Ron Did That…
Florida Democrats have been railing against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s refusal to impose mask restrictions across the state, his refusal to completely shut down the state’s economy during the pandemic, and now are all bent about his vaccination roll-out efforts, and who’s eligible to get the shot in the arm.
Gov. DeSantis has lowered the COVID vaccination age to 50, and by May 1st, everyone in the state will be able to get one of the three vaccines being offered to prevent the transmission of the deadly disease. READ MORE
But that doesn’t appear good enough for Florida Democrats. For them, DeSantis is not vaccinating Floridians fast enough, including those under the age of 65.
Let’s now forget that even though the Biden Administration is announcing orders of millions of more vaccines, vaccines that were made possible by President Donald Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” COVID response, the government has been slow to dish out the shots to states.
There are 350 million Americans living in the country. You do the math.
It’s Just Politics
DeSantis can’t win with Democrats who are squeezing every last drop of ‘pandemic politics’ out of the COVID crisis. It’s all about 2022, just like it was about defeating President Trump in 2024.
What’s worse, Democrats like Florida politicians Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and State Rep. Anna Eskamani, are using the pandemic to run cover for the funding of the ridiculously stupid and non-related issues snuggled within the recent monstrosity of a stimulus relief bill. READ MORE ABOUT THE PORK
Trump Is Back
Actually, President Donald Trump never went away.
Now, it’s been reported that in the next couple of months, President Trump will roll out his own social media platform to rival Twitter and Facebook. This was expected of him, and many ardent supports of his predicted the move even before he was de-platformed.
Ron DeSantis @GovRonDeSantis–Fair winds and following seas to Shane Strum, who has done an exceptional job serving the people of Florida. Thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of the administration. We couldn’t have done it without you.
AG Ashley Moody @AGAshleyMoody-Beware of scammers seeking to defraud Floridians out of stimulus payments.
“DHS Chief Mayorkas Defends Biden Administration’s Handling Of Border Crisis By Blaming Trump,” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama
“Trump Reacts To Biden Multiple Stumbles Going Up Air Force One Steps” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – Former President Trump seized on President Joe Biden’s stumbling several times when attempting to board Air Force One Friday morning, mocking him by wondering how did he ever “lose to him” following this week tumbles and gaffes from his successor. “I watch as Joe Biden went up the stairs today and I said ‘I didn’t lose to him,’ which we didn’t lose to him. Almost 75 million votes and probably a lot more than that,” Trump said Friday in the video posted on TikTok user Robert Petrosian. The video shot appears to have taken place in Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was in attendance. Biden earlier Friday morning stumbled several times while running up the steps of Air Force One in Maryland as he was taking off en route to Atlanta, Georgia to visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) headquarters and to meet with Georgia Asian American leaders following Tuesday’s attack on three Atlanta-area massage businesses that 6 of the 8 victims were of Asian descent. Video shows Biden was briskly running about halfway up the stairs before he began to stumble. Biden got back upright but again tripped for a second time. The president struggled for a moment to get up, only to fall hard from the second stumble. He appeared to dust off his knee before finally making his way to the top of the stairs, turning around to salute at the top of the steps. Biden then quickly hustled inside the plane.
“DeSantis Encourages Gambling Law Changes in FL” by The Floridian’s Jim McCool – Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis (R) confirmed suspicions by meeting with Florida’s top gambling officials, including Native American groups, such as the Seminole Tribe. Recent reports have shown that DeSantis and Florida are, “getting close to a deal” with the Seminole Tribe. This week Governor DeSantis at a press conference revealed he is “happy to engage in negotiations”, and believes Florida has a “good relationship with the Seminoles.” However, DeSantis continues to claim he, “does not represent the Seminoles, I represent Florida businesses and employees and we want to make sure those folks [Seminoles] do well under whatever arrangement may be reached between the state of Florida and the Seminole Indian Tribe.” DeSantis also commented that his meeting in regard to altering gaming laws was, “Productive.” The governor then assured Floridians that these deals will have an answer, “within the next week or so.” Not only has Governor DeSantis been proactive in this discourse, but Speaker Rep. Sprowls (R) and President Senator Simpson (R) have contributed to these talks.
