Show Me The Money
The State of Florida is in desperate need of cash to counter the huge revenue deficit brought on by the COVID pandemic, but will state legislators revert to raising taxes to help bridge the gap?
Don’t call it a tax, say some Republican legislators of Sen. Joe Gruters’s SB 50 Sales and Use Tax, but others call it what it is, a “Sales and Use Tax.”
“If passed—this online sales tax bill (SB 50) will be the single LARGEST TAX INCREASE in the history of the state of Florida” — READ MORE
HB 1, The Not-So-Racist Rioting Bill
Florida House Republicans introduced the anti-Rioting (HB 1) last year after the rioting that took place around the country after the death of George Floyd in hopes that it would curb future civil unrest and rioting.
While the measure does not single out any particular race, Democrats saw the opportunity to play the race card and say that Republicans were singling out the Black community.
C’mon, don’t be so surprised. This is politics.
Now, one Democratic lawmaker called out the “false narrative.” READ MORE
Shhh!!!! Don’t Tell Rep. Carlos “Carlitos” Guillermo Smith (D)
Rubio: ‘It’s Unfair to Allow Biological Men To Compete In Women’s Sports‘ by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – Moments ago, Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) asserted his opposition against the transgendered community’s support for allowing “biological men” to compete against women in athletics, stating that it was “unfair to allow biological men to compete in women’s sports,” adding that “COVID funding” and that congressional Democrats want to have pandemic relief taxpayer funds to pay for it
No Pay For You —Senator Rick Scott Pushes to scrap congressional pay due to this debacle. READ MORE
Rep. Anna V. Eskamani J @AnnaForFlorida–We can change car batteries, but not replace alternators After trying hours to fix my car w/help of Rudy at Advanced Auto Parts, David from @AAAnews, Kevin from the neighborhood & @Pcola_eddiet we called it quits, borrowed @_lcoops car, & are now heading to Tallahassee
U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy @RepStephMurphy–56 years ago today, African Americans and their allies—including my late and beloved colleague John Lewis—marched for their civil rights, and were brutally beaten. We have made great progress since then, but the fight for justice and equality continues.
Fiona McFarland @FionaForFlorida-Wanna know how amazing the Capitol sergeant and staff are? My soles started talking during a committee meeting so they helped me with emergency repairs. They do it all!
Chris Sprowls @ChrisSprowls-More evidence that Florida has weathered this painful storm better than other states, and we will come out stronger in the end. Well done,
“Senate Passes Biden $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Package” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – The Senate passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package Saturday, after an overnight “vote-a-rama” and a dramatic 12-hour unity battle to keep one centrist Democrat appease in order to prevent any derailments passing their liberal agenda. The final vote was 50-49 along party lines, with not one Republican backing the bill in the Senate, underscoring the sharp deeply partisan divide Biden promised to heal. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blasted Democrats ahead of the final vote for taking a partisan approach in slamming the measure without any Republican input. “The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard or less rigorous way,” McConnell said shortly before the final vote proceeded. “Democrats inherited a tide that is already turning.” The $1.9 trillion package dubbed the American Rescue Plan provides direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans and extends emergency unemployment benefits for an additional week until Labor Day, but reduces the weekly jobless benefit amount back to $300, from the original $400 proposed in the House bill. It also adds new funding into COVID vaccine distribution and testing, rental assistance for struggling households, expansion of the child tax credit for one year, and $128 billion for schools reopening, with only 5 percent being devoted to the 2021 fiscal year.
“Swalwell Sues Trump For ‘Emotional Distress’” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) has sued former President Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and a fellow colleague Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) in their personal capacity by trying to use the justice system in claiming their roles has inflicted “severe emotional distress” since Jan. 6. The lawsuit was filed Friday by Swalwell, a former House impeachment manager who led the second impeachment arguments against Trump last month in the charges of inciting an insurrection of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. Swalwell who was in the Capitol for the joint congressional session to certify the Electoral College results. Swalwell’s suit echoes the case he used to unsuccessfully prosecute the former president during his second impeachment trial by accusing Trump, Trump Jr., Giuliani, and Brooks for encouraging the attack on the complex with the Save American Rally and speeches made ahead of the riot, encouraging supporters weeks ahead of Jan.6 to coming to D.C and the former president remarks during his speech in the rally where he told those to march down to the Capitol. “Trump directly incited the violence at the Capitol that followed and then watched approvingly as the building was overrun,” Swalwell’s civil lawsuit filed in Washington, DC’s federal District Court alleges. “The horrific events of January 6 were a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants’ unlawful actions. As such, the Defendants are responsible for the injury and destruction that followed.”
