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News & Politics Thread (Part 5)

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    Atypical
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    Israeli jets pound Gaza as rocket fire resumes and Palestinians hit streets to protest
    by Hadas Gold, Ofri Eshel, Abeer Salman, Kareem Khadder and Mohammed Tawfeeq
    Updated 2:13 PM ET, Tue May 18, 2021

    Jerusalem (CNN) Israeli warplanes continued to pound Gaza on Tuesday and rocket fire into Israel resumed after a brief lull, as Palestinian protesters hit the streets in cities across the West Bank and elsewhere.

    Thousands gathered in various towns in the West Bank, including Ramallah and Hebron, on Tuesday after a number of Palestinian groups, including Hamas militants in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, called for mass strikes.

    “The first priority for the Palestinian political leadership now is to have Israel stop its crimes and massacres against our people in Gaza,” Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee in Ramallah, told CNN on Tuesday.

    Israel imposed a partial closure on the West Bank on Tuesday, an Israeli security source told CNN, with only men older than 45 and Palestinian construction workers with work permits allowed to enter Israel.

    Israeli airstrikes continued through the night into Tuesday. The Israel Defense Forces said warplanes had struck nine rocket launch sites in Gaza on Tuesday in addition to targeting a tunnel system in northern Gaza, several residences of Hamas commanders and an anti-tank squad in Gaza City.

    The Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said 213 people, including 61 children, had been killed and 1,400 others injured in the current round of violence. More than 2,500 Palestinians are now without homes and more than 38,000 are considered internally displaced, according to the United Nations.

    Israel briefly allowed trucks carrying international aid into Gaza for the first time since the conflict began last week, but Israeli authorities halted the entrance of aid trucks in response to mortar fire at two border cross crossings.

    Monday night and early Tuesday morning had brought a brief respite in southern Israel from militants’ rockets. The Israel Defense Forces did not report any warning sirens overnight, the first time in a week Israel went a night without rocket fire from Gaza.

    The attacks resumed later Tuesday, with one mortar killing two civilians at an agricultural packaging factory on the Israeli side of the Gaza border, bringing the total number of dead in Israel to 12 since violence erupted just over a week ago. Sirens also sounded once again Tuesday in Ashkelon and other towns, sending residents fleeing again into shelters.

    Now into its eighth day, this is the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian confrontation since the two sides fought a war in 2014.

    Speaking Tuesday following a visit to the Israeli air force base at Hatzerim, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said operations would continue “as necessary to restore peace to the citizens of Israel.”
    Referring to Israel’s attacks on Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Netanyahu said: “I have no doubt that we took them back many years.”

    “I’m sure all our enemies around see what price we’re charging for the aggression against us, and I’m sure they’ll learn the lesson too,” he added.

    Around dawn, the IDF destroyed an office building near Gaza. An advance warning was given that the tower would be targeted, witnesses said, and there were no reports of casualties. Israel has not commented on the incident.

    The destroyed building was among several pieces of infrastructure used by civilians that have been targeted by the IDF. Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of “deliberately” operating near buildings like hospitals and schools, thereby endangering civilians who risk becoming human shields.

    Over the weekend, Israeli forces destroyed a building housing offices for international media outlets Al Jazeera and The Associated Press, claiming it contained Hamas military intelligence assets. Hamas has denied that allegation.

    Dozens of Israeli jets bombed more than 9 miles (14 km) of Hamas’ tunnel system in Gaza Sunday night into Monday morning and targeted 14 residences Monday that the Israeli military said belonged to commanders from the Palestinian militant group.

    Hamas authorities and video from the ground showed a health clinic in Gaza City damaged by an Israeli airstrike on a nearby target, its windows blown out. The Ministry of Health in Gaza said the clinic was one of its main coronavirus testing centers.

    The ministry earlier warned the destruction of medical facilities could lead to a surge of Covid-19 cases because those fleeing to shelters would be “exposed to the spread of infectious diseases, especially the danger of spread of the coronavirus.”

    A spokesperson for the IDF told CNN on Tuesday that it targeted the main operations center of the Hamas internal security forces in the Rimal neighborhood, and that the building was close to the clinic.

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    O’Rourke considering Texas governor bid: report
    BY MAX GREENWOOD 05/24/21 09:44 AM EDT

    Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) is reportedly weighing another bid for higher office–this time for Texas governor.