“DHS Chief Mayorkas To Make Surprise Visit At Southern Border Amid Spiraling Crisis” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will make a visit to the southern border Friday as the Biden administration continues to face intense scrutiny over the spiraling crisis they created that has seen a mounting surge in migrants, especially unaccompanied children crossing the border. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) dropped the news of Mayorkas’ surprise visit along the border in El Paso, Texas, in a Thursday interview with Fox News. Details and timing were not immediately available. “I’m spending the day tomorrow with Secretary Mayorkas. He’ll be here,” Portman said when asked if he would have the chance to share what he saw on his visit to the border with Mayorkas. “We’ll be looking at some of the issues including this huge problem with unaccompanied kids coming across the border,” he continued. “Those numbers have increased even more dramatically to the point that right now we have a true crisis in the detention facilities … We’re gonna talk about that tomorrow and we’ll see some of those facilities. And we’ll have a chance to talk about what I saw tonight.” In addition to Portman and Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Gary Peters (D-MI), two other senators were expected to be part of the delegation as well. DHS later revealed that Mayorkas will visit the city of El Paso in western Texas and will be joining a group of bipartisan senators. National and local media will be excluded from reporting of the border visit trip.
“Florida Democrats Wants Special Election in SD37 Controversy” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Earlier this week, controversial Florida state Senator Frank Artiles’ (R) home was raided by Miami-Dade law enforcement officials. Shortly after, he was arrested and faces charges including making excessive campaign contributions, “conspiracy” to make multiple campaign contributions over the limit, and he also faces a charge to “false swearing in connection with voting or elections.” In turn, Florida Democrats are now arguing that a special election should be held in light of the information that has been released. The Florida lawmaker’s fall began last November regarding the race for Senate District 37. A. third-party candidate named Alex Rodriguez is alleged to have been “planted” by Artiles, which resulted in siphoning nearly 6,400 votes in a race that was ultimately decided. By 32 votes. Ileana Garcia (R) ended up winning the election. In response to what has been unfolded, Florida Senator Gary Farmer (D), leader of the Florida Democrats, has called for a new election to be held. For this to happen, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) or a vote in the Florida Senate would remove her and allow for the process to take place. In a statement, Farmer commented that “the full breath and extent of this organized effort is still unfolding, and we await further developments as the investigation under the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office proceeds.”
“Nelson Tapped to Lead NASA, Receives Bipartisan Support in Congress” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Former Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D) lost his 2018 reelection campaign to Florida Senator Rick Scott (R), and not much was known regarding his future political plans. However, this week, the former Senator and Astronaut indicated that he was tapped as President Joe Biden’s (D) next pick to lead NASA. In 2017, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R) was narrowly confirmed in a 50-49 Senate vote. Nelson, himself, voted against Bridenstine, arguing that a politician should not assume the role of leading NASA. Although he hasn’t further commented on whether or not his views on this have changed, the former Florida lawmaker also maintained “radio silence” when questioned whether or not the reports of him being tapped for the position were true. As news began to circulate regarding the prospects of Nelson leading NASA, a swarm of bipartisan support also began to flourish. Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R), who served with Nelson in the Senate, said that “there has been no greater champion, not just for Florida’s space industry, but for the space program as a whole thank Bill.” “His nomination gives me confidence that the Biden Administration finally understands the importance of the Artemis program, and the necessity of winning the 21st Century space race.” Rubio also agreed with Nelson’s view at the time of voting for Bridenstine, but he ultimately voted in favor in fear of the position remaining vacant for an extended period of time.
“Biden Falls Multiple Times Going Up Stairs Boarding Air Force One, WH Blames The Wind” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – “Slippy Joe” be trippin’. President Biden stumbled several times while running up the steps of Air Force One in Maryland Friday morning as he was taking off en route to Atlanta, Georgia for a self-congratulatory “Help Is Here” tour. Video shows Biden was briskly running about halfway up the stairs before he began to stumble. Biden got back upright but again tripped for a second time. The president struggled for a moment to get up, only to fall hard from the second stumble. He appeared to dust off his knee before finally making his way to the top of the stairs, turning around to salute at the top of the steps. Biden then quickly hustled inside the plane. White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre who is accompanying the president to his trip to Atlanta instead of press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One that Biden is “doing fine” following his hard fall and blamed the wind as reason for his multiple stumbles. “So, as you know, it’s pretty windy outside, it’s very windy. I almost fell coming up the steps myself,” Jean-Pierre said while briefings reporters on the plane on the way to Atlanta. “He is doing 100% fine.” Jean-Pierre refused to tell reporters when asked about medical explanation if Biden’s injured foot that was supposedly broken early December caused by chasing his dog, Major was the reason for the stumble.