“Book Says Senate COVID Liability Bill ‘Would Completely Remove Any Responsibility’ From Nursing Homes” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Brandes (R- St. Petersburg) has taken the reigns on the COVID liability debate by sponsoring two bills — SB 72 and SB 74 — in an attempt to fully cover the issue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Brandes’ SB 72 has caused the most controversy, as Senate Democrats don’t believe his bill does enough to punish negligent health-care providers such as assisted living facilities and nursing homes, rather removes them from any liability. One of Brandes’ Democratic colleagues, Sen. Lauren Book (D- Plantation), told The Floridian that Brandes’ COVID healthcare bill was “ a little too broad” at the moment,” and that the way it was written, “would totally remove the liability” from nursing homes. Sen. Book qualified her remark by pointed to the ongoing assisted living debacle that is occurring in New York with Governor Andrew Cuomo. “There are nursing homes that put COVID-positive amongst non-COVID positive patients, didn’t follow CDC guidelines,” said Book. “ That bill would completely remove any responsibility that they had.”
“Cammack : HR1280 Is ‘A Backdoor Attempt To Defund the Police’” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – This week, H.R. 1280 passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The deciding vote came from Texas Rep. Lance Gooden (R) who voted in favor of bill. The response to the passing of the bill has been divisive along party lines, and Florida Rep. Kat Cammack (R), whose husband is a first responder and who spoke against the bill on the House floor, continues to share her thoughts as to why the bill isn’t a “reform bill” but instead a bill that will “defund the police.” On Twitter, sharing an interview with FOX and Friends, Cammack expressed that the bill is “egregious,” adding that it “defunds our law enforcement officers across the country and takes life-saving equipment off the backs of these brave men and women.” “As the wife of an LEO, I will not stand for this!” she concluded. In the interview, Cammack shared the story of her husband, what his job entails and how she feels as a result of the passing of the bill. Because of that, she affirmed that there “are real reforms that we can make to make our police departments better, stronger, more responsive.” For her, “this is just a backdoor attempt to defund the police.”
“NRA Catching Bipartisan Heat Over Their Pet Tethering Position” by The Floridian’s Jim McCool – The NRA, while having announced their move to Texas, recently came out against an anti-tethering policy on pets in public areas. Florida Senators are currently working on legislation that would ban tethering dogs and cats and leaving them unsupervised in SB 650. In the Democrat bill, which has the support of State Senator Lauren Book (D-32) and seven other Senators, the penalties for Floridians caught leaving an animal tied up would result in gradual fines. First-time offenders would be given a warning, then $250, and finally $500 thereafter. The bill is expected to become law as the Senate Agriculture Committee passed the legislation unanimously. However, the National Rifle Association stepped in with only negative comments about the bill, with their longtime lobbyist claiming that “Many, many kinds of dogs are humanely tethered in the out-of-doors rather than being locked in cages.” The bill’s author, State Senator Annette Taddeo (D-40) says, “It makes no sense.” After Taddeo graciously allowed Republican amendments to be added to the bill, this came as a shock, no doubt.
“POLL: President Trump 2024 GOP Choice For President; 2nd Place — DeSantis, Cruz, Pence” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – One of President Donald Trump’s political pollsters, Florida resident Tony Fabrizio, has conducted a poll of potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates, and the overwhelming choice for president is President Trump,. The poll of 1,264 national Republicans surveyed shows that Trump is still king of the GOP. CPAC Poll. Q: If the Republican primary or caucus for president was held today in your state, for whom would you vote for? Trump got 51 percent of the vote and in the second came candidate “Undecided” with 12 percent. The rest of the field as you see is in single digits. When asked if Trump wasn’t on the ballot, who would they vote for. Former Vice President Mike Pence topped Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but not by much. Again, without Trump on the ballot, and among Trump supporters only, the three men are neck-and-neck, with Gov. DeSantis and VP Pence tied with 22 percent of the vote. Sen. Cruz is lurking just behind them.