    That the former Senate candidate and 2020 presidential contender is thinking about launching a challenge to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was first reported on Monday by The Associated Press. There’s currently no timeline for a decision, and he has only begun to think about it recently, according to the news outlet.

    If he does end up challenging Abbott, it would mark O’Rourke’s third consecutive election cycle seeking statewide or national elected office.

    He rose to prominence in 2018 during his high-profile Senate run against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which he narrowly lost. Months later, he launched a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, though he suspended his campaign in November 2019, months before the primaries and caucuses began.

    After dropping out of the presidential race, O’Rourke launched a political action committee (PAC) to boost Democrats in Texas ahead of the 2020 election. He has also been teaching virtual classes at two Texas universities.

    Democrats have sought to make gains in Texas in recent years, though their efforts have been dealt a series of setbacks. In 2020, former President Donald Trump carried the state for a second time, while Democrats failed to make any gains down ballot.

    Following their 2020 losses, the Texas Democratic Party commissioned a retrospective of the election, eventually concluding that a lack of in-person campaigning and inadequate voter outreach amid the coronavirus pandemic played a crucial role in their defeats.

    Texas Democrats face new challenges in 2022. The Republican-controlled state legislature has advanced a raft of new voting measures that Democrats fear will drive down turnout and hurt their chances of winning in Texas.

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    I haven’t watched the news for weeks. Apparantly missed a lot

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    Senators struggle to save Jan. 6 commission
    BY JORDAIN CARNEY 05/25/21 08:02 PM EDT 417

    Senators are struggling to salvage a bill that would create a commission to probe the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

    Moderates in both caucuses are trying to find a path forward, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) drafting potential changes to the bill and Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) pleading with Republicans to work with them to find a deal.

    But those efforts are producing little movement among GOP senators, underscoring the uphill and unlikely climb supporters of a commission face to getting the 10 Republican votes they would need to advance the bill in the Senate.

    “I don’t think I’ll support the commission. Let the Congress and the Senate issue their reports. This thing’s just got politics written all over it, unfortunately. So, we’ll see what happens,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

    Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) added that he was similarly unmoved by the changes being shopped around by Collins, saying that he thought the commission sounded like a “political exercise.”

    “I still feel pretty confident that even the timeline…it’s unrealistic,” Tillis said.

    Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who was initially open to a commission, said the proposed changes weren’t enough to get his support, echoing Tillis’s concerns about the timeline.

    The bill includes an end-of-year cutoff date, though Republicans don’t believe it can be met.

    Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) noted that a joint investigation by the Senate Rules Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee was already underway and could wrap up faster. Senators say they expect the joint report to be released early next month.

    “I don’t think we need to outsource it to a commission, particularly when it’s already being used as a political football by Speaker Pelosi,” Cornyn said.

    Collins declined to describe her floated amendments on Tuesday except to say that they dealt with GOP concerns that Republican-appointed members of the commission would also have a hand in staffing. Republicans have raised concerns that the legislation as drafted would allow Democrats to hire all the staff even though the panel’s membership would be evenly divided.

    The rejection of the bill, even if it’s changed to address GOP concerns, is the latest blow for an idea that once garnered broad support in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, where a mob of former President Trump’s supporters breached the building in an attempt to block Congress from certifying President Biden’s electoral win.

    The bill passed the House last week with 35 GOP votes. But it’s essentially unraveled in the Senate, with most of the GOP caucus following the lead of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who came out against it last week.

    Manchin and Sinema, the two most moderate members of the Senate Democratic caucus who are also the biggest Democratic opponents of nixing the filibuster, released a joint statement on Tuesday making it clear that they were open to changes from Republicans to the House-passed bill.

    “A bipartisan commission to investigate the events of that day has passed the House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote and is a critical step to ensuring our nation never has to endure an attack at the hands of our countrymen again. We implore our Senate Republican colleagues to work with us to find a path forward on a commission to examine the events of January 6th,” they said.

    The Associated Press, citing sources, reported that Manchin and Collins were also trading potential language for changes. A spokesperson for Manchin didn’t respond to questions about the talks.

    But Democrats don’t appear to have a clear path to the votes needed to defeat a filibuster.

    McConnell lambasted the bill on Tuesday, arguing it would be used against Republicans heading into 2022.

