Written by John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Amy B Wang, THE WASHINGTON POST
Latest: House passes immigration bill to provide ‘Dreamers’ path to citizenship
March 18, 2021 at 7:07 p.m. ADT
The House passed a bill Thursday to open a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, as the fate of President Biden’s immigration plan remains unclear. The legislation, which would grant legal status to those who came to the country before the age of 19 and before Jan. 1, 2021, faces an uncertain future in the evenly divided Senate.
The Senate earlier Thursday confirmed William J. Burns as CIA director, placing one of the country’s most experienced diplomats in charge of the agency, and narrowly confirmed Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
Here’s what to know:
Biden ordered flags at the White House and on federal property to be flown at half-staff “as a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence” from the Atlanta-area spa killings. Biden and Vice President Harris will meet with Asian American leaders in the city on Friday.The Biden administration has agreed to supply Mexico with excess doses of the coronavirus vaccine, and Mexico is moving to help the United States contain a migration surge along its southern border, according to senior officials from both countries involved in the conversations.Biden is expected to nominate former senator Bill Nelson to be the next administrator of NASA, according to multiple people with knowledge of the matter.
House passes immigration bill to provide ‘Dreamers’ path to citizenship
By Colby Itkowitz
The House was voting on two immigration bills, part of the Biden administration’s effort to make sweeping changes to the U.S. immigration system, a goal complicated by the surge of migrants, including unaccompanied children, arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The first bill, the American Dream and Promise Act, which passed 228-to-197, would create a path for citizenship for the approximately 2.5 million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, known as “Dreamers.” It also provides a path to citizenship for about 400,000 immigrants who were granted Temporary Protective Status (TPS), which is given to those who fled 10 designated nations because of dangerous conditions.
Nine Republicans broke ranks and joined all Democrats in backing the measure. The Republicans who voted for the bill were Reps. Don Bacon (Neb.), David G. Valadao (Calif.), Fred Upton (Mich.), Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla.), Dan Newhouse (Wash.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Christopher H. Smith (N.J.), Carlos A. Gimenez (Fla.) and Maria Diaz-Balart (Fla.).
The second bill, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, would provide a path for immigrant farmworkers to get a green card. That vote will take place shortly.
“These parents bring their children, their hopes and dreams and aspirations for a better future for their children,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who spoke on the issue for eight hours straight in 2018. “That courage, that determination, those aspirations are American traits, and they all make America more American with all of that. Indeed, they are true and legitimate heirs, these Dreamers are, of our Founders.”
But hope for a bipartisan compromise on immigration reform legislation, which has been elusive for Congress for decades, has faded as the situation at the border worsens and Republicans have pointed to the Biden administration’s handling of it as a reason to not move forward on this legislation.
“I rise in strong opposition to this amnesty bill and if you look at what’s happening at our southern border right now, America’s facing a serious crisis, our southern border is being overrun,” said Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).
Analysis: After years of ducking them, Republicans in 2021 find mean tweets disqualifying
By JM Rieger
For four years, Republicans had a go-to response for former president Donald Trump’s tweets: They hadn’t seen them, and they didn’t want reporters to tell them about them.
But over the past two months, many of these same Republicans have put such great stock in Twitter commentary that they have been citing old tweets as part of their reasoning for opposing President Biden’s nominees.
A Fix review has found that no fewer than 10 Senate Republicans who previously dodged questions about or defended Trump’s tweets have since criticized old tweets from Biden nominees.
Over the past two months, each of these 10 senators has questioned the fitness of two Biden nominees and defeated the nomination of a third based on their old tweets. And as my colleague Aaron Blake noted last month, most voted to confirm Richard Grenell as ambassador to Germany in 2018 despite his history of controversial tweets.
Biden announces 100 million vaccine dose goal will be met in 58 days
By Colby Itkowitz
Biden announced that Friday, 58 days into his presidency, the country will reach 100 million coronavirus vaccine shots, a goal he hoped to achieve in his first 100 days.
“It was considered ambitious, some even suggested was somewhat audacious. Experts said that it was, the plan was, ‘definitely aggressive, and distribution would have to be seamless for us to be successful’,” Biden said. “And I’m proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met my goal of administering 100 million shots.”
Biden said that the shorter timeline meant there would be enough doses for every American before the summer and that 65 percent of people age 65 or older, the most high-risk population, have received at least one shot.
He also said that he’d have an announcement next week about the “next goal to put shots and arms,” and again urged Americans to remain vigilant in these next few months and to keep wearing their masks.
“This is a time for optimism, but it’s not a time for relaxation,” he said. “We’re going to come through this stronger with renewed faith in each other and our government to fulfill its most important function protecting the American people.”