“Florida speeds ahead with Covid-19 protections for nursing homes — without any cases” by Politico’s Arek Sarkossian – This week, Florida’s Republican-led Legislature steamed ahead with a plan to shield the state’s nursing home industry from a feared onslaught of Covid-19 lawsuits, even though no actual suits appear to have been filed, more than a year after the pandemic hit the state. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration is typically notified when a nursing home receives an “intent to sue” letter from a plaintiff, but at this time the agency has not received any notices due to Covid-19. “Although the Agency may be notified when a nursing homes receives an ‘intent to sue’ letter from a plaintiff, at this time we have not received any notices of litigation filed against nursing homes due to COVID-19,” AHCA spokesperson Tiffany Vause wrote in an email. Two lawyers who are in the early stages of filing dozens of lawsuits against nursing homes said they are waiting to see how the legislative dust will settle in May. FL SB74 (21R) in the Senate, and FL_HB7005 in the House, would both offer broad protections for Florida’s health care industry as the state endured the pandemic that has killed more than 31,000 residents. Committees in both chambers each approved similar measures this week. Both bills only require one more committee stop before they are eligible for floor discussion. A lingering question amid debates over both bills is just how many cases are out there. The nursing home industry, which includes assisted-living facilities, has backed the plans. Orlando lawyer Robin Khanal told the Senate Committee on Health Policy during a Wednesday meeting that he was overseeing 65 lawsuits on behalf of his firm, Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A.
“Student opposition mounts against scaling back Bright Futures scholarships” by Politico’s Andrew Atterbury – Florida students are rallying against a proposal from Senate Republicans that would dramatically reshape the state’s widely popular Bright Futures college scholarship.
Opposition campaigns have sprouted on social media as students claim the legislation — which aims to tailor the coveted financial aid to degrees that lead directly to jobs — would result in more college debt and limit their career choices. In one week, an online petition fighting the measure eclipsed 53,000 signatures with the bill teed up for its first hearing on Tuesday. “It’s a debate between having money or following your passion,” said Thomas Truong, a high school junior in Orlando who is part of one opposition effort. Top GOP lawmakers this week were doubling down their plans for retooling the $650 million scholarship program. FL SB86 (21R) introduces widescale policy shifts that could mark the most substantial Bright Futures cutback since the Great Recession, altering how much money students can receive for the awards currently earned by some 119,925 students. One student-led group, Save Bright Futures, already launched a full-blown website complete with a logo — the letters SBF in the shape of an orange — before a hearing was even scheduled for the bill. The eight students behind it, including Truong, Kaylee Duong, a senior in Orlando, and Heesu Seo, a junior in Tallahassee, run multiple social media accounts sending resources and updates about the legislation. They spent seven hours breaking down and annotating the 29-page bill for their webpage, which warns that “Bright Futures is in danger.”
“GOP seizes on women’s sports as unlikely wedge issue” by Politico’s Gabby Orr – Republicans are laying claim to an unlikely mantle: the party of women’s sports. Eager to find a winning culture war issue, former President Donald Trump and other GOP leaders are increasingly touting themselves as champions of women in sports by pushing back against President Joe Biden’s efforts to expand transgender rights. The effort — which critics call transphobic and likely to backfire — extends from the roughly 20 Republican-controlled states where legislators are advancing bills to keep transgender women from participating in interscholastic sports, to Trump himself, who told attendees this past weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida that it was “so important” to “protect women’s sports.” “This issue will help [the] GOP win midterms,” said Stephen Miller, the former Trump White House aide who helped advise the former president on his CPAC speech. Some Republicans say touting the issue will unite two key elements of a winning electoral coalition: the party’s socially conservative base, which mostly rejects the expansion of gay and transgender rights, and more moderate voters in the suburbs, who are less reliable GOP supporters but may revolt against what they see as Democratic overreach. “It’s a cross-cutting issue,” Miller added. “Biden’s activist staff are clearly making him embrace policies that alienate non-ideological voters.”
“Anyone 18 or older who showed up at Florida City FEMA site given COVID-19 shot, even non-eligible” by Local 10’s Terrell Forney and Michelle Solomon – On Saturday, anyone who showed up that was 18 or over with a doctor’s note or not, who did or didn’t meet eligibility requirements were able to get a COVID-19 shot at a FEMA site in Florida City. It is unclear why workers administered shots into the arms of anyone 18 and over, but it may have been that there had been low demand at the site for the past week. However, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order dictates that recipients in that age group must be in a high-risk category and arrive with a doctor’s note or an eligibility form signed by a doctor. Word spread quickly on social media about the shots-for-all in Florida City, prompting lines of people on Sunday hoping to get a shot at the Youth Activity Center. Saima Haque said a tweet prompted her to drive nearly 100 miles from Boynton Beach in hopes of getting the shot. “I saw a tweet on Twitter about people over 18. They were being giving out yesterday and they were gonna do it today as well. My dad at home is sick, so we’re just trying to get it,” Haque said. “If it doesn’t work, nothing much we can do,” she said. It didn’t work. In fact, operators at the FEMA site reverted back to the governor’s order as soon as the site reopened Sunday morning. Florida City police were on hand for crowd control and to help get the message across. Many people who did not fit the requirements were turned away. The back-and-forth at the Florida City site prompted Miami-Dade’s mayor to issue a tweet aimed at the governor urging him to expand the eligibility requirements.
