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, said the evidence shows it was a “planned insurrection,” reports the Star Tribune’s Jim Spencer. The attack on the building resulted in five deaths, 140 injuries to police and property damage, but the Minnesota Democrat said the toll “could have been worse.”
The hearing revealed that a Jan. 5 FBI memo that warned of armed extremists’ plans to attack the Capitol never made it to the Capitol Police chief, Spencer reports. The memo from the Norfolk, Va., office of the FBI stopped after it reached a sergeant in the Capitol Police office, former Chief Steven Sund testified. “These criminals came prepared for war,” said Sund, who resigned under pressure following the Capitol breach. “I am sickened by what I witnessed that day.”
The fact that the Jan. 5 report “did not get to key leaders is very disturbing on both ends,” Klobuchar said. “You can’t just push send on an e-mail” and think it will end up in the right hands.
Hazards for Biden ahead?
Reuters’ Trevor Hunnicutt reports that President Joe Biden is on the cusp of securing a bigger economic rescue package than during the 2009 financial crisis and has wiped out his predecessor’s policies on climate change and travel bans. All in one month.
But the road is likely to get rockier, he reports. The White House’s strategy of avoiding unwinnable political fights and focusing on popular policies will be increasingly difficult in the months ahead. “They’ve got some problems right around the corner,” Jim Manley, once an aide to former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, told the news service.
Writes Hunnicutt: “Landmines going forward include pushing laws on which the Democratic Party is divided, such as college debt relief, tax hikes and curbs on the energy industry. Then there are the intractable policy fights that have defined American politics for a generation, including who can become a citizen, how easy it should be to vote, whether the government should pay for healthcare, and who should carry a gun.”
A small sign of decency?
There might be trouble ahead, but Biden did have some high praise for what he called a “very productive” Oval Office meeting with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers this week, according to Politico’s Benjamin Din.
“It was one of the best meetings, best meetings we’ve had,” Biden said before signing an executive order to secure critical supply chains. “It was like the old days. People were on the same page.”
As Din put it: “The meeting was a small show of the cooperation Biden has sought, in an attempt to unite the nation after the bitter partisanship that defined the last four years” before adding that the second impeachment of Donald Trump and Republican opposition to Biden’s COVID-19 plan have made for an acrimonious start to his presidency.
Half-a-million – and counting
More than 500,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus, even as more Americans are getting vaccinated and COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are on the decline.
The numbers, maintained by Johns Hopkins University, were revealed as public health officials trained their sights on new, more contagious coronavirus strains that have been reported in almost every state.
To mark the sad milestone, Biden ordered flags flown at half-staff for five days. In this Politico report, he said, “As a nation we can’t accept such a cruel fate. We have been fighting the pandemic so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow. We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or on the news.”
Phillips-led panel considers minimum wage
Three Minnesota U.S. House members heard testimony this week on one of the more controversial aspects of the proposed $1.9 billion COVID-19 relief bill make its way through Congress — a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, a Democrat, chairs the panel that reviewed the bill, the House Small Business subcommittee, which also includes Democratic Rep. Angie Craig and Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn. Among those who testified, Spencer reports, was John Puckett, the owner of St. Paul-based Punch Pizza and a founder of Caribou Coffee, who said the average pay at Punch already is $15.
Phillips summed up the dilemma facing lawmakers by citing a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showing that a $15-an-hour minimum wage would raise pay for 27 million Americans and lift one million of them out of poverty — while also possibly costing 1.4 million jobs and the loss of some small businesses.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
Speaking of pandemic relief…
Not too many Republicans — OK, none — appear to be on board with that $1.9 billion bill, the Associated Press’ Alan Fram reports.
Democratic leaders were poised to push the package through the House on Friday, Fram report, and were hoping the Senate would follow quickly enough to have legislation on Biden’s desk by mid-March.
But mid-week, not one Republican in either chamber had publicly said he or she would back the legislation. According to From, “GOP leaders were honing attacks on the package as a job killer that does too little to reopen schools or businesses shuttered for the coronavirus pandemic and that was not only wasteful but also even unscrupulous.”
ICYMI, don’t forget to catch up on these MinnPost reads
- “Lawsuit pushes Minnesota’s redistricting process into the courts, where it was likely to end up anyway,” by Peter Callaghan.
- “Minnesotans who got extra unemployment payments could see big tax bills this year,” by Greta Kaul.
- “Video encourages East African youth to mask up for others,” by Andy Steiner.