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Partisan Theatrics Take Center Stage at President Trump’s State of the Union Address

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  • Topping off a night of partisan theatrics, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ripped President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address following the conclusion of his speech.
  • Pelosi’s move came after Trump broke years of tradition by not shaking the speaker’s hand before he began.
  • During Trump’s speech, the father of a Parkland shooting victim shouted at Trump after the president said he would protect the Second Amendment. That man was then escorted from the room.
  • Trump also awarded conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the SOTU. While not met with immediate controversy, the award sparked both criticism and applause on social media.

Pelosi Rips Trump’s Speech

Though Tuesday’s State of the Union was undoubtedly President Trump’s biggest night of the year to address American audiences, partisan theatrics were arguably the biggest headline by the end of the night.

From beginning to end, the address was capped with tense moments between Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, culminating in Pelosi’s decision to rip Trump’s speech in two after he finished speaking. 

The tension began when Trump failed to shake Pelosi’s hand upon approaching the stage. After Trump handed her his speech, Pelosi then reached out her hand to shake his, however, she did so as Trump was in the process of turning away to face the podium. 

Trump also did not shake Vice President Mike Pence’s hand. As per tradition, the vice president and speaker both sit directly behind the president during his address.

The move by both has been interpreted a variety of ways on social media, with some saying that Trump deliberately ignored Pelosi because she launched the impeachment trial that began in the House of Representatives. Others noted how quickly Trump turned away, suggesting that he just didn’t see her hand.

While it is entirely possible Trump simply missed Pelosi’s gesture, his decision to not shake her hand breaks long-standing tradition. Last year, he shook both Pelosi and Pence’s hands. In 2018, he shook the hand of then-speaker Paul Ryan. Upon simple review of SOTU addresses from former presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Bush Sr., all shook their respective speakers’ hands.

The tension between the two then escalated when Pelosi broke protocol in addressing Trump as he entered the room.

“Members of Congress, the President of the United States,” she said.

Notably, that line omits a key part of the phrase the speaker is supposed to say: “Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United States.”

Following Trump’s address, reporters asked Pelosi why she decided to destroy Trump’s speech. 

“Because it was the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative,” she responded. 

Also following the speech, many on social media felt divided by the move. By Wednesday morning, a large portion of the top trends concerned the moment, with people using hashtags like #PettyPelosi, #PelosiMeltdown, #NancytheRipper, and #NancyIsABadass.

On the president’s personal Twitter page, he’s retweeted nearly two dozen people, all of whom posted tweets critical of Pelosi. Likewise, Trump retweeted a message from the official White House Twitter that condemned Pelosi’s action.

“Speaker Pelosi just ripped up: One of our last surviving Tuskegee Airmen. The survival of a child born at 21 weeks. The mourning families of Rocky Jones and Kayla Mueller. A service member’s reunion with his family. That’s her legacy,” the tweet reads. 

On the other side of the debate, Freshman representative Rashida Tlaib gave her support for such a move.

“I would have shredded it,” she said on Twitter. 

Parkland Dad’s Outburst

Moments during Trump’s address were also met with controversy. Soon after finishing a statement about how he will protect the Second Amendment, Trump was met with an outburst from a person in the crowd. 

That man turned out to be Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed during the Parkland school shooting in 2018. Guttenberg had been invited to the address by Pelosi, and since his daughter’s death, he has become an active advocate for gun control. 

Following his outburst, Guttenberg was escorted from the House chamber by a plain-clothed police officer. During this time, Trump did not acknowledge Guttenberg and continued with his speech. 

Later Tuesday night, Guttenberg issued an apology via Twitter, where he said he was overcome with emotion in the moment.

“Tonight was a rough night,” he said. “I disrupted the State Of The Union and was detained because I let my emotions get the best of me. I simply want to be able to deal with the reality of gun violence and not have to listen to the lies about the 2A as happened tonight.”

“That said, I should not have yelled out,” he added. “I am thankful for the overwhelming support that I am receiving. However, I do owe my family and friends an apology. I have tried to conduct myself with dignity throughout this process and I will do better as I pursue gun safety.”

Guttenberg then received further support from people like California Governor Gavin Newsom and Parkland survivor David Hogg. Also on Twitter, #ImWithFred trended Tuesday night.

Limbaugh Awarded Medal of Freedom

In a move that wasn’t met with immediate controversy in the House chamber, Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, a conservative radio talk show host who’s been vocal about his support for Trump.