Senate confirms William J. Burns as the next director of the CIA
By Shane Harris
The Senate confirmed William J. Burns as the next director of the CIA on Thursday, placing one of the country’s most experienced career diplomats in charge of the spy agency.
Burns, who retired from the Foreign Service in 2014 after a three-decade career, will take over at a moment of heightened tension between the United States and Russia, where he once served as the U.S. ambassador.
Earlier this week, the U.S. intelligence community released a report detailing Russian efforts to sow disinformation and propaganda ahead of the 2020 presidential election, in an attempt to harm Biden’s campaign.
The CIA will also face mounting challenges from a rising China. U.S. officials are scheduled to meet with a high-level delegation from Beijing in Alaska, amid increasingly troubled relations between the two countries.
Current and former officials have said the CIA must return to its espionage roots and focus on gathering intelligence from nation-state adversaries, after nearly two decades of counterterrorism operations, which absorbed huge portions of the agency’s budgets and resources.
Burns had an unusually smooth confirmation hearing last month, drawing bipartisan support for his nomination. The Senate confirmed Burns by unanimous consent, an indication of support as well as the chamber’s desire to install him quickly. The Senate has already confirmed other top national security officials in the Biden administration.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) had placed a hold on Burns’s nomination to pressure the administration over a controversial natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.
GOP lawmaker references lynching during anti-Asian violence hearing: ‘Find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree’
By Timothy Bella and Marianna Sotomayor
As a House panel convened Thursday for the first hearing on anti-Asian discrimination in decades, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) argued that while he believed the session aimed to police free speech, “all Americans deserve protection” in the days after the Atlanta-area spa shootings. To make his point, Roy invoked “old sayings in Texas” that celebrated lynchings.
“We believe in justice. There’s old sayings in Texas about ‘find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree,’” he said before the House Judiciary Committee. “You know, we take justice very seriously, and we ought to do that. Round up the bad guys. That’s what we believe.”
Roy’s comments drew blowback from Democrats and critics who slammed the GOP congressman for referencing violent rhetoric two days after eight people were killed in a tragedy that has heightened concerns around the surge in attacks against Asian Americans.
Ohio governor schedules late summer primary, November special election to fill House seat
By David Weigel
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has scheduled a late summer primary to replace Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, followed by a special election in November, leaving a safe Democratic seat open for most of the year.
At his Thursday news conference on covid-19, DeWine, a Republican, announced an Aug. 3 primary to replace Fudge, who resigned last week to join the Biden administration. The winners of the partisan primary will head to a Nov. 2 election.
Ohio law allows special elections to be held only in May, August and November. Republicans slow-walked some of Biden’s nominees, with several senators saying the process should not begin until the electoral vote was certified on Jan 6.
Fudge and now-Interior Secretary Deb Haaland waited until they were confirmed to resign, allowing them to cast votes in a slim Democratic majority, but, in Fudge’s case, leaving too little time for ballots to be printed for a May primary.
Democrats hold 219 seats to the Republicans’ 211. There are five vacancies, including the seats once held by Haaland (D-N.M.) and Fudge.
Republicans drew Ohio’s congressional map to pack Democrats into a handful of safe seats, and Biden won 80 percent of the vote in the 11th Congressional District, making the winner of a Democratic primary the all-but-certain winner of the special election. Nine Democrats have jumped into the race, including Bernie Sanders ally and former state senator Nina Turner and Cuyahoga County councilwoman Shontel Brown. Just one Republican has announced for the seat.
Biden urges support for a pair of immigration bills as House debate exposes fault lines on issue
By John Wagner and Donna Cassata
As the House on Thursday debates a pair of immigration bills, Biden weighed in on Twitter, urging lawmakers to support both and calling on lawmakers to “come together to find long term solutions to our entire immigration system.”
The House debate over the legislation put the political fault lines in stark relief, with Republicans criticizing what they called amnesty for undocumented immigrants and blaming Biden for an influx at the border while Democrats focused on the young immigrants who would be affected by one of the bills, known as the American Dream and Promise Act.
That legislation would grant legal status and a path to citizenship to those who came to the country before the age of 19 and before Jan. 1, 2021.
The other bill, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, would establish a path for undocumented agricultural workers in the United States to earn legal status for themselves, along with their spouses and children. The bill would also revamp the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program to provide more flexibility for employers and expand protections for workers.
Biden said in his tweets that “it’s long past time Congress gives a path to citizenship for Dreamers … who strengthen our country and call our nation home.”
He also spoke up on behalf of undocumented farmworkers, saying they “feed America and have been on the frontlines of this pandemic making sure we have food on our tables.”
