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D.C. Memo: Many happy returns

Ceasefire in the Mideast, presidential tax returns and that Capitol “tour.”

President Joe Biden speaking in the Cross Hall at the White House after a jury reached guilty verdicts in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
REUTERS/Tom Brenner
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris released their 2020 tax returns on Monday, resuming a decades-long tradition in contrast to former President Donald Trump, who never released his own tax return.
Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me overheating in my D.C. apartment — we’ve finally hit 90 degrees in the District, and we are heading into summertime, which is notoriously…swamp-like. In this week’s memo, we’ll talk about a ceasefire in the Mideast, presidential tax returns and that Capitol “tour.”

A fragile ceasefire

Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire at 2 a.m. local time Friday, putting a tentative end to the 11-day conflict that killed 232 Palestinian people in Gaza including at least 65 children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and 12 in Israel including two children.

Riad al-Malki, the Palestinians’ top diplomat, said the cease-fire was welcome but “not enough” because it did not address the “core issue” that started the violence, the Associated Press reported.

President Joe Biden called for the ceasefire while continuing to express support for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The PM expressed in a televised statement Friday that in six calls with Biden in the last week, the White House had “clear, unequivocal and unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself.” In a speech Thursday night, Biden pledged humanitarian aid for Gaza, where a humanitarian crisis is developing.

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Rep. Betty McCollum joined this week’s episode of Pod Save the World to discuss her bill “Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act” (H.R. 2590) as well as the ongoing violence in Gaza and the U.S. role going forward. McCollum and Rep. Ilhan Omar have both been outspoken on the issue, taking the side of Palestinians, which has historically been an unpopular stance but which is gaining support among progressive Democrats in Congress.

“The pressure campaign from top Democrats represents a recalibration of the party’s posture toward Israel, which has grown increasingly antagonistic on Capitol Hill after decades in which support for the Palestinian cause was seen as a political third rail,” writes Andrew Desiderio for POLITICO.

28 Democratic senators — including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — issued a joint statement Sunday night calling for the Israeli military and Hamas to reach a ceasefire agreement.

Rep. Ilhan Omar introduced new legislation Wednesday opposing the sale of $735 million in American-made weapons to the Israeli government.

Rep. Michelle Fischbach delivered remarks in the House in support of Israel Wednesday, saying that “Israel is not now, nor have they ever been, an aggressor state; its only actions have been in its own defense.”

Caught on camera

Last week, we discussed Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde’s comments on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol comparing the mob’s actions as “a normal tourist visit.” However, photos from that day show the congressman rushing toward the House gallery doors to help barricade them in order to prevent the “tourists” from entering the chamber.

Meanwhile, support for a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection is growing slightly among GOP House members. A vote on Wednesday had the House 252-175 in favor of creating the commission, with 35 Republicans breaking ranks to support the legislation.

All four of Minnesota’s Republican representatives voted against creating the commission. Rep. Dean Phillips, who was in the House chamber when rioters stormed the Capitol and who has been outspoken on the matter since January, said that “If anything should be unanimous in this institution, it should be this.”

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Let’s ease those border restrictions, eh?

Please read the above headline in a Canadian accent: On Tuesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar led a discussion between 10 U.S. senators and 14 Canadian parliamentarians on trade, security and the environment. During that meeting, Klobuchar urged the easing of border restrictions, especially those affecting residents of Minnesota’s Northwest Angle, a region landlocked by Canada and bordered by the Lake of the Woods.

Klobuchar said she urged Canadian leaders to help people like the residents of the Northwest Angle who have been “separated from their homes, businesses and loved ones due to border closures.”

Reps. Tom Emmer, Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber have also been active on this issue: The representatives introduced the ANGLE Act, which would “create a forgivable loan program for remote recreational businesses impacted by the northern border closure.” They also introduced legislation to create a corridor to “facilitate cross-border travel for individuals with negative COVID-19 tests.”

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Some presidents release their tax returns

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris released their 2020 tax returns on Monday, resuming a decades-long tradition in contrast to former President Donald Trump, who never released his own tax return. (The New York Times found that Trump paid very little in taxes while claiming large refunds.)

Bidens

  • Gross income: $607,336
  • Federal income tax paid: $157,414
  • Donations to charity: $30,704
  • Charitable giving %: 5.05%

Harris-Emhoffs

  • Gross income: $1,695,225
  • Federal income tax paid: $621,893
  • Donations to charity: $27,006
  • Charitable giving %: 1.59%

Biden reported giving $10,000 to the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children and $5,000 to the Food Bank of Delaware, as well as the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Much of the Harris-Emhoff income came from first gentleman Doug Emhoff’s past work at law firm DLA Piper, and Harris reported nearly $300,000 income from her 2019 book in addition to her Senate salary.

Rent assistance on the way

An estimated 53,000 Minnesotan households are behind on rent, and when the eviction moratorium ends in the state, some people could face evictions and other economic hardships. Middle class landlords who rely on rental income to support their families have also faced deep financial distress due to the COVID-19 crisis.

There’s help out there, though, according to Sen. Tina Smith. In a Zoom call with housing assistance leaders from around the state, Smith discussed the importance of assistance and where people can find it.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, recently announced by the Biden administration, provides $229 million to Minnesota families in need.

“We needed to take immediate action to help families stay in their homes, be able to pay their rent, and there was a significant effort that we had to make to help families in Minnesota and across the country get back on their feet,” Smith said.

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What I’m reading

  • The Inside Story of the Biden-Harris Debate Blowup, POLITICO. Now that they’re on the same team, it can be easy to forget about the drama between Biden and Harris on the campaign trail. I’m referring to Harris’ attack on Biden’s position on using busing to racially integrate schools in the 1970s, linking it to a story about a girl who needed to be bused herself, saying: “That little girl was me.” This excerpt from Edward-Isaac Dovere’s book on the 2020 campaign trail goes into detail about how blindsided Biden was at this moment, and how Jill Biden did not mask her anger about the situation.
  • What Happens When Americans Can Finally Exhale, The Atlantic. This piece is, as the author Ed Yong put it, “for people who are wondering, as things start to get better, why they don’t *feel* better.” Yong goes into the intricacies of trauma that our society has collectively experienced in the last year, and explains that people may be facing a new bout of depression or anxiety now that many states are loosening restrictions, saying that “people who endure long bouts of stress often collapse when they get a chance to be calm.”
  • The man who didn’t invent Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Los Angeles Times. I was captivated by the original story of the man who invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos — a janitor working at Frito-Lay’s Rancho Cucamonga plant dreamed up the idea for the addicting snack, then developed and taste-tested it before pitching it to the chief executive and achieving glory and a new salary for his invention. But it turns out the janitor-turned-Cheeto-hero was taking credit for something years after it had actually been invented.

That’s it from me this week. Thanks for reading! As always, please feel free to send questions, comments or your own spicy snack suggestions to ahackett@minnpost.com. You can also reach me on Twitter @byashleyhackett.