Connect with us

Politics

Key Takeaways From Biden’s State of the Union Address

Published

on

The president’s speech, which normally concentrates on domestic issues, centered largely around the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


Major Focus on Russia

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was at the forefront of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address delivered before Congress on Tuesday, taking up nearly half of a speech typically focused on domestic achievements.

The president kicked off the night by condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin while cheering the will of Ukrainians and their leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky. In his early remarks, Biden emphasized how Russian aggression has been met with renewed unity among lawmakers in the U.S., as well as America’s allies abroad.

“[Putin] thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond. He thought he could divide us at home, in this chamber and in this nation,” he said. “He thought he could divide us in Europe as well. But Putin was wrong. We are ready. We are united, and that’s what we did. We stayed united.” 

Biden went on to say that Russia will be held accountable and Putin will “pay a continuing high price” for his action.

“Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been,” he continued. “Together, along with our allies, we are right now enforcing powerful economic sanctions.”

“We are choking Russia’s access to technology that will sap its economic strength and weaken its military for years to come,” the president added, stating that the U.S. will specifically target “Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders.”

“The United States Department of Justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs. We’re joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.” 

Biden also announced that the U.S. will join its allies and ban Russian planes from entering American airspace. While he underscored the military, financial, and humanitarian aid the U.S. has sent together with its allies, he also emphasized that the U.S. would not be getting directly involved on the ground.

“But let me be clear: Our forces are not engaged and will not engage in the conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine,” he stated. “Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO allies in the event that Putin decides to keep moving west.”

“And as I have made crystal clear: The United States and our allies will defend every inch of territory that is NATO territory with the full force of our collective power. Every single inch.” 

A Shift in Economic Priorities

Following his remarks about Russia, Biden detailed both the economic policies he has achieved and wishes to achieve.

While he touted the pandemic assistance passed in his first few months in office and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, he never explicitly mentioned by name the centerpiece of his economic agenda: the multitrillion Build Back Better plan to fund child care, education, health care, and climate change programs.

The proposal has been stalled for months in Congress, largely because of objections from centrist Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.)

Biden did reiterate his ask for Congress to pass some of the priorities contained in Build Back Better, but his lack of a unified effort still signaled that he will maybe try to push some of the policies initially included in the package to be passed piecemeal.

Much of his economic focus also centered around rising inflation, which he called his “top priority.” He said he aimed to drive down costs by encouraging the production of more American goods, boosting domestic manufacturing, and cracking down on corporate greed — which he argued was a main driving factor of high prices.

“Unity Agenda” and Moves to the Center

Biden’s speech was also very light on top Democratic policies that have proved most divisive, including only brief mentions of gun control, abortion, immigration, and voting rights.

Instead, the president broadly called for a “unity agenda” that would consist of bipartisan efforts to fight cancer, combat the opioid epidemic, and boost both mental and physical health initiatives for veterans. 

In general, he largely played to the middle, emphasizing a centrist approach and actively appealing to Republicans at times, including forcefully rejecting demands from progressives in his party to defund the police — garnering him a standing ovation from conservatives.

“We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. It’s to fund the police,” he said. “Fund them. Fund them. Fund them with resources and training. Resources and training they need to protect their communities. I ask Democrats and Republicans alike to pass my budget and keep our neighborhoods safe.”

Biden also appeared to take a more centrist stance on the COVID-19 pandemic, applauding the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s newly revised guidance on masks and championing the fact that more schools and businesses are open.

“COVID-19 need no longer control our lives,” he stated. “Let’s use this moment to reset. So stop looking at covid as a partisan dividing line. Fellow Americans: Look, we can’t change how divided we’ve been. It was a long time in coming. But we can change how to move forward on covid-19 and other issues that we must face together.”

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

Politics

Biden Mistakenly Calls Out For Dead Lawmaker at White House Event

Published

on

The remarks prompted concerns about the mental state of the president, who previously mourned the congresswoman’s death in an official White House statement.


“Where’s Jackie?” 

