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D.C. Memo: Making it Minnesota awkward

Biden trading Republicans in infrastructure deals; calls for more Minnesota police investigations and the power of $300.

Rep. Ilhan Omar
REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
Rep. Ilhan Omar faced criticism from several Democratic colleagues — including fellow Minnesotan Rep. Dean Phillips — over a Tweet she posted.
Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me wondering how long the January 6 insurrection will be in the news cycle. We just passed the six-month mark, and the first Senate investigative report is out this week. In D.C., you can still see some remnants of that day in the fences surrounding the Capitol, though they’re not as far-reaching as they once were. Time will tell. But for now, this week in the memo you’ll find: Biden trading Republicans in infrastructure deals, calls for more Minnesota police investigations and the power of $300.

One Republican for another

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden made a quick exit from his infrastructure talks with West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, whom he began negotiations with last week. Biden’s next negotiation target is Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Capito told Fox News she was “extremely disappointed because we offered the President basically what he asked us to do the first time we met with him.”

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that Biden had informed Capito “that the latest offer from her group did not, in his view, meet the essential needs of our country to restore our roads and bridges, prepare us for our clean energy future, and create jobs.”

As a reminder, Biden’s infrastructure plan, titled the American Jobs Plan, calls for $2 trillion in spending on projects like fixing highways, updating homes and office buildings, providing Americans with high-speed internet and many, many other proposals. But none of that can happen without Republican support.

In negotiations with Capito last week, Biden brought his price tag down to $1 trillion in new spending. Capito then made a counteroffer which included a $50 billion increase in spending, but Biden rejected the offer which he said did not meet his policy goals.

Deciding where the money for this plan comes from may be a sticking point for the president. “I’m working hard to find common ground with Republicans when it comes to the American Jobs Plan, but I refuse to raise taxes on Americans making under $400,000 a year to pay for it. It’s long past time the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share,” Biden tweeted.

This report might be all we get

With hopes for a congressional commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol almost certainly lost, the best we might get from Congress is this Senate-led report on the security, planning and response failures related to the attack.

The 95-page report is a product of a roughly five-month joint investigation by the Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committees. Investigators found breakdowns ranging from “federal intelligence agencies failing to warn of a potential for violence” to a lack of planning and preparation by the U.S. Capitol Police and law enforcement leadership. The report includes a transcript of former President Trump’s speech to rallygoers, but overall focuses more on the Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies’ contingency planning — or lack thereof — and response to threats and the mob that showed up.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, was one of the lawmakers in charge of this investigation. She was also inside the Capitol as the mob attempted to enter the Senate chamber.

“On January 6th, brave law enforcement officers were left to defend not only those in the Capitol, but our democracy itself – and they performed heroically under unimaginable circumstances,” Sen. Klobuchar said in a press release. “This report lays out necessary reforms including passing a law to change Capitol Police Board procedures and improving intelligence sharing. I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to implement the recommendations in this report that are needed to protect the Capitol and, in turn, our nation.”

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If you’re looking for good breakdowns of the report without reading the whole thing, I recommend this Washington Post analysis of what’s missing from the investigation and the CNN politics team’s takeaways from the report.

One probe is not enough

Rep. Ilhan Omar is calling for a federal investigation of multiple Minnesota law enforcement entities in addition to the Minneapolis Police Department, which U.S. Attorney General Merrick tGarland announced would take place a day after former officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.

“The MPD practices that led to Mr. Floyd’s death are not unique among Minnesota law enforcement,” Omar wrote along with the support of numerous state and local leaders. “Minnesota has some of the nation’s worst and most persistent racial disparities, and the DOJ’s investigation of systemic issues in Minnesota law enforcement would be an important step toward addressing our state’s racial inequities. It is for these reasons that we request the DOJ consider additional investigations of other law enforcement entities that also contribute to this environment of racial violence and injustice.”