“Puerto Rico statehood a ‘serious issue’ dividing island residents and the Florida diaspora” by Orlando Sentinel (TNS)’s Ingrid Cotto and Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio – Leaders of the Puerto Rican diaspora in Florida reacted to a new proposal seeking statehood for the U.S. territory. The new legislation was introduced Tuesday by Florida Rep. Darren Soto and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González at a news conference. Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Florida (PRFAA), Anthony Carrillo Filomeno, said the measure “is the right step to ensure the political equality of the 3.2 million American citizens on the island.” Unlike the 1.3 million Puerto Ricans who reside in Florida, those living on the island “do not have the right to vote and equal representation in the federal government.” The annexation debate resurfaced after a sixth consultation was held on the island: “Statehood: Yes or No,” where yes prevailed. Furthermore, the reintroduction of statehood legislation to the U.S. Congress puts Puerto Rico back into the national spotlight at a time of increased awareness of its political status. Those born on the island are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in federal elections if they reside in the commonwealth. The argument for electoral equality could be strengthened by legislation asking Washington, D.C. to be accepted in the American union. “From a strategic standpoint, I would like to see Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico fighting hand-in-hand so that both receive admission simultaneously following a tradition of admission in pairs as was the case in Hawaii and Alaska. However, unlike D.C., Puerto Rico clearly enjoys the advantage of having bipartisan support,“ added Carrillo Filomeno.
“40th anniversary of Library of Judaica at the University of Florida commemorated with talk on anti-Semitism” by WCJB’s Staff – On the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica at the University of Florida, library staff invited the public to learn about anti-Semitism, and how to spot it. A webinar over Zoom hosted with guest speaker professor Deborah Lipstadt, who is deemed one of the leading experts globally on Holocaust denial and modern antisemitism. Lipstandt said modern antisemitism in the United States tends to have one root origin. “We hear so much about conspiracy theory in the united states today, much of that conspiracy theory has anti-Semitic root,” Lipstandt said. Either its overtly anti-Semitic or if you dig deeper its got anti-Semitic roots that proper it” Guests got to engage with Lipstandt in a Q&A session, and view a sideshow showing the historical collection the library has obtained.
“Florida lawmakers weigh rules on union dues, ballot measures” by AP News – The Florida Legislature enters the second week of its 60-day session Monday as it dives deeper into the process of winnowing the thousands of bills before it. Among the bills before lawmakers in the next week is a measure unionists consider a union buster. The Legislature will also move to close a loophole that exempts some sexual offenders from having to register with authorities. And they will revisit the threshold for ballot measures to win passage. The union bill is coming before the House Government Operations Subcommittee, its first committee stop in the House. The Senate version has to get through one more committee before it heads to the full floor. The bill requires government employers to confirm that employees consent to have union dues taken out of their paychecks. But there’s a wrinkle: Authorization would have to be renewed every three years or every time a new contract is negotiated. The bill’s author says some employees are having dues deducted without ever having given permission. Union leaders argue that the legislation is unnecessary because Florida is a “right-to-work” state, which means workers already have to consent in order to pay dues to the union that represents them. In the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, lawmakers in the coming week are considering a key change in sexual offender laws.
“Florida House panel to weigh pot potency” by Wink News – A Florida House panel Tuesday will take up a controversial bill that would make changes in Florida’s medical-marijuana laws, including limiting the amount of euphoria-inducing THC in marijuana products. The House Professions & Public Health Subcommittee is scheduled to consider the proposal (HB 1455), filed by Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers. A similar bill (SB 1958) was filed this week in the Senate by Estero Republican Ray Rodrigues. The Senate has blocked similar proposals during the past two years, but Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, has said he thinks many senators could support the proposal this year. In part, Roach’s bill would place a 10 percent THC cap on smokable marijuana. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive component of marijuana that makes users feel high. Medical-marijuana advocates and industry officials are fighting the proposals, arguing caps would force patients to spend more money to achieve the same effects from their medical treatment. Supporters of caps contend that high-potency marijuana has negative mental-health effects, especially on the developing brain.