Video of President Joe Biden publicly asking if a congresswoman who died last month was present at a White House event went viral Wednesday, giving rise to renewed questions about the leader’s mental acuity.

The remarks were made at the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, which Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-In.) had helped convene and organize before her sudden death in a car accident.

The president thanked the group of bipartisan lawmakers who helped make the event happen, listing them off one by one, and appearing to look around in search of Rep. Walorski when he reached her name.

“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie?” he called. “I think she wasn’t going to be here to help make this a reality.” 

The incident flummoxed many, especially because Biden had even acknowledged her work on the conference in an official White House statement following her death last month.

“Jill and I are shocked and saddened by the death of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski of Indiana along with two members of her staff in a car accident today in Indiana,” the statement read.

“I appreciated her partnership as we plan for a historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this fall that will be marked by her deep care for the needs of rural America.”

The Age Maximum Question

Numerous social media users and news outlets presented the mishap as evidence that Biden, who is 79, does not have the mental capacity to serve as president. Others, meanwhile, raised the possibility of imposing an age maximum for the presidency.

Most of the comments against the president came from the right, which has regularly questioned his mental stability. However, the idea of an age limit goes beyond Biden and touches on concerns about America’s most important leaders being too old.

While Biden is the oldest president in history, former President Donald Trump — who is 76 and has also had his mental state continually questioned — would have likewise held that title if he had won re-election in 2020.

These concerns extend outside the presidency as well: the current session of Congress is the oldest on average of any Congress in recent history, and the median ages are fairly similar among Republicans and Democrats when separated by chambers.

There is also a higher percentage of federal lawmakers who are older than the median age. Nearly 1 out of every 4 members are over the age of 70.

Source: Business Insider

What’s more, some of the people in the highest leadership positions are among the oldest members. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), is the oldest-ever House Speaker at 82, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — the president pro tempore of the Senate and third person in line for the presidency — is the same age, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is 80.

As a result, it is unsurprising that a recent Insider/Morning Consult poll found that 3 in 4 Americans support an age max for members of Congress, and more than 40% say they view the ages of political leaders as a “major” problem.

Those who support the regulations argue that age limits are standard practice in many industries, including for airplane pilots and the military, and thus should be imposed on those who have incredible amounts of power over the country.

However, setting age boundaries on Congress and the President would almost certainly necessitate changes to the Constitution, and because such a move would require federal lawmakers to curtail their own power, there is little political will.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Business Insider) (NBC News)

Continue Reading

Politics

Churches Protected Loophole in Abuse Reporting for 20 years, Report Finds

Published

on

In some cases, Clergy members failed to report abuse among their congregation, but state laws protected them from that responsibility.


A Nationwide Campaign to Hide Abuse

More than 130 bills seeking to create or amend child sexual abuse reporting laws have been neutered or killed due to religious opposition over the past two decades, according to a review by the Associated Press.

Many states have laws requiring professionals such as physicians, teachers, and psychotherapists to report any information pertaining to alleged child sexual abuse to authorities. In 33 states, however, clergy are exempt from those requirements if they deem the information privileged.

All of the reform bills reviewed either targeted this loophole and failed or amended the mandatory reporting statute without touching the loophole.

“The Roman Catholic Church has used its well-funded lobbying infrastructure and deep influence among lawmakers in some states to protect the privilege,” the AP stated. “Influential members of the Mormon church and Jehovah’s witnesses have also worked in statehouses and courts to preserve it in areas where their membership is high.”

“This loophole has resulted in an unknown number of predators being allowed to continue abusing children for years despite having confessed the behavior to religious officials,” the report continued.

“They believe they’re on a divine mission that justifies keeping the name and the reputation of their institution pristine,” David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, told the outlet. “So the leadership has a strong disincentive to involve the authorities, police or child protection people.”

Abuses Go Unreported

Last month, another AP investigation discovered that a Mormon bishop acting under the direction of church leaders in Arizona failed to report a church member who had confessed to sexually abusing his five-year-old daughter.