    “I think, at the heart of this recommendation by the Democrats is that they would like to continue to debate things that occurred in the past. They’d like to continue to litigate the former president into the future. We think the American people, going forward and in the fall of ’22, ought to focus on what this administration is doing to the country and what the clear choices that we have made to oppose most of these initiatives,” he told reporters.

    “So I think this is a purely political exercise that adds nothing to the sum total of information,” he added.

    Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), his No. 2, warned that the bill was unlikely to pass in its current form and stopped short of predicting that the changes being worked on by Collins would be enough to break off 10 GOP votes.

    “He’s articulating a view that I think is shared by a big number of our members…based on at least the current version of the bill,” Thune said, while noting that some GOP senators were “withholding judgement” until they see potential changes.

    He added that the proposed Collins changes were “moving in the right direction” but that it was “hard to say” if that got the bill 10 GOP votes.

    So far, Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) are the only two GOP senators who have said they will vote for the bill. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) has signaled he’s interested and Collins has suggested she could support a commission if changes are incorporated into the legislation. But that still leaves Democrats several votes short.

    Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said that he’ll bring up the legislation “very soon.” That could be as soon as this week, though Schumer hasn’t yet teed up the bill as the chamber continues to debate legislation aimed at combating China’s competitiveness.

    Schumer hasn’t specifically signed onto any amendments, but said Democrats were willing to look at potential changes.

    “But it can’t just undo the commission,” Schumer added. “One of the proposals I heard, have a separate Republican staff. You can’t have a commission with two warring staff. I’ve never … seen that happen.”

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    George Floyd family urges Biden to pass police reform bill as it stalls in Senate
    David Smith in Washington
    @smithinamerica THE GUARDIAN
    Tue 25 May 2021 17.42 EDT

    “Say his name,” said seven-year-old Gianna Floyd. In bright sunshine outside the west wing of the White House, family members and lawyers raised their fists and said her father’s name in chorus: “George Floyd!”

    They were marking exactly one year since the police murder of Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis shook America with months of nationwide protests against racial injustice and demands for police reform.

    On Tuesday the family brought that conversation to Washington. Joe Biden, whose own family has been haunted by grief, apparently demonstrated an empathy many found lacking in his predecessor, Donald Trump, during a private meeting of more than an hour.

    Floyd’s brother, Philonise described Biden as a “genuine guy” and told reporters the family had a “great” discussion with him and Vice-President Kamala Harris. “They always speak from the heart and it’s a pleasure just to be able to have the chance to meet with them when we have that opportunity to,” he said.

    According to a pooled report, Biden, who later travelled to Wilmington, Delaware, to attend the funeral of a former staff member, reflected on the anniversary. “It takes a lot of courage to go through it,” he said of the Floyd family. “And they’ve been wonderful.”

    Asked about Gianna, Biden said the first thing she did was run to him and give him a hug, then ask for snacks. Gianna had Cheetos and milk, he added before joking: “My wife’s going to kill me.”’

    America’s racial reckoning across business, culture and society has not yet been matched by legislative action. Biden had set a deadline of Tuesday for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which contains reforms such as a ban on chokeholds, to become law.

    It passed the House of Representatives in March but is faltering in the Senate where Republicans object to a provision ending qualified immunity, which shields officers from legal action by victims and families for alleged civil rights violations. The family urged quicker action.

    Philonise said pointedly: “If you can make federal laws to protect the bird which is the bald eagle, you can make federal law to protect people of colour.”

    Brandon Williams, Floyd’s nephew, added: “He let us know that he supports passing the bill, but he wants to make sure that it’s the right bill and not a rushed bill.”

    The family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, said the group was about to meet Senators Cory Booker and Tim Scott, who are working on a bipartisan deal. “We all want just policing where George Floyd will get an opportunity to take a breath without having a knee on his neck,” he said. “It has been 57 years since we’ve had meaningful legislation.”

    Some observers have suggested that Biden should use his bully pulpit to push Congress harder. The anniversary came as a warning that patience could wear thin.

    The president, who made racial justice central to his election campaign and enjoyed strong support among African American voters, issued a statement following the meeting. “The Floyd family has shown extraordinary courage, especially his young daughter Gianna, who I met again today,” he said. “The day before her father’s funeral a year ago, Jill and I met the family and she told me, ‘Daddy changed the world’. He has.”

