Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me awkwardly grinning at people on the street again now that the CDC has announced fully vaccinated people can walk around non-crowded areas without a mask. Today in the memo: Biden addresses Congress; New York wants what we have; and the feds had a plan for Chauvin all along.
‘It’s about time’
President Joe Biden gave his first joint address to Congress Wednesday night, where he acknowledged the historic “first” of two women, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris, sitting behind him: “Thank you, Madame Speaker and Madame Vice President. No other President has ever said those words from this podium…and it’s about time,” Biden said.
Historically, the vice president and the House speaker sit directly behind the president during the joint address to Congress. Harris is the first woman of color to sit in either position.
During his joint address, Biden looked back on the challenges he faced during his first 100 days in office and declared “America is on the move again,” likely referring to the country’s progress towards mass vaccination and herd immunity. The speech showed a stark contrast with his predecessor, with a more low-key and traditional tone and a list of policy priorities instead of an unpredictable, off-script tirade so often seen from former President Donald Trump.
Biden spent much of his speech outlining a massive domestic program called the American Families Plan — not to be confused with the American Rescue Plan — a $2 trillion plan that includes initiatives that would widen the social safety net for Americans from preschool age to those on Medicare. The American Families Plan would convert some initiatives originally designed as one-time coronavirus relief to more permanent federal programs for families.
Due to COVID-19sf restrictions, the guest list for the speech was pretty limited, and Republicans weren’t exactly begging for an invite. But some Minnesota Democratic delegates were there, along with their guests. Usually members of Congress are allowed to bring guests from their home state along with them to the Capitol, but they attended virtually this year.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar invited Chris Montana from Du Nord Craft Spirits, a Black-owned Minneapolis distillery that switched operations to produce hand sanitizer earlier in the pandemic. Sen. Tina Smith invited Chad Dunkley, the CEO of New Horizon Academy. Rep. Angie Craig was joined by Heather Tidd, acting director of the Dakota County Child and Family Clinic.
Minnesota’s Republican delegates weren’t as excited about the address. Rep Jim Hagedorn said in a statement that “The president painted a picture full of promise, but the reality is that under his failed leadership, we are in an America more divided than ever.”
Rep. Pete Stauber said he was “disappointed” that only a fraction of members were invited to the speech. Stauber shared Hagedorn’s misgivings: “The reality is that within his first 100 days in office, the President has set our nation back through countless job-killing Executive Orders, a historic border crisis, and trillions of dollars in reckless spending,” Stauber said.
Jealous New Yorkers
The U.S. received preliminary Census results on Monday, and there was a bit of an upset between Minnesota and New York: Minnesota held on to the very last congressional seat, beating New York out of their 27th district by a mere 89 people — if New York had counted that many more, it would have taken the last district and Minnesota would have been reduced to seven U.S. House seats.
That’s what we knew on Monday — but election research groups looked further into the census data and determined that the MN-NY game was actually much closer. Carolina Demography, a population center based at UNC-Chapel Hill, found that if Minnesota had counted just 26 fewer people, the state would have lost its eighth congressional seat to New York.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he’s exploring possible legal avenues to protest his state’s loss of a congressional district. “Do I think it was accurate to within 89? No, and we’re looking at legal options,” Cuomo said at a press conference Tuesday.
If you just can’t get enough of the Census, check out my story where I wrote about five major takeaways for Minnesotans.
CPAC has no love for most of Minnesota’s delegation
The American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) — the organization that puts on the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — released its 2020 Ratings of Congress which breaks down voting records of historical and active lawmakers, identifying each lawmaker’s policy strengths and weaknesses. These ratings are used to determine who will be invited to CPAC and other ACUF regional events.
In the 2020 session, Rep. Jim Hagedorn was the only member of Congress from Minnesota to receive an award by earning a score of 81%. Reps. Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber also rated pretty highly with 77% and 68% respectively. Minnesota Democrats rated understandably poorly in the conservative rating system: Former Rep. Collin Peterson rated at 19%. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith rated 5% and 4% respectively, while Reps. Angie Craig, Dean Phillips, and Ilhan Omar all rated at 4%. Betty McCollum was at the bottom with a resounding 0%.
