Welcome to the D.C. Memo. This week: Happy Days are Here Again! (OK, maybe by sometime this summer); the Dems push bipartisanship aside; things are looking good for Minnesota farmers; and more. Here we go:
Normalcy up ahead?
While Biden hailed the announcement as “important progress,” USA Today reports, he warned that the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was far from over and that his updated timeline did not mean every American adult would be vaccinated by May. “It’s not enough to have a vaccine supply. We need vaccinators, people who put the shots in people’s arms,” he said.
The president has said the U.S. would have enough vaccine — 600 million doses — to inoculate every adult by the end of July, but administration officials cautioned that it could take much longer to vaccinate a majority of Americans, reporter Courtney Subramanian writes.
Biden and congressional Democrats are pushing their agenda forward with a sense of urgency, The Associated Press reports, calling it “an unapologetically partisan approach” in the face of Republican opposition.
“The coronavirus pandemic is driving the crush of legislative action, but so are the still-raw emotions from the U.S. Capitol siege and the hard lessons of the last time Democrats had the sweep of party control of Washington,” reporters Lisa Mascaro and Zeke Miller write.
Republicans are blocking Biden’s agenda, as they did during the 2009 financial crisis when Democrat Barack Obama was president, while Democrats are showing little patience for GOP objections or offering much by way of compromise, claiming that the majority of the country supports their agenda.
The start of the first congressional session of the Biden administration, the AP reminds readers, was supposed to be a new era of bipartisan deal-making. The Senate split 50-50 and the House resting on a slim majority for Democrats “set prime conditions for Biden to swoop in and forge across-the-aisle compromises.”
Trump at CPAC
In an address at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., former President Donald Trump read “a sort of hit list,” the New York Times reports, of every congressional Republican who voted to impeach him.
“The RINOs that we’re surrounded with will destroy the Republican Party and the American worker and will destroy our country itself,” he said, referring to the phrase “Republicans In Name Only,” adding that he would be “actively working to elect strong, tough and smart Republican leaders.”
The Times characterized the speech as “a grim reminder” of the intraparty divisions facing the Republican Party.
Trump also teased the crowd about a possible run for president in 2024. “Who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time,” he said, alluding — once again — to the unsubstantiated claim that he actually won last fall’s election.
Ben Sasse is chill
One Republican senator doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to any blowback he might get for opposing Trump: Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Politico’s Burgess Everett talked to Sasse before the state Republican Party met to consider a formal censure of Sasse, one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump of inciting the Capitol riot. The party ultimately voted to express their disappointment with the senator in a resolution, citing 13 grievances, ranging from his failure “to take any meaningful action” to repeal and replace Obamacare to supporting Trump’s impeachment.
Here’s what Sasse had to say about the prospect of party activists working on Super Bowl Sunday to censure him: “You want to go to some hotel, strip mall conference room and scream about a politician who tried to tell you: ‘I would oppose somebody in my own party who violated their oath?’” he marveled. “That’s not healthy.”
Writes Everett: “Sasse just won a race down-ballot from Trump and is as relaxed as one can be about his political situation. He’s facing no internal pressure in the Senate for his vote to convict Trump of incitement of insurrection. A previous censure in 2016 did not rattle his views. If there’s a model for how to successfully build a conservative GOP out of Trump’s shadow, it might as well be him.”
The view from farm country
A booming export market with China and forecasts for a strong harvest later this year are among the reasons Minnesota’s agricultural producers are optimistic right now, writes the Star Tribune’s Patrick Condon.
At the same time, he notes, farmers are wondering what’s in store from the Biden administration. Rural voters across Minnesota and the United States supported Trump in larger numbers; moreover, the new administration has signaled that the fight against climate change will be a guiding focus of its agriculture policy.
Minnesota farmers also have a new but untested champion in Congress: U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach, the Republican who beat longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson in November in the state’s sprawling 7th District.
Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, which leans Republican in its endorsements but was a longtime supporter of Peterson, called Peterson’s defeat “a huge loss for Minnesota and the Midwest.”
Fischbach, who secured a seat on the Agriculture Committee, told Condon that “voters decided they want a new voice.”
What I’m reading
“Last exit from Afghanistan” In this sobering piece, Dexter Filkins of The New Yorker considers the prospects for a lasting peace in Afghanistan, where American troops are preparing to depart after 20 years. Here’s the heart of the matter, as Filkins sees it: “Afghanistan presents Joe Biden with one of the most immediate and vexing problems of his presidency. If he completes the military withdrawal, he will end a seemingly interminable intervention and bring home thousands of troops. But, if he wants the war to be considered anything short of an abject failure, the Afghan state will have to be able to stand on its own.”
Looking for some lighter fare? Try this – perfect for spring: “Did MLB use juiced balls in 2020?” In Sport Illustrated, Stephanie Apstein tells the story of Meredith Wills, a 46-year-old astrophysics Ph.D. who, after deconstructing baseballs used in major league games and measuring their components, “found that a significant percentage of the 2020 balls were constructed in a way that would likely make them fly farther—and that the changes could have only been deliberate.” (Baseballs flew out of parks in 2020 at a rate only second to that of 2019, when balls were also thought to be juiced). Major League Baseball and its ball-maker, Rawlings, disputed the findings.
ICYMI, don’t forget to catch up on these MinnPost reads
- “Minneapolis neighborhood groups are making their own preparations for the Chauvin trial,” by Solomon Gustavo.
- “How the MPCA approaches its push toward environmental equity,” by Gregg Aamot.
- “After $563 million in funding for the arts, Sheila Smith steps down,” by Pamela Espeland.