The award comes just a day after Limbaugh announced that he had been diagnosed with an advanced stage of lung cancer, 

“Almost every American family knows the pain when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness,” Trump said of Limbaugh during his address. “Here tonight is a special man, someone beloved by millions of Americans who just received a Stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis. This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet. Rush Limbaugh, thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country.” 

First Lady Melania Trump bestowed that medal upon a very ecstatic Limbaugh; however, others such as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ihan Omar were critical of the award.

“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an extraordinarily sacred award,” Osacio-Cortez said. “We’re talking about putting someone on the same level as Rosa Parks, you know, for example in terms of their contributions to American progress. Rush Limbaugh is a virulent racist.”

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (ABC News) (Fox News)

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Mississippi Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe v. Wade

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The Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s restrictive abortion ban already has sweeping implications for the precedents set under the landmark reproductive rights ruling, but now the state is asking the high court to go even further.


Mississippi’s Abortion Case

Mississippi filed a brief Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade when it hears the state’s 15-week abortion ban this fall.

After months of deliberation, the high court agreed in May to hear what will be the first abortion case the 6-to-3 conservative majority will decide.

Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit had ruled that Mississippi could not enforce the 2018 law that banned nearly all abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for only “severe fetal abnormality,” but not rape and incest.

If the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law, it would undo decades of precedent set under Roe in 1973 and upheld under Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, where the court respectively ruled and reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus is “viable” and can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.

When the justices decided to hear the case, they said they would specifically examine the question of whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”

Depending on the scope of their decision on the Mississippi law, the court’s ruling could allow other states to pass much more restrictive abortion bans without the risk of lower courts striking down those laws.

As a result, legal experts have said the case will represent the most significant ruling on reproductive rights since Casey nearly three decades ago, and the Thursday brief raises the stakes even more.

When Mississippi asked the justices to take up its case last June, the state’s attorney general, Lynn Fitch (R), explicitly stated that the petition’s questions “do not require the Court to overturn Roe or Casey.”

But that was before the court’s conservatives solidified their supermajority with the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett — who personally opposes abortion — following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

New Filing Takes Aim at Roe

With the new filing, it appears that Fitch views the high court’s altered makeup as an opportunity to undermine the constitutional framework that has been in place for the better part of the last century.

“The Constitution’s text says nothing about abortion,” Fitch wrote in the brief, arguing that American society has changed so much that the previous rulings need to be reheard.

“Today, adoption is accessible and on a wide scale women attain both professional success and a rich family life, contraceptives are more available and effective, and scientific advances show that an unborn child has taken on the human form and features months before viability,” she added, claiming the power should be left to state lawmakers. 

“Roe and Casey shackle states to a view of the facts that is decades out of date,” she continued. “The national fever on abortion can break only when this Court returns abortion policy to the states.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Mississippi’s sole abortion provider in the suit against the state’s law, painted Fitch’s effort as one that will have a chilling effect on abortion rights nationwide.

“Mississippi has stunningly asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and every other abortion rights decision in the last five decades,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the group said in a statement Thursday. “Today’s brief reveals the extreme and regressive strategy, not just of this law, but of the avalanche of abortion bans and restrictions that are being passed across the country.”

The Supreme Court has not yet said exactly when during its fall term it will hear oral arguments on the Mississippi case, but a decision is expected to come down by next June or July, as is standard.

An anticipated ruling just months before the 2022 midterms will almost certainly position abortion as a top issue at the ballot box.

See what others are saying:  (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)

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Republicans Boycott Jan. 6 Committee After Pelosi Rejects Two of McCarthy’s Picks

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The House Minority Leader said that unless House Speaker Pelosi reinstated the two members, Republicans will launch their own investigation into the insurrection.


Pelosi Vetoes Republicans

Republicans are boycotting the select committee to investigate the insurrection after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) rejected two of the five GOP members Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) picked to serve on the panel Wednesday.

In a statement, Pelosi cited the “statements and actions” of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) and Jim Banks (R-In.), whose nominations she said she was opposing “with respect for the integrity of the investigation.”

Jordan and Banks — both staunch allies of former President Donald Trump — have helped propagate the previous leader’s false election claims, opposed efforts to investigate the insurrection, and voted not to certify the election for President Joe Biden. 

A senior Democratic aide also specifically told The Washington Post that Democrats did not want Jordan on the panel because he reportedly helped Trump strategized how to overturn the election and due to the fact he spoke to the then-president on Jan. 6, meaning there is a possibility he could be called to testify before the very same committee.

The aide also said that Democrats opposed Banks’ selection because of a statement he issued after McCarthy chose him.