    Biden added that he appreciates “the good-faith efforts from Democrats and Republicans” to pass a meaningful bill out of the Senate. “We have to act. We face an inflection point. The battle for the soul of America has been a constant push and pull between the American ideal that we’re all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart.”

    Floyd died on 25 May 2020 when the then Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes, despite the 46-year-old repeatedly saying he could not breathe.

    The killing, captured on video by a bystander, triggered months of demonstrations at systemic racism and policing. Chauvin was convicted of murder and is awaiting sentencing next month.

    Floyd was honoured across America on Tuesday. In Minneapolis, a foundation created in his memory organised an afternoon of music and food in a park near the downtown courtroom where Chauvin stood trial. Nine minutes of silence were observed. Later, mourners were to gather for a candlelight vigil.

    Barack Obama, the first Black US president, issued a statement that acknowledged hundreds more Americans have died in encounters with police but also expressed hope.

    “Today, more people in more places are seeing the world more clearly than they did a year ago.” he said. “It’s a tribute to all those who decided that this time would be different – and that they, in their own ways, would help make it different.”

    Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, noted how the “ stomach-churning video” of Floyd’s death rippled beyond the US.

    “The name of George Floyd was chanted in Rome, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Mexico City,” he said. “As recently as this weekend, professional soccer players in the [English] Premier League knelt before the game in support of the global movement against racism touched off by George Floyd.

    “This was not only a fight for justice for one man and his family, who I’ve had the privilege to meet with, but a fight against the discrimination that Black men and women suffer at the hands of state power, not just here in America but around the globe.”

    Earlier, the Floyd family had visited the Capitol to push the police reform legislation in meetings with members of Congress including House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

    Karen Bass, a Democrat and the lead House negotiator, renewed her commitment to compromise with Republicans.

    “We will get this bill on President Biden’s desk,” she said. “What is important is that … it’s a substantive piece of legislation, and that is far more important than a specific date. We will work until we get the job done. It will be passed in a bipartisan manner.”

    Legislation has been pursued in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to increase accountability or oversight of police; 24 states have enacted new laws.

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    Senate GOP blocks legislation on Jan. 6 commission
    BY JORDAIN CARNEY 05/28/21 12:16 PM EDT

    Senate Republicans on Friday blocked legislation to form a commission to probe the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

    Senators voted 54-35 on the House-passed bill, falling short of the 10 GOP votes needed to get it over an initial hurdle and marking the first successful filibuster by Republicans in the 117th Congress.

    GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine), Bill Cassidy (La.), Rob Portman (Ohio), and Ben Sasse (Neb.) broke ranks and voted to advance the legislation.

    Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) missed the vote because of a family commitment but a spokesperson said he would have supported advancing it “with the expectation that the Senate would consider, and Sen. Toomey would have supported” GOP amendments.

    Senate Republicans were widely expected to reject the legislation after days of publicly and privately warning that they believed the commission would damage them heading into the 2022 midterm election, keeping former President Trump and the attack—where a mob of his supporters breached the building—at the forefront.

    “I do not believe the extraneous ‘commission’ that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing. Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the floor.

    “That’s why the Speaker’s first draft began with a laughably rigged and partisan starting point, and why the current language would still lock in significant unfairness under the hood,” he added on Thursday.

    McConnell did not speak ahead of Friday’s vote.

    Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) predicted there could be a bipartisan commission after the “politically charged election cycle,” but not now.

    The House’s bill would create a 10-member commission with the ability to appoint members evenly split between the two parties in a model based on the panel created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    Democrats argued that the investigation was needed to get to the bottom of the attack, as a growing number of Republicans have downplayed its severity or given credence to Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen.

    “If our Republican friends vote against this, what are you afraid of? The truth? Are you afraid Donald Trump’s big lie will be dispelled? Are you afraid that all of the misinformation that has poured out will be rebutted by a bipartisan, down the middle commission?” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the vote.

    But Democrats faced almost impossible odds to getting the bill through the Senate as Republican opposition hardened.

    McConnell, who was initially on the fence, later came out in opposition, publicly and privately urging his GOP colleagues to oppose the bill and warning that he thought Democrats were trying to damage Republicans in the midterms.

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also made the case against the bill to Senate Republicans.

    Members of the Senate GOP are eager to move past the Jan. 6 attack and are trying to keep the focus on the Biden administration heading into 2022. They largely avoided speaking from the Senate floor about the commission ahead of Friday’s vote, while agreeing to let it get sped up in exchange for delaying a final vote on China-related legislation until after the Memorial Day recess.