“DeSantis : All Floridians Will Get COVID Vaccination by May 1st” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – In a Friday press conference with Jared Moskowitz, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that he has signed an executive order lowering the vaccination age to 50-years-old starting this coming Monday, and that “definitely before May 1st,” everyone would be getting a COVID-19 vaccination. “Florida has vaccinated more people (seniors) than any other state.”- Jared Moskowitz, FLSERT Director Moskowitz said that the Biden Administration had reached out to the state for guidance on how to implement the same model he and DeSantis used for minority outreach. “We had to become creative, we started in the faith-based community, in the minority communities,” said Moskowitz. “Florida has been the model for how you partner up to the faith-based community.” Earlier this week, DeSantis announced that there would be a shortage of vaccines coming into the state the next few weeks, but added that he believed it would only be a temporary setback. “We know eventually we’re going to start getting more Moderna, more J& J, and more Pfizer, that will happen, but it isn’t going to happen over the next few weeks it seems,” added DeSantis.
“Florida to Lower Vaccine Eligibility Age to 50 And Up Starting Monday: DeSantis” by NBC Miami – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will sign an executive order Friday lowering the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility age to 50 and over starting Monday. The announcement was made at a news conference in Tallahassee alongside the director of the Division of Emergency Management, Jared Moskowitz. DeSantis said nearly 70% of Florida’s senior citizens have been vaccinated and demand is dropping among those currently eligible for shots. Right now, Florida is vaccinating people aged 60 and up, healthcare workers and first responders over 50. “I think the demand has been relatively modest,” DeSantis said. “So we think that this makes sense.” DeSantis added that he thinks the state will “definitely be opening it up to everyone” before May 1st. The governor also provided an update about the state’s allotment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, saying Florida is slated to get another 42,000 doses of the single-shot vaccine next week. Florida has inoculated 3 million senior citizens so far, according to DeSantis.
“Why one Florida city wants to build a two-mile tunnel to the beach” by CNN Business’ Matt McFarland – Fort Lauderdale, Florida tourists may be just a few years away from arriving at the beach in a Tesla driven in a tunnel, provided that Elon Musk can deliver, even with Florida’s tricky geology. Local leaders are in talks with Elon Musk’s The Boring Company to build a two-mile tunnel underground from downtown to the beach and offer rides for between $5-8. Miami also appears to be considering using Musk’s company to dig a tunnel and divert car traffic from crowded surface streets. Mayor Francis Suarez said last month that Musk had told him a local project, previously priced at $1 billion, could be done for closer to $30 million, and finished in six months. Then earlier this month he reported having a productive meeting with The Boring Company regarding “groundbreaking improvements” to transportation. Suarez has spoken of building a “signature project” for the world with the Boring Company. Projects could be done for about 1% of typical tunneling costs, according to estimates leaders say they’ve received from Musk’s Boring Company. Florida has only two tunnel projects in the whole state, but Musk appears to have convinced state leaders to embrace them. Tunnels are generally considered an infrastructure choice of last resort, according to Brian Gettinger, who leads tunneling at the infrastructure company Freese and Nichols.
“Decline in Florida’s VPK Enrollment Has Educators Worried” by Bay News’ Laurie Davison – Enrollment in Florida’s VPK Program is down and educators are worried about the long-term impact that could have on students. Sandy White is the Director of Barlow Little Palms Pre-School in Palm Harbor. She said typically she has 9 or more children enrolled in the center’s VPK class but this school year it’s been a struggle. “We are required to have 4 students to start our VPK class. I didn’t sign up my fourth one until January so that’s when my program started in January,” she said. Providers suspect the Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest reason for the decline in enrollment. According to the Early Learning Coalition, VPK enrollment in Hillsborough County is down by about 30% and enrollment is down in Pinellas County by about 25%. It’s also down statewide. ELC of Pinellas County CEO Lindsay Carson said VPK is helpful in teaching children literacy skills and getting them ready to be in a classroom. “Additionally, of course, they’re developing early math skills, science skills and executive functioning,” she said. Carson worries that with the decline in enrollment, some children won’t have the skills they need to start kindergarten successfully in the fall. She also said studies show missing out on these lessons can contribute to some students struggling in school for years. “And that affects us all,” said Carson. “Not just those with children but anybody with employees and anyone concerned about the workforce.” Providers are hoping for a boost in enrollment this summer if Covid-19 infections go down.