“Florida coronavirus: 4,098 new cases, 63 new deaths reported Sunday” by WFLA – Florida’s health department reported just more than 4,000 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. A total of 4,098 new cases were added in Sunday’s report, bringing the cumulative number of cases in the state to 1,944,995 since the pandemic began just more than a year ago. New cases reported (1,944,995 total since start of pandemic):
Percent positive: The latest report from the Florida Department of Health shows the state received 83,835 PCR or antigen lab results from across the state on Saturday. Of those tests, the state says 8.39% were positive.
“Florida Rep. Gaetz: Dems politicizing January Capitol riot” by Fox – GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida argues the FBI uses ‘every opportunity to try and delegitimize a movement that really exposed them.’ VIDEO
“Republican reopenings sharpen political divide over virus” by Bloomberg News (TNS)’s Mark Niquette and Jonathan Levin – Decisions by two Republican governors to remove all coronavirus restrictions in their states have reignited the political debate on the pandemic response, elevating it as a campaign issue this year and in 2022. Republicans Greg Abbott of Texas and Tate Reeves of Mississippi announced last week they’re eliminating state mask mandates and allowing businesses to reopen at full capacity, setting expectations for other GOP-led states to follow suit. The moves drew dire warnings from health officials and Democrats that they risk igniting another spike in cases and deaths and stood in stark contrast to Joe Biden’s cautious approach to getting the U.S. back to normalcy. The president issued a rebuke, calling the moves “Neanderthal thinking” and “a big mistake.” Yet the governors continue to follow the path of former President Donald Trump, who downplayed the virus from the outset, helped stoke opposition to mask-wearing, and made the pandemic a partisan issue. Now, politicians are using reopening plans to show where their priorities lie as they seek a balance between public health and economic recovery. “This is going to be the first time the public gets to definitively speak on the issue of how did you handle it, how did you do,” former New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie said of elections to be held in the waning days of the pandemic. “No matter whether you’re the incumbent or the challenger, there’s going to be a lot of discussion about it.”
“Florida Republicans Pitch State as Model for Elections, Expanding GOP Appeal” by WSJ’s Joshua Jamerson – Florida Republicans are pitching themselves as a model for Republicans across the country on how to hold elections, handle the coronavirus pandemic and expand the GOP’s appeal to a broad swath of voters by emphasizing freedom and casting Democrats as socialist. More than a dozen local Republican activists gathered here on a recent day wondered aloud how they could make sure Pennsylvanians, Michiganders and Georgians had free and fair elections. “We can only do Florida?” asked Eileen Morilleau, a former business owner in this small town in northeastern Florida, when her GOP county chairman, Hunter Peeler, said that he hoped Florida’s 2020 elections would serve as a model for the country. Mr. Peeler responded that the Republican National Committee has a new election-integrity committee, and that perhaps that might be the best vessel by which Republicans could make recommendations to other states. While five states flipped from red to blue in the 2020 presidential race, Florida stayed in the Republican column, with former President Donald Trump slightly improving his performance here compared with 2016. Florida also boasts a culture that Republicans, including potential 2024 presidential candidates, say they want for the rest of the country, citing its relatively smooth 2020 elections and the lack of a mask mandate in public to curb Covid-19’s spread, thanks to a GOP governor who speaks out against what Republicans often refer to as a “liberal, woke mob.”
“Democrats ask FBI for investigation into vaccine distribution; DeSantis pushes back” by HERALD/TIMES TALLAHASSEE BUREAU’s MARY ELLEN KLAS AND DAVID GOODHUE – Florida’s two top Democratic officials on Thursday called on the U.S. Justice Department to launch an investigation into Gov. Ron DeSantis for what they say appears to be a “pay to play” scheme in which the governor directed vaccine doses to communities in the state’s wealthiest ZIP codes in exchange for campaign contributions. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer issued separate statements urging the U.S. Attorney and the FBI to look into whether the $3.9 million in contributions made to the governor’s political committee since December alone were connected to favorable treatment for vaccine distribution. On Thursday, the governor angrily blasted a Miami Herald report that quoted an internal newsletter sent to residents of the wealthy gated enclave of the Ocean Reef Club, located in north Key Largo. The Jan. 22 publication touted the fact that “over the course of the last two weeks, the Medical Center has vaccinated over 1,200 homeowners who qualify under the State of Florida’s Governor’s current Order for those individuals who are 65 years of age or older.” About that same time, state data on vaccinations by ZIP codes showed that as low-income neighborhoods tended to get hit harder by COVID-19 spread, wealthier neighborhoods were getting their shots at a faster rate than the rest of the state.