    McConnell on numerous occasions has sidestepped mentioning Trump directly, and instead has referred to him only as the former president.

    “We want to look ahead,” Rounds said.

    But Republicans faced voices of dissent within their own ranks.

    “I think the attack on the building was a very severe attack on democracy and is having shockwaves around the world and will change the trajectory in the world with regards to authoritarianism versus democracy,” Romney said.

    Collins also scrambled behind the scenes to try to shore up GOP votes.

    “I want to see a commission…There are a lot of unanswered questions and I’m working very hard to secure Republican votes for a commission,” Collins told reporters.

    In addition to the politics, Republicans argued the commission would be duplicative to a joint investigation overseen by the Senate Rules Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

    That report is expected to come out early next month. But, unlike a commission, the report would focus narrowly on Capitol security and intelligence.

    Collins had also circulated an amendment to address two of the biggest GOP concerns: staffing and the timeline.

    Collins, based on text obtained by The Hill, wanted to change the language so that the chair and vice chair of the commission would jointly appoint staff, rather than the chair “in consultation with” the vice chair.

    In the event that the two could not agree on staff, Collins wanted to include language that would let both the chair and vice chair of the commission hire their own staff.

    The bill already included a requirement that the commission submit its final report no later than the end of the year.

    Collins also proposed changing when the commission would formally disband. The House bill gave the commission 60 days after it submits its final report, while Collins proposed changing that to 30 days.

    The House bill also allowed the commission to use that 60-day period for concluding its activities including testifying before Congress. Collins proposed changing that time period to 30 days.

    Still, the changes failed to sway enough GOP senators.

    The roadblock is pouring fuel onto calls for Democrats to nix the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most legislation.

    Democrats would need total unity within their caucus in order to go nuclear—something they don’t currently have.

    Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) railed against Republicans for blocking the bill.

    “There is no excuse for any Republican to vote against the commission since Democrats have agreed to everything they asked for,” Manchin said.

    Former DHS secretaries call on Senate to approve Jan. 6 commission
    The six GOP senators who backed Jan. 6 commission bill
    But he’s also warning that he won’t vote to get rid of the filibuster, pouring cold water on the push to change the rules.

    “I’m not ready to destroy our government, I’m not ready to destroy our government, no. I think we’ll come together. You have to have faith there’s 10 good people,” he said.

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    Democrats set for filibuster brawl amid escalating tensions
    BY JORDAIN CARNEY 06/01/21 06:00 AM EDT

    Democrats are setting the stage for a massive brawl over the fate of the legislative filibuster as they face growing pressure to get rid of the roadblock.

    With Republicans waging their first successful filibuster attempt, and more fights looming on the horizon, Democrats are driving toward a tipping point on what to do about the procedural hurdle, which requires most legislation to get 60 votes to make it through the Senate.

    In June, a number of high-profile measures important to Democrats seem set to be blocked by the GOP’s filibuster, which supporters hope will convince wary Democrats to back ending the filibuster. The blocking of Democratic priorities will certainly enrage those liberals who already want the filibuster killed off.

    Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled that he views it as a crucial test for his majority amid growing impatience about the slow pace of some behind-the-scenes negotiations.

    “We have also seen the limits of bipartisanship and the resurgence of Republican obstructionism. Senate Democrats are doing everything we can to move legislation in a bipartisan way when and where the opportunity exists,” Schumer wrote in a letter to his caucus.

    “The June work period will be extremely challenging. I want to be clear that the next few weeks will be hard and will test our resolve as a Congress and a conference,” he added.

    The burgeoning debate is likely to be influenced by a chaotic juggling act from last week, when Senate Republicans used their first filibuster under Biden to block a bill creating an independent commission to probe the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

    The setback, while widely expected, poured fuel on calls from a growing number of Democratic senators and progressives to change the Senate’s rules.

    “I think we should not perpetuate McConnell’s bastardization of the Senate filibuster,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) told MSNBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

    A coalition of 57 progressive groups released a joint statement arguing that Democrats could either “protect the filibuster or deliver on critical and popular policies.”

    “The path forward is clear: The filibuster must be eliminated as a weapon that a minority of senators can wield to veto popular democracy-protecting bills,” the groups said.

