Joe Biden is now holding a roundtable discussion on his $1.9tn coronavirus relief bill at the White House.
The White House said of the event: “The president will participate in a roundtable with individuals who will benefit from receiving relief checks thanks to the American Rescue Plan. They will discuss how these relief checks will help relieve some of the hardship they have experienced due to Covid.”
The roundtable is being moderated by the senior White House adviser and former Democratic congressman Cedric Richmond.
Progressive congresswoman Ilhan Omar criticized Senate Democrats for limiting the eligibility for the direct payments in the coronavirus relief bill.
In the version of the relief bill passed by the House, the checks completely phase out for individuals making $100,000 a year, but the Senate bill lowers that income threshold to $80,000 a year.
Omar, a Democrat of Minnesota, noted that the change meant about 17 million fewer Americans would receive checks from this relief package, in comparison to the two rounds of payments that Donald Trump approved.
“We obviously are now ultimately sending money to less people than the Trump administration and the Senate-majority Republicans were willing to,” Omar said.
“This is not the promise that we made,” the congresswoman added. “So ultimately it is a failure when we compromise ourselves out of delivering on behalf of the American people and keeping our promises.”
Senate vote-a-rama stalls over unemployment benefits
Here’s where things stand in the Senate: the vote-a-rama has now been stalled for more than three hours.
It appears Senate Democrats are keeping the vote on the $15 minimum wage open to give themselves more time to negotiate a compromise over the expanded unemployment benefits in the relief bill.
Senator Tom Carper had proposed lowering the federal unemployment benefit from $400 a week to $300 a week, in exchange for extending the benefits until the end of September (rather than August) and making $10,200 of unemployment benefits tax exempt.
But according to multiple reports, Senator Joe Manchin has signaled he may support a Republican proposal to lower the benefits to $300 a week without either of the other parts of Carper’s measure.
Negotiations over the issue continue, so stay tuned.
Donald Trump was out earlier with another statement, issued from his Florida bolthole and about one of his favourite subjects: immigration.
“Our border is now totally out of control thanks to the disastrous leadership of Joe Biden,” began a former president well versed in struggles to deal with conditions at the southern border and, one might argue, disastrous leadership.
The rest of the statement was a rant about not treating Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents nicely, a muddled restatement of hardline Trump administration policy positions, and claims that Biden had both caused a “spiralling tsunami” and unleashed a “border nightmare”.
Among actions since taking office, Biden has lifted the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy for those seeking asylum in the US – see below – and sought to reunite children with their parents after they were separated at the southern border under one of Trump’s most controversial initiatives.
Some actions by federal authorities under Biden remain controversial, however. Here’s Moustafa Bayoumi, writing for Guardian US last month:
This week, the Biden administration did the unthinkable. It reopened a Trump-era detention site for migrant children. The detention center, a reconverted camp for oil field workers in Carrizo Springs, Texas, is expected to hold 700 children between the ages of 13 and 17, and dozens of kids have already arrived there.
This is an awful development, reminding me of some of the worst abuses of the Trump years.
At the White House today, press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about Trump’s statement. She said: “We don’t take our advice or counsel from former President Trump on immigration policy … We’re gonna chart our own path forward, and that includes treating children with humanity.”
Donald Trump’s post-presidency legal jeopardy is a favourite subject among liberals traumatised by his four years in power, and today Eric Swalwell, a California congressman who briefly ran for his party’s presidential nomination but more memorably served as a House manager in both impeachment trials, has sought to add to the pile.
In a lawsuit filed in Washington DC, the Democrat accused Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Mo Brooks, an Alabama congressman, of making “a clear call to action” before the Capitol riot on 6 January, to which Trump supporters responded by storming the halls of Congress.
Here’s some of what the suit says:
Trump directly incited the violence at the Capitol that followed and then watched approvingly as the building was overrun. As Trump was instructing them to go to the Capitol, insurgents were already forcing their way through barricades, attempting to breach the building, while blasting Trump’s speech on a bullhorn.
Trump aide Jason Miller responded, telling ABC News: “After failing miserably with two impeachment hoaxes, [Swalwell is] attacking our greatest president with yet another witch hunt. It’s a disgrace that a compromised member of Congress like Swalwell still sits on the House intelligence committee.”