Omar called for an investigation of the Minnesota BCA, Minnesota State Patrol, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Brooklyn Center PD, Richfield PD, Edina PD and St. Anthony PD.

How powerful is $300?

Rep. Tom Emmer says $300 can do quite a lot, actually. The Republican congressman told KTOE that the $300 weekly supplemental federal unemployment benefit is idling the workforce because people make more money at home than they would working at low-paying hospitality jobs.

“When they do the math they are making more money staying at home than they can be going back to work,” Emmer said, adding that he’s heard from a number of business owners who say they may not be able to make it until the end of September, which is when the $300 stimulus is set to dry up.

Like many economic and labor market shifts, things might be a bit more complicated than that. My colleague Greta Kaul spoke to some experts about this new unemployment phenomenon, finding that there is a mismatch between the jobs that are open and the jobs workers want or are qualified for. For example, a significant number of job seekers are looking for remote work options, which are hard if not impossible to come by in the hospitality industry. Others might not be qualified for jobs with lots of openings, like the construction industry.

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Minnesota awkward

In a rare public chastising of a fellow Democrat, a group of House lawmakers including Rep. Dean Phillips is criticizing Rep. Ilhan Omar for her comparison of the human rights records of the U.S. and Israel with Hamas and the Taliban.

“Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided,” Phillips and 11 other Democrats wrote in a joint statement issued late Wednesday. “Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice.”

Omar’s statement came in a video she tweeted Monday, in which she questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. Her questioning came about two weeks after a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect following an 11-day period of violence between Israel and Hamas that left hundreds dead.

In response to her colleagues’ letter, Omar tweeted that it was “shameful for colleagues who call me when they need my support to now put out a statement asking for ‘clarification’ and not just call. The islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive. The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable.”

Later, Omar did offer a clarification, saying she was not making “a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.”

Bugging out

If you’ve been following the Memo for a while you’ll know that the giant, 17-year “Brood X” cicadas descending on D.C. has given me some anxiety. I don’t like bugs. But this week, I felt a bit justified when I learned that I’m not the only one getting harassed by these admittedly mostly harmless insects.

On Tuesday night, the White House press corps were left waiting for five hours at Dulles airport after cicadas overtook their charter plane for President Biden’s first foreign trip to the U.K. The AP’s Jonathan Lemire tweeted about the cicada holdup, lamenting that the bugs were causing mechanical issues in the plane.

The Secret Service may have to up their security protocol to include fly swatters: the president was caught on camera getting hit by a cicada. After swatting it away, he headed over to the gaggle of press for a warning: “Watch out for the cicadas. It got me. I got one.”

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What I’m reading

  • When Crime Goes Viral, Chicago Reader and Injustice Watch. An Illinois law makes it illegal to expose others to HIV. Activists say the law is racist and homophobic, and they are close to changing it. This story challenges the stereotypes and criminalization of an HIV diagnosis, and asks if it’s necessary to send people to prison for exposing someone to a virus that modern medication makes virtually impossible to spread. An analysis of how prosecutors have leveraged this law found that critics’ concerns have been valid: two-thirds of the people charged under the law are Black men. Along with the data, this story is a personal and emotional look at the laws surrounding a virus that carries enormous stigma.
  • Kim Jong Un appears to have lost some weight — and that could have geopolitical consequences, Washington Post. Body standards are so tough these days. But really, with so little information escaping from North Korea, foreign intelligence agencies are seizing upon Kim’s slimmer waistline as a potential sign. A sign of what? It’s not totally clear, but this WaPo article goes into some theories.
  • The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax, ProPublica. This staggering investigation tells us just how much American billionaires are making, and how little of their fortune is taxed. I suggest looking at the visualizations yourself, but when I compare my tax rate to Warren Buffett’s “true tax rate,” I want to cry. You probably will, too.

That’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading! As always, please feel free to send any questions, comments or your reactions to seeing billionaires’ tax rates to ahackett@minnpost.com. You can also reach me on Twitter @byashleyhackett.