    Democrats aren’t going to nix the filibuster because of the vote, but they predict it will influence caucus discussions by raising questions about what Republicans won’t seek to block.

    “We wouldn’t change it on the commission. But the vote on the commission is very instructive to people about, ‘Alright, well we couldn’t even get an agreement on this,’” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

    “When we run up against priorities that are really important … and they use the filibuster to block it, we’re not talking now about the filibuster in the abstract. We’re talking about, ‘Wow, the nation really needed this,’” Kaine added.

    Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said “of course” his own thinking on the filibuster was influenced by Republicans using it to block the commission vote.

    “I didn’t come here to do nothing,” Tester added, while noting that he hopes the Senate could find a way to function with the filibuster.

    The setback on the commission vote comes as Democrats, and some Republicans, were also frustrated by a group of conservative senators slow-walking a debate on China-related legislation, even after a lengthy committee process and amendment votes on the Senate floor.

    “None of this is an advertisement that the current rules are working,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

    Those tensions—both from seeing that so-called regular order isn’t going to stop a small group of senators from gumming up the works and the commission filibuster—are only likely to ramp up as Schumer plots a June full of contentious policy and political fights.

    He is vowing to give a sweeping bill to overhaul federal elections a vote in June, as well as a paycheck bill previously filibustered by Republicans under the Obama administration. He’s also mulling bringing up a LGTBQ protection bill that previously passed the House and gun reforms amid slow-going talks that Murphy is leading with GOP senators.

    Any push to change the filibuster will set up a heated debate within the Democratic caucus, but supporters of changing the rules hope that by forcing Republicans to block bills, they can convince reluctant members to dump the filibuster.

    Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) oppose nixing the filibuster, and others are viewed as wary of gutting it entirely.

    Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Democratic senator, hinted that such members are going to start facing calls to justify why they support keeping the legislative filibuster as-is.

    “For some of my colleagues on the Democratic side, who support the filibuster in the extreme, we’re going to have to have an explanation,” Durbin said. “Look at the extreme. It is just indefensible.”

    Schumer has stopped short of supporting changing the Senate rules, only saying that everything is on the table as Democrats try to enact a “bold” agenda. But he predicted that the recent setbacks on both the commission and the China legislation might sway members of his caucus.

    “I think the events … probably made every member of our caucus realize that a lot of our Republican colleagues are not willing to work with us on a whole lot of issues, even issues where we try to be bipartisan,” Schumer said.

    But it’s not clear the dual setbacks got them closer to winning over key holdouts.

    Manchin fumed over the GOP’s refusal to negotiate on the Jan. 6 commission, issuing a rare, eyebrow-raising joint statement with Sinema urging Republicans to work with them to figure out an agreement.

    But he told reporters repeatedly that he would not change the filibuster rule over the vote.

    “I’m not separating our country, OK?” Manchin said. “I don’t know what you all don’t understand about this. You ask the same question every day. It’s wrong.”

    And Republicans appear confident that while Manchin and Sinema are frustrated, the two won’t support nixing the legislative filibuster.

    “They’ve been very firm in their defense of the legislative filibuster for obvious reasons,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). “I talk to both of them a lot, and I don’t see that happening. I think they’re committed to that.”

    Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who has teamed up with Sinema on legislation, added, “They have principled objections to eliminating the filibuster.”

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    Biden unveils plan for racial equity at Tulsa Race Massacre centennial
    BY MARTY JOHNSON AND BRETT SAMUELS 06/01/21 05:16 PM EDT

    President Biden on Tuesday traveled to Tulsa, Okla., to meet with the survivors of the city’s 1921 race massacre, unveiling a broad plan to drive racial equity throughout the country while holding up the city’s past as evidence of the pervasive effects of racism.

    Monday and Tuesday marked the centennial of the race massacre in which an angry mob of white Tulsans burned and looted Tulsa’s thriving Black neighborhood of Greenwood. Biden is the first president to visit the neighborhood in recognition of the massacre in 1921, a point he highlighted in his remarks.

    The president spent a significant portion of his speech giving a historical recounting of the events of 100 years ago in Tulsa. The massacre has gained attention in recent years after being an often overlooked instance of racism and violence.

    “The history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness,” Biden said. “But just because history is silent, it doesn’t mean that it did not take place.”