You should watch this interview
In an emotional interview on “CNN Tonight,” Capitol Police Officer Michael Fanone described in vivid detail the terror he experienced defending the Capitol on Jan. 6. Fanone had a heart attack during his encounter with the violent mob intent on stopping certification of the election.
“It was overwhelming. I thought that they were going to kill me,” Fanone told CNN’s Don Lemon. “How we managed to make it out of that day without more significant loss of life is a miracle. What I saw in the tunnel, the 147 [Metropolitan Police Department] officers and six Capitol Police officers that defended the west terrace, again it was the most brutal combat imaginable. It was unlike anything I had ever seen.”
Fanone also called out elected officials who have tried to obscure the reality of the insurrection and the position that some GOP officials have embraced as they seek to defend Donald Trump.
“I think it’s dangerous,” Fanone said after Lemon asked him specifically about Trump’s comments last month. “It is very much not the experience I had on the 6th. I experienced a group of individuals who were trying to kill me to accomplish their goal.”
The feds had a backup plan
Justice Department officials spent months gathering evidence to indict former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on federal police brutality charges, but the Justice Department announcing its plans would have created a publicity nightmare for the trial, so they came up with a contingency plan, the Star Tribune reports.
If Chauvin were found “not guilty” on all counts or the case ended in the mistrial, the feds planned to arrest him at the courthouse after the verdict. That wasn’t necessary though: Chauvin was found guilty on all counts, and now awaits his sentencing in Minnesota’s most secure prison facility.
Now without fear of jeopardizing Chauvin’s case with the publicity, the feds plan to ask a grand jury to indict Chauvin and the other three ex-officers involved in George Floyd’s killing on civil rights charges. If the grand jury votes to indict them, the former officers would face federal prosecution on top of the state’s cases.
What I’m reading
- Why burnout is hitting us now, The Lily. Last week I was reading about “languishing,” and this week it’s burnout. We’re over a year into this pandemic, and with a fully vaccinated summer on the horizon, it seems like burnout is hitting people hard right now. Soo Yoon writes that women are more likely to say they are experiencing an overwhelming workload — 20 percent more frequently than men. Yoon interviewed a psychologist who works with veterans and likened our pandemic experience to the PTSD some soldiers experience upon returning home: “When the battle is over, they collapse. I think that may be the near-universal experience of ICU providers.”
- The failures before the fires, Better Government Association & Chicago Tribune. I might be biased because I worked for these two publications while I was in school in Chicago, but the story is so worth the read if you enjoy watchdog journalism. Madison Hopkins from BGA and Cecilia Reyes from the Trib outline the failures of the Chicago government to stop preventable residential fires where the majority of fatalities were Black people. Hopefully this story will get the city to reexamine its house inspection process.
- Prancer, the ‘Haunted Victorian Child’ Dog From Viral Ad, Has been Adopted, NPR. This is the lighthearted news we need, everyone. “He hates men. He hates children. He hates dogs. He hates cats. He is nervous and fearful and poorly socialized,” Prancer’s adoption ad read. Honestly, Prancer, some days I feel that way too. The woman who wrote the Facebook ad for Prancer said, “I am convinced at this point he is not a real dog, but more like a vessel for a traumatized Victorian child that now haunts our home.” Luckily, he was finally adopted by a woman who described herself as a single lesbian who doesn’t have any men in her life, and doesn’t live with any other animals. “It just felt like a perfect match,” she said.
That’s it from me this week. If you’re free next Tuesday night, please join me in conversation with Sen. Amy Klobuchar on her new book “Antitrust,” which looks at the history of monopolies in America. We’ll also talk about current dynamics shaping proposed legislation in Congress and other topics in the news.