“Biden To Nominate Former Sen. Bill Nelson Of Florida As NASA Head” by NPR’s Scott Neuman – President Biden on Friday announced his intent to nominate former Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida to the top job at NASA. Nelson, who spent six days in orbit aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1986, would replace Jim Bridenstine, who resigned in January to make way for the new administration’s appointee. Nelson represented Orlando and Florida’s Space Coast in the U.S. House of Representatives before eventually moving to the Senate in 2001, where he served three terms before then-Gov. Rick Scott defeated him in 2018. He was the ranking member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Nelson is one of three people to have flown on the space shuttle while serving in Congress. “Most every piece of space and science law has had his imprint, including passing the landmark NASA bill of 2010,” the White House said in a statement. “That law set NASA on its present dual course of both government and commercial missions.” In August, amid speculation about who might become the next NASA administrator should then-candidate Biden win the White House, Nelson said he had a handful of recommendations, “and my recommendation would not include myself.”
“Florida’s DeSantis positions himself as Trump’s heir to the White House” by NBC News’ Henry J. Gomez – Ron DeSantis wouldn’t be governor of Florida without Donald Trump. The then-president’s endorsement in 2018 turned a young congressman into the runaway winner of a Republican primary that featured a far more seasoned establishment favorite, Adam Putnam. Not quite three years later, many in the party see DeSantis as the person best positioned to carry on Trump’s legacy as their national standard-bearer in 2024. It’s been a fast rise — and an even faster seesaw of political fortunes, considering where DeSantis’ reputation was early in the coronavirus crisis. He was ridiculed and second-guessed for rejecting mask mandates and reopening businesses. His approach was compared, unfavorably, to other governors from both parties, including now-embattled Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. DeSantis’ popularity in Florida cratered. But Florida has, since the beginning of the pandemic, seen fewer per-capita coronavirus cases and deaths than many states, including many that instituted the more restrictive measures. And DeSantis’ poll numbers are rebounding a year ahead of his re-election bid. A Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy survey last month found him with a 53 percent job-approval rating. “I think he’s the odds-on favorite to be the next president,” if Trump doesn’t run again, said Joe Gruters, a Florida state senator and chairman of the state Republican Party. Such declarations can’t be discounted as parochialism in a state where two other Republicans — Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott — nurture White House ambitions. Nationally, the picture is similarly encouraging for DeSantis.
“Florida House committee weighs new rules for voting by mail” by AP – A Florida House committee takes up its own effort to rewrite vote-by-mail rules Monday, as Republicans push to enhance “ballot security” — despite no evidence of widespread problems — while Democrats and voter rights advocates say the election-related proposals before lawmakers would be costly and will make it harder for some Floridians to vote. The election bill is one of several high-profile measures coming before Florida lawmakers in the coming days, as they hunker down for some of the heaviest lifting yet during their two-month session — including work on rewriting parts of the state’s election laws, providing protections for businesses against COVID-related lawsuits and enacting additional ways to punish demonstrators who turn violent. Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans have made those measures top priorities. A measure scheduled to be heard by the House Public Integrity and Elections Committee on Monday would require 24-hour monitoring of ballot drop boxes — either by guards, elections officials during work hours or by surveillance cameras during off hours — and require voters to provide identification, such as their Social Security numbers, to update registration information. The Senate is considering its own changes to how vote-by-mail ballots are handled, including the banning of drop boxes. Both versions would also narrow the time period covered by a single application for an absentee ballot from two general elections cycles to just one — and wipe out the advantage Democrats now have over Republicans in the number of absentee voters.
“Vice President Kamala Harris visits Florida Monday” by 10 Tampa Bay – Vice President Kamala Harris will be in the Sunshine State Monday, the White House announced Friday. The trip is part of Vice President Harris and President Joe Biden’s ongoing “Help is Here” tour, a cross-country effort highlighting the benefits of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan. The vice president is expected to visit a Jacksonville vaccination center Monday afternoon. Later, she will participate in a listening session with Florida leaders at Feeding Northeast Florida. The road show started last Monday, with Vice President Harris visiting a COVID-19 vaccination site and culinary academy in Las Vegas and First Lady Jill Biden touring a New Jersey elementary school. President Biden headed out Tuesday, making a stop in Pennsylvania before joining Vice President Harris in Georgia Friday. The president said the American Rescue Plan will address the dual threat to the nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and economic crises. “Shots in arms and money in pockets,” President Biden said Monday during an address at the White House. “That’s important. The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do: make a difference in people’s everyday lives. We’re just getting started.”
