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D.C. Memo: Now we’re talking

Dems call for filibuster reform; the first Native American Cabinet member is confirmed; direct deposits hit; and more.

Somah Haaland holds a Bible for her mother, Interior Secretary Debra Haaland, during a ceremonial swearing-in at the White House on Thursday.
Somah Haaland holds a Bible for her mother, Interior Secretary Debra Haaland, during a ceremonial swearing-in at the White House on Thursday.
REUTERS/Tom Brenner

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Here’s what’s going on this week: Dems call for filibuster reform; the first Native American Cabinet member is confirmed; direct deposits hit; and more

Back in the old days

President Joe Biden spoke with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview that included his thoughts on the recent push by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and other Democrats to abolish the filibuster.

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I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” Biden said. “You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking.”

Currently, 60 votes are needed in the Senate to end debate and pass legislation, a threshold that requires Democrats to have the support of at least 10 Republicans to advance bills through the 50-50 Senate.

Minnesota Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar have both expressed their support for abolishing the filibuster, with Smith calling it “undemocratic.” Klobuchar said the likely death of an upcoming House voting rights bill called the “For the People Act” in the Senate flipped her from a long-standing “maybe” to a “yes.”

“I would get rid of the filibuster. I have favored filibuster reform for a long time and now especially for this critical election bill,” Klobuchar told Mother Jones Magazine.

Biden’s suggestion, reinstating the “talking filibuster,” would bring back the tactic used decades ago that required senators to speak on the Senate floor — sometimes for hours — to sustain a challenge to legislation.

Republicans are not as gung-ho on the topic of filibuster reform: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the result would be a “scorched earth Senate,” insinuating that by killing the filibuster, Democrats would “release furies they can barely imagine.”

Senate confirms first Native interior secretary

U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland became the first Native American to ever be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be a part of a president’s Cabinet.

Minnesota tribal leaders are celebrating Haaland’s confirmation as the head of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Chair Keith Anderson said in a statement that Haaland’s confirmation is “a long time coming.”

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Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo, a federally recognized tribe of Native American people in west-central New Mexico, near Albuquerque. Her mother, Mary Toya, a Native American woman, served in the U.S. Navy. Her father, John David “Dutch” Haaland, a Norweigan Minnesotan, was an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. 

Despite the family’s Minnesota connection, Haaland moved frequently during her childhood because of her father’s activity in the military. They eventually settled in New Mexico, where Haaland worked her way up through local and state governments to her current position.

Just before the vote began, Sen. Tina Smith took the opportunity to call out some of the rhetoric surrounding Haaland’s confirmation.

“I think we need to be honest with ourselves about what is going on here,” Smith said. “Once again a woman, and a woman of color, is being held to a different standard and we need to name it. We have to come to grips with the reality. Time after time, strong women, and especially women of color, are attacked, when white men with the same views are welcomed to walk right through that door.”

Haaland’s experience is not new to women of color in the U.S. government. Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar received a cacophony of hate during her 2018 campaign, and even experienced xenophobic attacks from then-President Donald Trump.

Smith compared Haaland’s reception to that of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, saying she holds the same policy stances as her two male counterparts, yet neither was attacked the same way.

“This is clear when we see how few Republicans could even acknowledge the historic nature of Representative Haaland’s nomination, choosing instead to focus on hostile questions about her tweets and whether she understands the law,” said Smith.

‘Direct deposit: $1,400’

After the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 last week, Americans making less than $75,000 started to receive their $1,400 stimulus checks. Some lawmakers have expressed the opinion that three stimulus checks in a year is too much, while a group of House Democrats, led by Rep. Ilhan Omar, are calling for regularly delivered checks through the end of the pandemic.

People on social media have since been creating memes about the “stimmy,” taking on an attitude of entitled wealth by demanding excessive goods beyond the realm of possibility. The memes, while often hilarious, reflect the widely-held sentiment that $1,400 isn’t enough.

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D.C. in solidarity with Asian Americans

On Wednesday night hundreds of people gathered at the Chinatown arch in downtown Washington to mourn the deaths of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, who were killed in Georgia in a shooting spree on Tuesday night.

The string of shootings in Atlanta come near the one-year mark of COVID-19 as the country continues to grapple with the spike of hate crimes against Asian Americans.

Eric Lee, a D.C. photojournalist, shared these photos on Twitter from the evening of mourning.

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ICYMI, catch up on these MinnPost reads from this week

That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading. If you’d like to get in touch with me, you can always reach me at or on Twitter at @byashleyhackett.