“Trump says he’ll work to unseat Alaska’s Murkowski, calling her ‘disloyal’” by Fox News’ Evie Fordham – Former President Donald Trump said he would campaign against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and blasted her as a “disloyal and very bad Senator” in a statement this weekend. “I will not be endorsing, under any circumstances, the failed candidate from the great State of Alaska, Lisa Murkowski,” Trump said in a statement. “She represents her state badly and her country even worse. I do not know where other people will be next year, but I know where I will be – in Alaska campaigning against a disloyal and very bad Senator.” “Her vote to advance radical left Democrat Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior is yet another example of Murkowski not standing up for Alaska,” he continued. Trump’s statement isn’t exactly shocking – he said the same thing in June after Murkowski told reporters she was “struggling” to support the president in his reelection because of how he handled the George Floyd protests. More recently, Murkowski was among seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump on the charge of inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in the Senate impeachment trial in February.
“Cuomo won’t quit despite demanding others do so: GOP lawmaker” by Fox News’ Dom Calicchio – One of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s harshest critics blasted the governor again Sunday, implying he was a hypocrite for refusing to resign after facing more accusations of sexual harassment that brought Cuomo’s list of accusers to at least five women. Republican U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis noted in a Twitter post that Cuomo referred to calls for his departure “anti-democratic,” despite having called for other New York officials to step down following their own alleged transgressions. The sexual harassment scandals Malliotakis cited in her tweet involved the following officials: Vito Lopez, who resigned from the New York state Assembly in 2013; Dennis Gabryszak, who resigned from the state Assembly in January 2014; and Micah Kellner, a New York state Assembly member and onetime aide to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer who declined to seek reelection in 2014 after allegations against him. In 2018, Cuomo also called for then-New York Attornery General Eric Schneiderman to resign after Schneiderman faced sexual harassment allegations that were detailed in a New Yorker magazine article.
“Georgia district attorney investigating Trump hires lawyer with expertise in racketeering cases” by CNN’s Sara Murray and Zachary Cohen – A lawyer with deep expertise in racketeering cases has been retained by the Atlanta-area district attorney’s office investigating former President Donald Trump. John Floyd is expected to assist the district attorney’s office on multiple cases in the white collar, gang and public corruption units, said Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Two people familiar with his hiring said he was not retained specifically for the investigation into Trump’s post-election call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “He was retained for his racketeering expertise generally — not for any specific case,” said DiSantis. Floyd declined to comment. His hiring was first reported by Reuters. Floyd would be an asset if Willis decided to pursue a complicated racketeering case against Trump. It is one of the potential charges she is investigating, according to document preservation requests Willis sent out last month.
“Biden signs executive order expanding voting access” by CNN’s Donald Judd and Devan Cole – President Joe Biden signed an executive order Sunday expanding voting access in what the White House calls “an initial step” in its efforts to “protect the right to vote and ensure all eligible citizens can freely participate in the electoral process.” The move comes as Republicans in statehouses around the country work to advance voter suppression legislation, including a bill in Georgia that voting rights groups say targets Black voters. Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, have pushed measures in recent days to increase voting rights, including HR1 — a sweeping ethics and election package that contains provisions expanding early and mail-in voting, restoring voting rights to former felons, and easing voter registration for eligible Americans. Sunday’s order directs the heads of all federal agencies to submit proposals for their respective agencies to promote voter registration and participation within 200 days, while assisting states in voter registration under the National Voter Registration Act. In addition, the order instructs the General Services Administration to modernize the federal government’s Vote.gov portal. Ahead of the signing, Biden spoke about the order during virtual remarks at the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast, an annual event commemorating “Bloody Sunday,” where African American demonstrators demanding the right to vote were brutally beaten by police while crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
“US and South Korea reach agreement on cost sharing for American troops” by CNN’s Nicole Goauette and Paul LeBlanc – Washington and Seoul have agreed to a cost-sharing agreement for US forces based in South Korea, a US State Department spokesperson confirmed to CNN on Sunday. Negotiations over the Special Measures Agreement, or SMA, had badly strained the US alliance with South Korea during the Trump administration after former President Donald Trump demanded Seoul pay up to 400% more for the presence of the 28,500 troops on the peninsula. News of the agreement comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to make his first international trip as the top US diplomat to South Korea and Japan next week.
CNN previously reported that the agreement would likely be a multi-year deal that increased Seoul’s contribution to cover the presence of US troops at around the 13% increase South Korea had suggested in 2020 as its best possible offer, according to two sources familiar with the talks. The final agreement could also include mandated increases in South Korea’s defense budget, as well as an understanding that Seoul will make certain military equipment purchases, one of the sources said. The Wall Street Journal first reported an agreement had been reached. “We are pleased that U.S. and Republic of Korea negotiators have reached consensus on a proposed text of a Special Measures Agreement that will strengthen our Alliance and our shared defense,” the spokesperson said. “America’s alliances are a tremendous source of our strength. This development reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to reinvigorating and modernizing our democratic alliances around the word to advance our shared security and prosperity.”