Trump has already been sued over the riot by a Democrat in Congress, Bennie Thompson, who was joined in the action by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The former president was served in that case this week.
Other cases to worry Trump include investigations into his financial affairs in New York and his attempts to overturn his election defeat in Georgia.
On the subject of Trump and the Capitol riot, meanwhile, here’s some further reading from Kari Paul:
The White House briefing has now concluded. Here’s where the day stands so far:
The US economy added 379,000 jobs last month, according to the latest report from the labor department. The unemployment rate dropped slightly to 6.2%.
The Senate has started its “vote-a-rama” on the coronavirus relief bill. Senator Bernie Sanders has already introduced a proposal to add a $15 federal minimum wage to the relief package, but that measure appears to have failed.
Chuck Schumer pledged the Senate would stay in session until the coronavirus relief bill passes. “The Senate is going to take a lot of votes. But we are going to power through and finish this bill, however long it takes,” the Democratic majority leader said this morning. “The American people are counting on us and our nation depends on it.”
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Joe Biden is “not engaged in conversations or negotiations about lowering the threshold for the minimum wage”.
Psaki reiterated that Biden strongly supports Bernie Sanders’ proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, but she said the president is currently focused on passing the coronavirus relief bill.
Psaki’s comments come as the Senate appears to have rejected Sanders’ amendment to add a minimum wage provision to the relief package.
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, was asked about whether Joe Biden was concerned that it seems like his coronavirus relief bill will not attract bipartisan support in Congress.
“Bipartisanship is not determined by a single zip code in Washington DC,” Psaki replied.
The press secretary noted that polls have shown a large majority of the American people support the relief package, and she argued those polls were a better reflection of the bipartisan support for the bill.
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, was asked about the Detroit mayor’s rejection of a shipment of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine because of its lower efficacy rate compared to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
“Our team has been in touch with the mayor. There’s been a bit of a misunderstanding,” Psaki said.
Echoing public health experts, the press secretary once again encouraged Americans to receive whichever of the three approved coronavirus vaccines that is made available to them.
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said a group of senior officials will soon travel to the US-Mexican border to provide Joe Biden with a briefing on the influx of unaccompanied migrant children at the border.
Citing security concerns, Psaki would not provide details on which officials were going or where specifically along the border they would be traveling to.
When a reporter noted that Donald Trump has criticized Biden’s immigration agenda, Psaki replied: “We don’t take our advice or counsel from former president Trump on immigration policy.”
Tthe White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, was once again asked about Joe Biden’s views on the Senate filibuster.
“His view and his position haven’t changed,” Psaki said.
Biden has previously voiced opposition to the idea of scrapping the filibuster, although he has left himself some wiggle room if Republicans attempt to obstruct all of his agenda, which progressives have said is a virtual certainty.
As of now, Democrats don’t have the votes to eliminate the filibuster because at least two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, has said they are against the idea.
Jen Psaki said Joe Biden will hold his first full press conference as president “before the end of the month”.
Biden has received some criticism for not yet holding a solo press conference, as many reporters have noted that Barack Obama and Donald Trump had already held press conferences by this point in their presidencies.
Psaki defended the timing of the press conference, saying Biden has been focused on responding to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic fallout.
The press secretary also noted Biden frequently takes questions from reporters after his events, but the president usually just answers one or two questions before departing.
A former aide to Andrew Cuomo who has accused the New York governor of sexual harassment has said she believes he is a “textbook abuser” who knew she was a survivor of sexual violence and nevertheless made inappropriate advances.
Charlotte Bennett, 25, Cuomo’s former executive assistant and health policy adviser, told CBS Evening News on Thursday that Cuomo was trying to proposition her for sex during an “uncomfortable” encounter in his office last spring, and that she felt she “had to get out of this room as soon as possible”.
She said it was one of multiple incidents in which the 63-year-old governor, who is also facing similar allegations from two other women, acted inappropriately.
“He is a textbook abuser,” Bennett said, when asked how she would describe Cuomo. “He lets his temper and his anger rule the office, but he was very sweet to me for a year in the hope that maybe one day when he came on to me I would think we were friends or that it was appropriate or that it was OK.”