“Is ‘cancel culture’ real on Florida college campuses?” by Tampa Bay Times’ Divya Kumar – A controversial bill that has alarmed university faculty leaders passed through the Florida House on Thursday, 77-42, and its counterpart moved favorably through the Senate Appropriations Committee. HB 233, introduced by Rep. Spencer Roach, R-Fort Myers, and SB 264, introduced by Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, seek to “protect intellectual freedoms” and “the expression of diverse viewpoints” at state colleges and universities. The legislation would require each institution to: Annually survey “the intellectual freedom” and “viewpoint diversity” of their campus and share the information with the public. Allow students to record classroom lectures without the consent of others for their personal use or for their use in a criminal or civil case. Prohibit universities from banning controversial speakers. In House committee discussions, proponents of the bills expressed fears of “cancel culture” — the idea of facing backlash for expressing unpopular beliefs. They said they believed a pervasive intolerance of uncomfortable ideas exists on college campuses across the country. Roach said students and faculty members often censor themselves out of fear of repercussions. In Florida, the issue has bubbled in recent years after a college visit from an extremist speaker and challenges posed by a tenured faculty member. “We want to make sure on college campuses that students are being exposed to ideas that they like and also ideas that they hate, so they can learn to think critically and debate them,” Roach said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. “They’re going to get them in the real world; we don’t want them to live in a cocoon.”
“Trump returning to social media with ‘his own platform’ in 2-3 months: adviser” by Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer – Former President Donald Trump will be back on social media in the near future with his own service, according to one of his senior advisers. Trump was banned from Twitter following the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. He had been a prolific poster on that platform before and during his presidency. “I do think that we’re going to see President Trump returning to social media in probably about two or three months here, with his own platform,” Trump senior adviser Jason Miller told Fox News’ “#MediaBuzz” on Sunday. “And this is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media, it’s going to completely redefine the game, and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what exactly President Trump does.” Miller said he was unable to provide much more in terms of details at this point, but he did reveal that Trump has been having “high-powered meetings” at Mar-a-Lago with various teams regarding the venture, and that “numerous companies” have approached Trump. “This new platform is going to be big,” Miller said, predicting that Trump will draw “tens of millions of people.” In the meantime, Miller said that Trump will continue to endorse Republican candidates, teasing one that is expected to come on Monday. “Pay attention to Georgia tomorrow, on Monday. There’s a big endorsement that’s coming that’s going to really shake things up in the political landsc ape in Georgia. It’s big, it’s coming tomorrow, and just be sure to tune in.”
“Border Patrol in Rio Grande Valley releasing illegal crossers into US without court date” by The Floridian’s Griff Jenkins and Yael Halon – Fox News confirmed Sunday that Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector (RGV) have begun to process and release illegal border crossers who claim asylum without issuing a Notice to Appear (NTA) – allowing them to depart custody without scheduling a court date for a hearing. The unprecedented move places the responsibility of seeking an asylum hearing on the migrants through Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or legal assistance. Multiple Border Patrol agents confirmed the new process to Fox News, revealing that they have been directed to use prosecutorial discretion (PD) to forgo the hours-long process of paperwork required to issue an NTA amid the surge of migrants at the border. Instead, migrants are registered into the system with biometrical data taken and largely released into the public – in one instance – at a bus station in McAllen, TX. The processing is being done mostly at a temporary outdoor processing site. Border Patrol agents emphasized that this does not apply to unaccompanied children. A senior source with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told Fox News on Saturday that officials were considering the controversial move because the ongoing crisis on the border has “become so dire that BP [Border Patrol] has no choice but to release people nearly immediately after apprehension because there is no space to hold people even to do necessary NTA paperwork.”