“Covid-19 Aid Bill Heads Back to House After Tense Senate Vote” by WSJ’s Ted Mann and Kristina Peterson – The $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill faces what is expected to be a very close vote in the House as early as Tuesday after the Senate narrowly approved the aid package over the weekend with concessions to accommodate centrist Democrats. The Senate changes to the bill, which first passed the House Feb. 27 with more generous unemployment provisions, mean House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must hold together her slim majority caucus for a second House vote to send President Biden’s top legislative priority to his desk. The House is expected to hold a procedural vote on the bill Monday night, with final passage slated for Tuesday. There were positive signals for Mrs. Pelosi and her leadership team over the weekend, when key progressives in the House appeared poised to support the relief bill a second time even as many expressed frustration at the changes that curtailed the extension of unemployment benefits and blocked an effort to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. “Despite the fact that we believe any weakening of the House provisions were bad policy and bad politics, the reality is that the final amendments were relatively minor concessions,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“Iran-Backed Houthi Rebels Say They Targeted Saudi Oil Port” by WSJ’s Summer Said and Stephen Kalin – Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels said they attacked a major Saudi Arabian oil port on the Persian Gulf with drones and missiles on Sunday. Saudi authorities said the strike caused no casualties or damage. The Saudi Energy Ministry said an assault “coming from the sea” had targeted petroleum tanks at the Ras Tanura port. It condemned what it called “repeated acts of sabotage and hostility” targeting energy supplies to the world. “All indications point to Iran,” said an adviser to the Saudi royal court who said he was briefed on the matter. He said it wasn’t clear whether the origin was Iran or Iraq but that it hadn’t come from the direction of Yemen. Iranian officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. An Iraqi official said he was unaware of any connection between his country and the attack. Oil prices rose after the market opened Sunday evening in New York following the attack. Brent crude, the global gauge of oil prices, added more than 2.5% and rose above $71 a barrel. Prices have surged to their highest level since May 2019, lifted by rising demand as the global economy reopens from shutdowns designed to stop the coronavirus and supply curtailments around the world. In 2019, a drone and missile attack on the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry temporarily shut down half the kingdom’s crude production. At the time, the Houthis claimed responsibility, but the U.S. said the attack was launched from Iraq or Iran, which denied the accusations.
“U.S. Set to Power Global Economic Recovery From Covid-19” by WSJ’s Tom Fairless – The U.S. could help drive a powerful global economic recovery this year, as it plays a more central role in the comeback than after the financial crisis, reflecting the unusual nature of the Covid-19 shock and the flexibility of the American economy. The world economy is likely to grow by around 6% this year, according to Oxford Economics, the fastest rate in almost half a century, as vaccine campaigns allow pandemic restrictions to be lifted and businesses to snap back. For the first time since 2005, the U.S. is expected this year to make a bigger contribution to global growth than China, said the research firm. After the 2008 financial crisis, the global economic recovery was powered by China, as the U.S. experienced the weakest revival since the Great Depression. Since the U.S. economy is about one-third larger than China’s, its contribution to global growth will be larger than China’s if, as expected, both grow roughly at the same rate this year. “The U.S. is going to play the role of the global locomotive again in 2021,” said Catherine Mann, global chief economist at Citibank. She added though that the international situation would temper the country’s economic growth. The U.S. economy contracted 3.5% last year and is expected to grow about 7% this year, according to Goldman Sachs. China grew 2.3% last year and is expected to grow 8% this year, the bank said.
“Cuomo leans on crisis management playbook as walls close in” by Politico’s David Siders and Anna Gronewold – From all appearances, the implosion of Andrew Cuomo is near complete. Top aides are leaving his office, and new revelations about his nursing home scandal continue to drip out. Over the weekend, the newspaper of record in his adopted hometown called for his resignation, while two more former aides came forward with accusations of inappropriate conduct. On Sunday, Democrats at the helm of the state Legislature broke ranks, with the Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, saying Cuomo “must resign” and the Assembly speaker, Carl Heastie, suggesting that, for the good of the state, Cuomo should “seriously consider” whether to remain in office. Yet if Cuomo’s reign as “America’s governor” has come to an end, it’s far less certain that his actual governorship is end-stage. Ralph Northam, the Virginia governor who was on a political death watch following his blackface scandal, survived. So did an on-the-ropes President Bill Clinton, in whose administration Cuomo served during impeachment, giving him an up-close look at how to survive the seemingly unsurvivable. One thing we’ve learned from watching Northam and several of these others is if you just don’t go anywhere, it’s hard to get rid of you,” said David Doak, a retired longtime Democratic strategist and ad maker. “The question is, can you withstand the pressure?” Cuomo is confronting the dual crises with a spartan circle of weary advisers, with some of his more tenured staffers moving in recent days to close ranks, appealing to wavering aides that “we’re in this together, this administration has done great work and will continue to do so,” according to a former administration official.