During debate on the floor over the first bill, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) argued that “the Democratic Party is pushing more legislation to incentivize more illegals coming here.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) offered a counterpoint, saying so-called dreamers are “our neighbors.”
“They pay taxes, they work, they help us. … Why are we afraid of a seven-year-old?” he asked.
House GOP Leader escalates fight with Rep. Swalwell, with resolution to kick him off Intelligence Committee
By Karoun Demirjian
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is escalating his campaign to kick Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) off the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, with a resolution to strip him of that panel assignment on the House floor.
McCarthy’s resolution cites Swalwell not denying “public reporting that a suspected Chinese intelligence operative helped raise money” for his campaign and helped interns seek potential positions in his office.
Swalwell was one of several California politicians reportedly targeted by a suspected Chinese spy who did fundraising work for his campaign; when the FBI let him know of their suspicions in 2015, he cut off contact. House leaders were also read in on Swalwell’s situation in 2015, according to people familiar with the briefings, and Swalwell was selected to serve on the Intelligence Committee anyway.
The allegations resurfaced late last year, prompting a briefing to McCarthy and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). McCarthy emerged from that briefing calling for Swalwell to be removed from the Intelligence Committee; Pelosi, however, said she had no concerns about letting Swalwell continue to serve on the panel.
The speaker and minority leader appoint members to serve on the committee.
Leading Democrats defended Swalwell on Thursday in the face of McCarthy’s latest move.
“Congressman Swalwell is a trusted and valued member of our committee … he will continue to make great contributions to our national security,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
At a news conference Thursday and then later on the House floor, McCarthy charged that based on what has been publicly reported, Swalwell “cannot get a security clearance in the private sector.”
“Only in Congress could he get appointed to learn all the secrets of America — that’s wrong,” McCarthy told reporters. “If you can’t meet that bar, you shouldn’t be able to meet a bar to serve on the intel committee.”
Last month, all House Democrats and 11 Republicans voted to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from two committees for her embrace of certain views espoused in the extremist ideologies of QAnon, and directing threatening messages toward other members. Swalwell appeared to nod to that recent history in jeering McCarthy’s resolution against him on Twitter on Thursday.
“Meet the New McCarthyism,” Swalwell wrote, decrying McCarthy for failing to acknowledge the FBI stated he cooperated with their investigation. “All this to deflect from @GOPLeader’s support for QAnon.”
House Democrats urge Biden to fire USPS board
By Jacob Bogage
More than 50 House Democrats on Thursday urged Biden to fire the six sitting members of the U.S. Postal Service’s governing board and pressed for the ouster of embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
Led by Reps. Gerald E. Connolly (Va.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) and Bill Pascrell Jr. (N.J.), the Democrats cited “gross mismanagement,” “self-inflicted” nationwide mail delays and “rampant conflicts of interest” as cause to dismiss the board members in the 12-page letter.
“It is impossible to have faith in a [board of governors] that remained silent in the wake of such scathing findings and continued failures,” the letter states. “It is unconscionable that this Board could continue to support this” postmaster general.
Democrats have been calling for DeJoy’s removal since he took office in June and presided over the steepest decline in on-time mail performance in generations. In early February, the last time the Postal Service reported delivery metrics, it delivered 79.9 percent of first-class mail items on time; it aims for 96 percent. At the end of December, only 63.9 percent was on time.
With DeJoy set to unveil a strategic plan for the agency in the coming days — with the board’s support, according to Chairman Ron Bloom — Democrats have pushed for Biden to dismiss the governors, which he can do by statute but only “for cause.” The president is not authorized to fire or appoint the postmaster general, who serves at the pleasure of the governors.
The letter contends that the governors’ “gross negligence” in overseeing DeJoy’s activities and their backing of his proposals represents just cause.
Biden has signaled he was unlikely to remove the panel’s four Republicans and two Democrats, who were appointed by former president Donald Trump. Biden on Monday submitted three names to fill out the nine-member board to the Senate for confirmation: Democrat Ron Stroman, the recently retired deputy postmaster general; Democrat Anton Hajjar, the former general counsel to the American Postal Workers Union; and independent Amber McReynolds, chief executive of the National Vote at Home Institute.
Biden expected to nominate former senator Bill Nelson to be NASA administrator
By Christian Davenport
President Biden’s administration is expected to nominate former senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to be the next administrator of NASA, according to multiple people with knowledge of the matter.
If approved by the Senate, Nelson would be the second consecutive NASA chief to come from Congress and would give the agency a leader with close ties to the Oval Office. Nelson was a key Biden supporter during the presidential campaign and has a long personal relationship with the president.
The announcement could come as early as Friday, according to the people briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly ahead of the official announcement.