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Sen. Manchin Vows To Block Voting Rights Bill and Filibuster Overhaul

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The declarations functionally ensure that the federal voting rights legislation will fail and place much of President Biden’s agenda in peril.


Manchin’s Op-Ed

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said Sunday that he will oppose the sweeping voting rights bill championed by other Democrats as necessary to preserve democracy and protect against GOP efforts to restrict voting rights, effectively ensuring the legislation will fail.

In an op-ed, published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Manchin said he thought the bill, known as the For the People Act, was too partisan.

“The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy and protecting that right should not be about party or politics,” he wrote. “Least of all, protecting this right, which is a value I share, should never be done in a partisan manner.”

“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act,” he continued, adding that he will “not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster” while also extensively defending the 60-vote requirement for most legislation to be passed.

Manchin’s remarks largely echo stances he has previously made clear on both the voting rights bill and the legislative filibuster, but the op-ed sends a clear message that the West Virginia senator will not bend to pressure from his Democratic colleagues, who have been urging him to drop some of his demands for bipartisan deals when it seems like agreement from both parties is impossible.

Biden’s Agenda Derailed

The timing of Manchin’s op-ed is also highly notable because it was published just one day before Congress reconvened after a week-long recess to take a series of key votes on President Joe Biden’s agenda.

While speaking in Tulsa last week, President Joe Biden said June should be “a month of action” for Congress, adding that he would fight to get the For the People Act passed. Although the president did not explicitly name Manchin, he blamed two Democratic senators for holding up his agenda in a clear reference to the West Virginia Democrat and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.)

Now, Manchin’s remarks — and specifically his extensive defense of the filibuster — dampen the hope of progress on other legislation, and essentially guarantee that any Democratic legislation opposed by even the smallest number of Republicans in the Senate will fail. 

Notably, parts of the For the People Act could be passed in other ways if Democrats decide to break it up, but the party has previously been hesitant to do so. Manchin, for his part, did support another bill with similar elements, known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which he argued was much more bipartisan.

However, very few Republicans have voiced support for the proposal, and definitely not enough to break the filibuster. 

See what others are saying: (The Charleston Gazette-Mail) (The Washington Post) (The New York Times)

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Gov. Abbott Says Texas Will Build Border Wall With Mexico

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The announcement follows months of growing tension between the Texas governor and President Biden over immigration policies.


Texas Border Wall 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced during a press conference Thursday that the state would build a border wall with Mexico, extending the signature campaign promise of former President Donald Trump.

Abbott provided very few details for the border wall plans, and it is unclear if he has the authority to build it.

While some of the land is state-owned, much of it belongs to the federal government or falls on private property.

Even if the state were able to build on federal ground, private landowners who fought the Trump administration’s attempts to take their land through eminent domain would still remain an obstacle for any renewed efforts.

During his term, Trump built over 450 miles of new wall, but most of it covered areas where deteriorating barriers already existed, and thus had previously been approved for the federal project.

The majority of the construction also took place in Arizona, meaning Abbott would have much ground to cover. It is also unclear how the governor plans to pay for the wall.

Trump had repeatedly said Mexico would fund the wall, but that promise remained unfulfilled, and the president instead redirected billions of taxpayer dollars from Defense Department reserves.

While Abbott did say he would announce more details about the wall next week, his plan was condemned as ill-planned by immigration activists, who also threatened legal challenges.

“There is no substantive plan,” said Edna Yang, the co-executive director of the Texas-based immigration legal aid and advocacy group American Gateways. “It’s not going to make any border community or county safer.”

Ongoing Feud

Abbott’s announcement comes amid escalating tensions between the governor and the administration of President Joe Biden.

Biden issued a proclamation that stopped border wall construction on his first day of office, and has since undone multiple Trump-era immigration policies. Abbott, for his part, has blamed Biden’s rollback of Trump’s rules for the influx of migrants at the border in recent months. 

Two weeks ago, the governor deployed over 1,000 National Guard members and troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the border as part of an initiative launched in March to ramp up border security dubbed Operation Lone Star.

Last week, Abbott issued a disaster declaration which, among other measures, directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to strip the state licenses of all shelters that house migrant children and have contracts with the federal government.

The move, which federal officials have already threatened to take legal action against, could effectively force the 52 state-licensed shelters housing around 8,600 children to move the minors elsewhere.

During Thursday’s press conference, Abbott also outlined a variety of other border initiatives, including appropriating $1 billion for border security, creating a task force on border security, and increasing arrests for migrants who enter the country illegally.

“While securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows,” he said. “Our efforts will only be effective if we work together to secure the border, make criminal arrests, protect landowners, rid our communities of dangerous drugs and provide Texans with the support they need and deserve.”

See what others are saying: (The Texas Tribune) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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Biden Ends Infrastructure Talks With Republicans

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The president is now looking at other paths forward, including a plan being drafted by a bipartisan group of senators or the possibility of passing his proposal without Republican support.


Biden Looks to Bipartisan Group as Negotiations Collapse

After weeks of negotiations, President Joe Biden ended his efforts to reach an infrastructure deal with a group of Senate Republicans Tuesday.