“Trump slams Biden over border ‘crisis’, accused him of causing ‘death and human tragedy’” by Fox News’ Yael Halon – President Biden said Sunday that he intends to travel to the southern border “at some point,” telling reporters that he is in no rush to visit because “I know what’s going in those facilities.” Biden’s immigration agenda includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, but the president last week urged migrants planning on embarking to the United States to hold off for the time being. Asked Sunday why his warning did little to quell the chaos at the border, Biden admitted that his administration could increase efforts to transmit his recent messaging to migrants making their way to the U.S. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities have been operating far beyond capacity amid a troubling surge in border crossers. The agency announced that it had encountered more than 100,000 migrants at the border in February, while numbers of child migrants in custody have also increased dramatically. The Biden administration has been moving to increase capacity of facilities to house migrants, and building a number of extra facilities — including looking at NASA sites and military bases. Republicans have laid blame on Biden for the surge after he rolled back a number of Trump-era immigration restrictions he deemed inhumane, including ending the “Remain-in-Mexico” policy and reinstating “catch-and-release.” Former President Donald Trump released a statement in response to Biden’s remarks on Sunday, blaming his successor for turning “a national triumph into a national disaster” with his handling of the crisis. “We proudly handed the Biden Administration the most secure border in history,” the statement reads. ” All they had to do was keep this smooth-running system on autopilot. Instead, in the span of a just few weeks, the Biden Administration has turned a national triumph into a national disaster. They are in way over their heads and taking on water fast.”
“DHS chief says border closed, won’t give timeline for facilities capable of handling surge of unaccompanied children” by CNN’s Devan Cole – Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas declined Sunday to provide a timeline for when the Biden administration will open new facilities capable of handling the surge of unaccompanied children at the southern border. “We established three new facilities last week. … We are working on the system from beginning to end. We are working around the clock 24/7,” Mayorkas told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” when pressed on the administration’s timeline for having new processing facilities up and running. “We have dealt with surges in the past and the men and women of Department of Homeland Security will succeed.” The comments from Mayorkas, who insisted the southern border is currently closed to migrants even though the administration is making an exception for unaccompanied minors, come as the situation there worsens amid a surge in unaccompanied children in US custody. The Biden administration has resisted calling the situation a crisis, even as Democratic and Republican lawmakers do so as they pressure officials to rectify the growing issue. Bash pressed Mayorkas to provide a timeline, asking: “Can you be more specific?” and “Can you give me a date you hope to be up and running so that these children have better facilities?” The secretary, declining again to provide a date, told Bash “as soon as possible,” adding that the coronavirus pandemic has partly complicated their efforts. Mayorkas defended the administration’s work at the southern border and placed blame on the Trump administration for dismantling the immigration system, saying his department now has to rebuild it “from scratch.”
“Arkansas governor says he signed near-total abortion ban so Supreme Court can decide if it’s a ‘direct challenge’ to Roe” by CNN’s Devan Cole – Arkansas’ Republican governor said Sunday that he signed a near-total abortion ban into law earlier this month because he wants the Supreme Court to eventually consider the legislation and overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure in the US. “That was the whole design of the law. It is not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.” “I think there’s a very narrow chance that the Supreme Court will accept that case, but we’ll see,” the governor said, noting he preferred that the legislation included a rape and incest exception. The Arkansas law bans providers from performing abortions “except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency,” and makes no exceptions for instances of rape, incest or fetal anomalies. Those found to violate the law could face a fine of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in prison. The abortion law is slated to go into effect 91 days after the end of the Arkansas legislative session, which is currently set for May 3, according to Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored the Senate bill. Of the 11 so-called gestational bans — which bar abortions past a certain point in pregnancy — passed since the start of 2019, none have gone into effect after most of them have been blocked by judges. Those include a similar near-total abortion ban passed in Alabama in 2019 and an 18-week bill passed by Arkansas in 2019.
“Former top Capitol riot prosecutor says ‘maybe the President is culpable’ when asked about Trump” by CNN’s Katelyn Polantz – The former top prosecutor for the US Capitol riot said former President Donald Trump might be “culpable” for the January 6 insurrection and federal investigators are “looking at everything,” according to an interview airing on CBS Sunday night. Michael Sherwin, the former acting DC US attorney, also said he believes sedition could be a charge made against some Capitol riot defendants. “It’s unequivocal that Trump was the magnet that brought the people to DC on the 6th,” Sherwin said in response to a question from “60 Minutes” about whether Trump is part of the investigation. “We have soccer moms from Ohio that were arrested saying, ‘Well, I did this because my president said I had to take back our house.’ That moves the needle towards that direction. Maybe the President is culpable for those actions.” Sherwin noted that other rioters have acknowledged they went further than the President’s speech. Sherwin’s candid comments come as he leaves his Justice Department post leading the Washington, DC prosecutors’ office and its sprawling investigation into violence at the Capitol. He was appointed to the job during the Trump administration. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Sherwin’s successor, acting US Attorney for DC Channing Phillips, have not directly addressed whether Trump will be investigated. When CBS’ Scott Pelley followed up to ask Sherwin if investigators were looking into Trump’s role, Sherwin responded, “We have people looking at everything, correct. Everything’s being looked at.”