In the statement, the representative compared the insurrection to the racial justice protests last summer, implied that the rioters were just normal American’s expressing their political views, and claimed the committee was a political ploy “to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”

Notably, Pelosi did say she would accept McCarthy’s three other nominees — including Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Wi.), who also voted against certifying Biden’s win.

McCarthy Threatens Separate Investigation

McCarthy, however, refused to select new members, and instead opted to remove all his appointees from the would-be bipartisan committee.

In a statement condemning the move, the minority leader said that Pelosi’s action “represents an egregious abuse of power.” 

“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimacy and credibility and shows the Speaker is more interested in playing politics than seeking the truth,” he said.

“Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”

Pelosi defended her decision during a press conference Thursday, where she said that Banks and Jordan were “ridiculous” choices for the panel. 

“When statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of, ‘You must be kidding,’ there’s no way that they’re going to be on the committee,” she added.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)

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More Republican Are Pushing COVID Vaccinations, But the Party Remains Divided on Its Messaging

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The renewed effort to encourage vaccination comes as the surge in COVID cases caused by the delta variant continues to disproportionately impact Republican-led states with low vaccination rates.


GOP Leaders Ramps Up Vaccination Push

In recent days, more Republican leaders and prominent conservatives have ramped up efforts to encourage members of their party to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the U.S. continues to see massive surges from the delta variant.

Some, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have been pushing Americans to get vaccinated for months — a call he reiterated again on Tuesday. Many others, however, have been reticent to do the same until recently.

Most notable on that list is Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), the no. 2 Republican in House leadership, who just got his first dose over the weekend after resisting vaccination, claiming he had antibodies from previously contracting COVID. Scalise explained he changed his mind because of delta and encouraged others to do the same.

“There shouldn’t be any hesitancy over whether or not it’s safe and effective,” he said.

The top leader is set to continue pushing that advice. Earlier this week, the GOP Doctors Caucus announced that it would hold a news conference Thursday alongside Scalise and the third-ranking House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), to encourage vaccination.

Rank and File Republicans Continue To Cast Doubt, Spread Misinformation

There are still plenty of Republicans working to undermine the renewed push to get their party vaccinated.

While many have painted vaccination as a matter of freedom of choice, others have sought to downplay the virus. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state currently accounts for 40% of all new COVID cases, dismissed the spikes as the result of a “seasonal virus” on Monday.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk — who has had COVID twice — echoed that in a statement to reporters on Tuesday, where he argued that COVID is just something everyone has to live with.

“This is something we deal with in our lives on a daily basis; ever since I’ve been born, there’s sicknesses, there’s flu, there’s different diseases,” he said.

Some members of the GOP have used their positions of power to actively fight against vaccination. That includes Sen. Ron Johnson (Wi.), who has openly said he is not vaccinated. He has also been widely condemned for promoting unproven treatments and false information about vaccines during interviews and congressional hearings.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), who has repeatedly refused to share her vaccination status, has also drawn ire for sharing misinformation and continually comparing COVID prevention efforts to the Holocaust.

Greene was temporarily suspended from Twitter earlier this week for sharing false information on Monday, but she continued to utilize her spotlight to spread misinformation about vaccine-related deaths and side effects during a press conference the following day.

Uphill Battle

While those who downplay the coronavirus and spread false information about vaccinations are certainly not representative of the entire Republican Party, they are some of the most visible.

Greene and many of her counterparts who push anti-vaccine narratives have frequently been accused of acting in inflammatory ways to get more press — a strategy that more often than not tends to work in their favor. 

As a result, Republicans who want to encourage people to get the jabs will have their work cut out for them. Even many of those who have not openly expressed skepticism themselves have still let it flourish in the party for so long by not publicly pushing back against claims from members who sow disinformation.

The GOP’s broader failure to unify around a singular message on vaccines shows clearly among the party’s base.

According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News, poll 86% of Democrats have received at least one shot, but just 45% of Republicans have done the same. While just 6% of Democrats say they are not likely to get the vaccine, 47% of Republicans said they probably will not, and 38% said they definitely will not. 

Meanwhile, Republican-led states with low vaccination rates are suffering the most from the new spike in cases and the rapid spread of the delta variant. 

Arkansas, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country at just 35%, is currently reporting the highest per-capita cases in the U.S. Hospitalizations have gone up 85% in the state in the last two weeks, placing some hospital systems on the brink of collapse — a problem also faced by parts of Missouri, which has the third-highest COVID cases nationwide.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Hill)

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