Hopes for the centerpiece of Biden’s domestic agenda, however, are not dead. Lawmakers have already moved quickly to craft contingencies, outlining three main pathways for the next steps forward.

First, while an agreement between Biden and Republican senators is no longer an option, a joint deal is not off the table. Amid the ongoing negotiations, a bipartisan group of centrist senators have been quietly crafting an alternative plan in case the talks collapsed.

Currently, very few details of that plan are public, but the moderates have made it clear that their biggest division right now is the same sticking point that hung up Biden and the GOP group: how to fund the plan.

Negotiations on that front could prove very difficult, but they could also yield more votes. As a result, Biden indicated this path is his first choice, calling three members of the group Tuesday evening to cheer on their efforts.

Even if the group can come up with a deal that appeases Biden, the possibility still exists that not enough members would embrace it. In addition to funding questions, there are still disputes between Democrats and Republicans in regards to what constitutes “infrastructure.”

The president wants to expand the definition to more broad, economic terms. Republicans, however, have repeatedly rejected that, instead opting for more traditional conceptions of infrastructure.

As a result, while GOP lawmakers are worried that any proposal from the moderates would be too expansive, Democrats are concern that key provisions would be cut.

Other Alternatives

If a joint agreement cannot be reached, Biden’s second option for his infrastructure plan would be to forge ahead to pass a deal with just Democratic support in the Senate through budget reconciliation, the same procedure used to get the stimulus bill through.

Biden, for his part, does appear to at least be considering this option. In addition to calling the bipartisan group moderates Tuesday evening, he also spoke to Senate Majority Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) about drafting a new budget outline Democrats could use for the reconciliation process.

That path, however, also faces hurdles. In order for Democrats to even approve legislation through this process, they need all 50 members to vote in favor — something that is not guaranteed, given that some moderate senators have voiced their opposition to passing bills without bipartisan support.

While Schumer did say that he would still start work on a reconciliation package, he also outlined the third possible option: two separate bills.

“It may well be part of the bill that’ll pass will be bipartisan, and part of it will be through reconciliation,” he said Tuesday. “But we’re not going to sacrifice the bigness and boldness in this bill.”

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

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Senate Committees Release Most Detailed Report on Insurrection to Date

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The first congressional report on the Jan. 6 attack shows that Capitol Police had additional intelligence about the threat earlier than previously known to the public.


Senate Inquiry Published

Two bipartisan Senate committees released the first congressional report on the Jan. 6 insurrection on Tuesday, marking the most comprehensive, detailed account to date of the numerous security failures and miscommunications.

The probe shows that U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) and other agencies had collected much more intelligence — and much earlier intelligence — than previously known.

Perhaps most significantly, the 127-page report revealed that the authorities had specific intelligence as early as Dec. 21 that supporters of former President Donald Trump planned an armed insurrection of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

That included information from the Capitol Police intelligence unit that pro-Trump demonstrators planned to “bring guns” and other weapons to the Stop the Steal rally, which precluded the attack, and use them against law enforcement officers.

Some of those individuals also shared maps of the Capitol complex and tunnels online, discussing the best ways to enter and seal lawmakers inside, the Senate report stated.

Despite those alarming indications, USCP failed to widely circulate its own internal intelligence. In fact, two separate security assessments from Dec. 23 and Dec. 30 made no mention of the findings.

The USCP was not alone in its failure to take key intelligence seriously. An F.B.I. memo from the day before the insurrection that warned there were people traveling to D.C. for “war” at the Capitol also never made its way up to top law enforcement officials.

Unclear Path Forward

The report also stated that the failure of law enforcement officials to take the threats seriously was coupled with a dysfunctional Capitol police force that lacked the resources, capacity, and training to properly deal with the attack.

As part of their findings, the two committees outlined 20 recommendations for the Capitol Police, including calling for better planning, training, and intelligence gathering.

In a statement Tuesday, the agency that it welcomed the Senate analysis, but defended its response and claimed there was a lack of information regarding a threat.

“The USCP consumes intelligence from every federal agency,” the statement read. “At no point prior to the 6th did it receive actionable intelligence about a large-scale attack.”

While the new report comes from three months of interviews, reviews, and testimonies, it was limited in scope because Republicans refused to ask questions about Jan. 6 that could result in the publication of unflattering information about Trump or other members of the party .

Notably, the committees did not outline any of Trump’s actions, motivations, or make any conclusions about if he was responsible for the insurrection. In fact, it does not even describe the event as an “insurrection,” despite the general use of the term by Republicans in the months following the attack.

This report, however, is likely the closest Congress will get to a bipartisan effort to study the insurrection. Previously, key committee leaders in both parties had drafted legislation for an independent commission to study the events of Jan. 6 and make recommendations to prevent future attacks.

While that proposal had been crafted jointly with Republican lawmakers, top GOP leaders who had previously sanctioned the deal voiced last-minute opposition, and hopes for the commission were ultimately struck down in the Senate.

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

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