“Rep. Tom Reed Says He Won’t Run for Re-Election in 2022” by WSJ’s Kristina Peterson – Rep. Tom Reed (R., N.Y.) said in a statement Sunday night he would not run for re-election or for governor in 2022, following allegations last week of inappropriate sexual conduct. Mr. Reed also apologized to Nicolette Davis, who told the Washington Post last week that the lawmaker had made unwanted sexual advances to her in 2017, which he said on Friday was inaccurate. “Simply put, my behavior caused her pain, showed her disrespect and was unprofessional. I was wrong, I am sorry, and I take full responsibility,” Mr. Reed said in a statement Sunday evening. Ms. Davis, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army who at the time worked as an insurance lobbyist, said Mr. Reed put his hand on her back, unhooked her bra and touched her leg during a fundraising trip, according to an account she gave to the Washington Post. She didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday night. Mr. Reed said the incident occurred when he was still struggling with an addiction to alcohol, for which he later sought treatment. “In addition to apologizing to those I have impacted, including Ms. Davis, I will be seeking to help those wrestling with addiction in any way I can,” Mr. Reed said. “As I go forward, I will strive to be a better human being, continue to fight for what I believe in, and to make people’s lives better in any way I can. I hope this formal apology is just the start.”
“U.S., NATO Allies to Discuss Plans to End War in Afghanistan” by WSJ’s Nancy A. Youssef – Biden administration officials will meet with allies this week on teetering plans to end the war in Afghanistan, turning to another top foreign policy challenge after a week that saw confrontations with Washington’s chief geopolitical rivals. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel this week to Brussels for meetings with allies from North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries who have backed the U.S. in the 20-year war. The trip follows an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Sunday by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. U.S. officials haven’t said whether they would meet a May 1 deadline for U.S. troops to depart Afghanistan, set under the Trump administration as part of talks with leaders of the insurgent Taliban movement. Biden administration officials have indicated repeatedly that removing troops by then will be difficult, given continued high levels of violence. There are at least 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and 6,500 NATO troops, and allies have said they would depend on U.S. logistical support to withdraw troops. “We went in together. We will adjust together as we have over the years. And when the time is right, we will leave together,” Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told reporters last week in a preview of Mr. Blinken’s trip to Brussels. The talks about the long-running Afghanistan war will mark the Biden administration’s latest foreign policy test. Mr. Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan clashed with Chinese counterparts over a range of issues during meetings last week in Alaska.
“How New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Is Fighting for Political Survival” by WSJ’s Jimmy Vieldkind – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is leaning on Black leaders for support and focusing on governing as he confronts an impeachment investigation, calls for his resignation over accusations of sexual harassment and criticism over the state’s handling of Covid-19 in nursing homes. Political operatives and pollsters said the Democratic governor’s strategy—including appearances with civil-rights leaders in New York City and on Long Island—is working for now, but they questioned how long it can be sustained. New York Attorney General Letitia James is overseeing an investigation into the harassment allegations by current and former aides to the governor and is expected to issue a report on its findings later this year. Democrats, who control the state Assembly, are investigating the harassment allegations as well as the state’s delayed release of a full tally of Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes. Federal prosecutors based in Brooklyn have requested data about nursing- home deaths and are interested in other state policies related to the facilities, The Wall Street Journal has reported. Mr. Cuomo and his attorneys have said they are cooperating with all of the probes. The governor has said he never touched anybody inappropriately and has apologized if his behavior made anybody uncomfortable. During a Wednesday press call, he said he wouldn’t answer questions while the probes are pending.
“Pentagon chief makes surprise stop in Afghanistan as generals warn of premature drawdown” by Politico’s Lara Seligman – Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made a surprise stop in Afghanistan on Sunday, his first as Pentagon chief, as top generals warn that the country could fall into chaos if U.S. troops withdraw before diplomatic efforts between the Taliban and the Afghan government to end the conflict yield results. President Joe Biden is still weighing a decision on whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 1, the deadline stipulated by an agreement he inherited from the Trump administration. But violence in the country remains too high, Austin told reporters after meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. “It’s obvious that the level of violence remains pretty high in the country, we’d really like to see that violence come down,” Austin said. “If it does come down, it can begin to set the conditions for some really fruitful diplomatic work.” Austin declined to say whether the Taliban are meeting the conditions of the February 2020 agreement negotiated by the previous administration, but stressed that he wants to see “a responsible end to the conflict.” “There is always going to be concerns about things one way or the other, but I think there is a lot of energy focused on doing what’s necessary to bring about a responsible end, a negotiated settlement to the war,” he said. While the Pentagon insists that all options are still on the table, meeting the deadline seems increasingly less feasible as May 1 gets closer. Biden himself said a complete U.S. withdrawal by that date would be “tough.”