“‘It is a trap!’: Inside the QAnon attack that never happened” by Politico’s Tina Nguyen – In a joint intelligence bulletin earlier this week, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security delivered a jarring warning to state and local law enforcement: violent domestic extremists “motivated by the QAnon conspiracy theory” might be mobilized to action because they believed Donald Trump would be inaugurated on March 4. But the date came and went without serious incident. It wasn’t that the false and sprawling conspiracy theory that accuses “Deep State elites” of running a secret pedophile ring was losing steam. Rather, it was at least in part because QAnon followers smelled a trap. In the weeks leading up to March 4 — the day in QAnon lore when Trump was actually supposed to be inaugurated for a second term, thus taking the country back from the Joe Biden — QAnon influencers had been discouraging their massive audience to avoid attending any event on that day, suggesting that any planned gatherings would be “false flag operations” designed by the government to make them look bad. “FOR ALL YOU SHILLS, MSM LURKERS AND NORMIES VISITING TODAY – Q HAS TOLD US MARCH 4 IS A TRAP,” a user posted Thursday on GreatAwakening.win, one of the larger QAnon web forums. “THEREFORE ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS IS NOT US!!” A week earlier, the message was the same on another large private QAnon channel on Telegram, an app that has increasingly become the home of right-wing extremists kicked off of Twitter and Facebook.
“Manchin wants to make filibuster ‘painful’ to use” by Politico’s Nick Niedzwiadek – Sen. Joe Manchin said Sunday he is open to altering the Senate filibuster to make it more “painful” for the minority party to wield, while reiterating his opposition to ending the procedural hurdle altogether. “The filibuster should be painful, it really should be painful and we’ve made it more comfortable over the years,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Maybe it has to be more painful.” Manchin (D-W.Va.) has previously supported efforts to require senators to filibuster by talking on the chamber floor in order to hold up a bill, an idea he raised on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk,” Manchin said. “I’m willing to look at any way we can, but I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.” However, Manchin did not rule out using the budget reconciliation process to pass a voting rights bill with a simple majority, keeping the door open to a potential workaround for Democrats to push through a voting overhaul while preserving the filibuster. The House on Wednesday narrowly passed a sweeping package of election-related reforms, a proposal they’ve given the symbolically important designation of H.R. 1. It’s not clear how Manchin envisioned that H.R. 1 could potentially be passed through reconciliation, as it is not budget-related, and Democrats’ proposed minimum wage increase was tripped up by the process’ strict rules and left on the cutting-room floor. But Manchin said Democrats need to meaningfully engage with Republicans before going down that path, which they utilized late last week to pass a $1.9 trillion Covid relief package without a single GOP Senate vote.
“U.S. House set to vote on bills to expand gun background checks” by Reuters’ David Shepardson – The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on Wednesday on a pair of bills to expand background checks before gun purchases, two years after a similar House effort failed to make it through the Senate. The House Rules Committee on Monday will take up the two bills that Democrats, who control the chamber, say are aimed at closing loopholes in the background check system. The Rules Committee action is a procedural step before the full House votes. A congressional aide said the chamber was poised to vote on the bills on Wednesday. The House passed two bills in 2019 to expand background checks but they were never taken up by the then-Republican-controlled Senate. Nearly all legislation in the 100-member Senate requires 60 votes and the prospects of overcoming that hurdle are uphill at best in the evenly divided chamber. The issue of gun rights is contentious in the United States, where numerous mass shootings in recent decades prompted calls from many Americans for stricter regulation of firearms and ammunition. The U.S. Constitution protects the right of Americans to bear arms. Republicans generally oppose measures to tighten gun restrictions. One of the bills under consideration would make it illegal for anyone who is not a licensed firearms importer, manufacturer or dealer to transfer a firearm to any unlicensed person without a background check. The bill has exemptions, including gifts from relatives and transfers for hunting, target shooting and self-defense. A version was introduced in the Senate last week.