Merrill Nelson, a church lawyer and Republican lawmaker in Utah, reportedly advised the bishop against making the report because of Arizona’s clergy loophole, effectively allowing the father to allegedly rape and abuse three of his children for years.

Democratic State Sen. Victoria Steele proposed three bills in response to the case to close the loophole but told the AP that key Mormon legislators thwarted her efforts.

In Montana, a woman who was abused by a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses won a $35 million jury verdict against the church because it failed to report her abuse, but in 2020 the state supreme court reversed the judgment, citing the state’s reporting exemption for clergy.

In 2013, a former Idaho police officer turned himself in for abusing children after having told 15 members of the Mormon church, but prosecutors declined to charge the institution for not reporting him because it was protected under the clergy loophole.

The Mormon church said in a written statement to the AP that a member who confesses child sex abuse “has come seeking an opportunity to reconcile with God and to seek forgiveness for their actions. … That confession is considered sacred, and in most states, is regarded as a protected religious conversation owned by the confessor.”

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Deseret) (Standard Examiner)

Continue Reading

Politics

Texas AG Ken Paxton Allegedly Flees Official Serving Subpoenas in Truck

Published

on

Following the news, a judge granted the attorney general’s request to quash the subpoenas.


Paxton on the Run

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton fled his own home in a truck Monday morning to evade an official trying to serve him a subpoena, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.

Last month, several nonprofits filed a lawsuit seeking to block Texas from charging individuals under the state’s abortion ban in cases that happened out of state or prior to Roe v. Wade being overturned.

Two subpoenas were issued summoning Paxton to a Tuesday court hearing, one for his professional title and the other addressed to him personally.

Early on Monday Ernesto Martin Herrera, a process server, knocked on the front door of Paxton’s home in McKinney and was greeted by Texas state senator Angela Paxton, who is the Attorney General’s wife.

According to the affidavit, Herrera identified himself and informed her that he was delivering court documents to Mr. Paxton. She responded that her husband was on the phone and in a hurry to leave, so Herrera returned to his vehicle and waited for Ken to emerge.

Nearly an hour later, the affidavit states, a black Chevrolet Tahoe pulled into the driveway, and 20 minutes after that, the attorney general stepped out.

“I walked up the driveway approaching Mr. Paxton and called him by his name,” Herrera wrote in the affidavit. “As soon as he saw me and heard me call his name out, he turned around and RAN back inside the house through the same door in the garage.”

Shortly afterward, Angela exited the house and climbed into a truck in the driveway, leaving a rear driver-side door open.

“A few minutes later I saw Mr. Paxton RAN from the door inside the garage towards the rear door behind the driver side,” Herrera wrote. “I approached the truck, and loudly called him by his name and stated that I had court documents for him.”

“Mr. Paxton ignored me and kept heading for the truck,” he continued.

The affidavit adds that Herrera placed the documents on the ground by the vehicle and stated that he was serving a subpoena, but the Paxtons drove away.

Process Server or Lingering Stranger?

Following the publication of the affidavit in The Texas Tribune, Ken attacked the news outlet on Twitter and claimed to fear for his safety.

“This is a ridiculous waste of time and the media should be ashamed of themselves,” he wrote. “All across the country, conservatives have faced threats to their safety – many threats that received scant coverage or condemnation from the mainstream media.”

“It’s clear that the media wants to drum up another controversy involving my work as Attorney General, so they’re attacking me for having the audacity to avoid a stranger lingering outside my home and showing concern about the safety and well-being of my family,” he continued.

On Monday, the attorney general filed two requests: a motion to quash the subpoena and another to seal the certificates of service, which included the affidavit.

His lawyers argued that Herrera “loitered at the Attorney General’s home for over an hour, repeatedly shouted at him, and accosted” him and his wife.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman granted both requests on Tuesday.

In a statement, the attorney general said that Herrera is “lucky this situation did not escalate further or necessitate force.”

See what others are saying: (The Texas Tribune) (CNN) (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Continue Reading