“Drug pricing, climate, immigration: House Dems eye ‘kitchen sink’ for next big bill” by Politico’s Sarah Ferris – Less than two weeks after President Joe Biden signed into law one of Congress’ most expansive measures in decades, House Democratic leaders are already dreaming bigger. With most items on their agenda hobbled by the Senate filibuster, top House Democrats are eyeing ways to muscle through drug pricing and climate policy goals using the same arcane budget process that let the party bypass GOP votes for its pandemic aid bill. Sweeping immigration bills are also on the wishlist for many members, with Democrats eager to fit what they can in Biden’s next high-profile package — which could be the party’s last shot at using the budget tool before the midterm elections. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer haven’t formally decided to use the budgetary tool known as reconciliation for Biden’s next major priority, an infrastructure and jobs plan. Biden and top Democrats are still publicly courting Republicans for his proposal. But given the Senate GOP’s continued reluctance, many senior Democrats in both chambers believe it will be the ultimate path. House Democrats are in discussions about including two of the caucus’ signature bills — one, a drug pricing bill known as H.R. 3, and another a sweeping green infrastructure bill known as H.R. 2 — as part of the next reconciliation package, according to people familiar with their plans. Both would be enormous wins for Pelosi, whose caucus drafted the measures soon after retaking the majority in 2019. Those plans are still in the early stages. House lawmakers left town Friday for a three-week recess, which Democratic chairs will spend starting to assemble their pieces of the package. That includes House Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who aims to mark up his piece of the massive bill by late May.
“Cotton calls for return of Trump border policies” by Politico’s Zachary Warmbrodt – Sen. Tom Cotton on Sunday accused President Joe Biden of inviting a recent surge of migrants to the United States, claiming the border is “wide open.” In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” the Arkansas Republican said Biden had dismantled “highly effective” policies in securing the southern border with Mexico and that the measures should be revived. Cotton, one of Congress’s most outspoken immigration and foreign policy hawks, slammed Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who made the Sunday political talk show circuit to defend the administration’s policy of not expelling unaccompanied minors reaching the U.S. border with Mexico. “He’s basically saying the United States will not secure our border and that is a big welcome sign to migrants from across the world,” Cotton said. Cotton’s comments underscored the political pressure growing on Biden to address the growing surge of migrants reaching the southern border. In February, U.S. border agents apprehended more than 100,000 people, a 28 percent increase from January. A repeated talking point by Mayorkas on Sunday was that the Trump administration, which took a hard line on border policy, was to blame because it “dismantled the orderly, humane and efficient way” of dealing with the migrant children. Mayorkas said the U.S. was expelling families and adults but will not turn back “young, vulnerable children.” He said the U.S. was working to address the issue with Mexico and Central American countries where the asylum seekers are coming from. Cotton said Biden should embrace the Trump administration’s policies to address the situation at the border. Cotton said Biden should reinstate a “public health” restriction that he lifted for minors reaching the border. Cotton said Biden should also embrace Trump-era policies intended to keep pending asylum seekers in Mexico and force migrants to make asylum claims in the first country they pass through.
“U.S. House antitrust chairman plans multiple bills to go after Big Tech” by Reuters Staff – Democratic Representative David Cicilline, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, is preparing to come out with 10 or more pieces of legislation targeting Big Tech companies, a source with knowledge of the matter said on Sunday. The subcommittee, under Cicilline’s leadership, released a 449-page report in October last year, which detailed abuses of market power by Apple, Amazon, Alphabet’s Google and Facebook. The strategy to produce a series of smaller bills is aimed at lowering opposition from tech companies and their lobbyists towards a single piece of legislation, the source said. Cicilline is also working on a separate bill targeting a key law called Section 230, which offers protection to tech platforms from liability over content users post, the source said. His 230 legislation is likely to go after platforms such as Facebook and the way they amplify user content. Cicilline’s comments were first reported in an interview by Axios on Sunday. His office declined comment.