    “And while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing,” he continued. “Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous, they can’t be buried no matter how hard people try.”

    Biden on Tuesday announced plans to expand and target federal purchasing power to benefit more minority-owned businesses. His administration will also submit in the coming days multiple rules that strengthen anti-discrimination housing measures rolled back during the Trump administration.

    The president pointed to Tulsa as an illustration of the ways in which highways segregated cities, Black Americans face a more difficult path to home ownership, and impoverished communities haven’t been given the resources to climb into the middle class.

    “There’s greater recognition that for too long we’ve allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester,” Biden said. “The view that America is a zero sum game, where there’s only one winner.”

    The success of Greenwood’s business district in 1921 was well-known and referred to as Black Wall Street as it featured a trove of successful Black businesses such as medical practices, law offices, restaurants and hotels.

    Located in the northern section of Tulsa, Greenwood prospered at a time when Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan rampantly discriminated against and terrorized Black Americans in the south.

    But, in a span of less than 24 hours, the white mob destroyed 35 city blocks, razing more than 1,200 homes and pillaging hundreds more. The cost of the property damage totaled nearly $2 million, which translates into almost $30 million today.

    As many as 300 people died during the massacre, roughly 10,000 Greenwood residents were displaced and the community has never come close to recovering.

    Today, white Tulsans are twice as likely to own a home compared to Black Tulsans. White households have a median income of $55,448, while the median income of Black households is significantly lower at $30,463.

    And despite an Oklahoma-sanctioned commission recommending in 2001 that reparations in the form of direct payment should be paid to the massacre’s survivors and their descendants, such remittance has never materialized.

    Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have asserted that not only do the three remaining survivors of the massacre deserve justice, but that what happened in Tulsa 100 years ago is a perfect example of why the discussion of federal reparations needs to move forward.

    “The idea of Tulsa, and the idea of continued disparities in the African American community, are ones that need to be repaired,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said Tuesday morning during a virtual caucus press conference.

    Jackson Lee is the current sponsor of H.R. 40, a bill that would create a federal commission to study the need for reparations for Black Americans.

    The idea of reparations has gained more traction in recent years and the long-standing bill passed out of committee for the first time in April. However, it has yet to receive a floor vote in the House.

    “I want to commend the president for coming to Tulsa to bring additional awareness, and the need for racial equity, healing and justice,” Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), the caucus’s first vice chair, said during the virtual press conference.

    “This has been a cornerstone of what he has talked about in his administration, and not just talked about, but actually taken action to implement.”

    The White House has repeatedly said that the president supports the purpose of H.R. 40, but has stopped short of fully backing direct payments or other forms of reparations.

    Biden has also faced pressure to forgive up to $50,000 per person in student loan debt, which groups like the NAACP have said would do more than any other measure to narrow the wealth gap in the country. But the White House made no mention of student loan forgiveness in Tuesday’s announcements, and Biden has said he’s uncomfortable canceling more than $10,000 per person in outstanding student loan debt.

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    Facebook suspending Trump until at least 2023
    BY CHRIS MILLS RODRIGO AND REBECCA KLAR 06/04/21 12:39 PM EDT

    Facebook announced Friday that it is suspending former President Trump until Jan. 7, 2023, a full two years after he was first barred from the platform.

    After that date, Facebook will evaluate whether the “risk to public safety” of restoring Trump’s account has abated.

    If the suspension is then lifted, Trump will be subject to a “strict” set of sanctions for future policy violations, Facebook said.

    “We know that any penalty we apply—or choose not to apply—will be controversial,” Facebook’s Nick Clegg said in a blog post. “We know today’s decision will be criticized by many people on opposing sides of the political divide—but our job is to make a decision in as proportionate, fair, and transparent a way as possible, in keeping with the instruction given to us by the Oversight Board.”

    The suspension is being made under new enforcement protocols announced Friday in response to the company’s independent Oversight Board ruling that the initial indefinite suspension was not appropriate.

    Trump in a statement called the decision “an insult” to Americans who voted for him while repeating his false claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.

    “They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win,” the former president said. “Our Country can’t take this abuse anymore!”

    The Oversight Board tweeted that it is reviewing Facebook’s response to its decision and will offer “further comment once this review is complete.”

    Facebook also announced Friday that it will be providing more clarity about its newsworthiness policy, which allows posts that would otherwise violate platform policy to stay on the site “if it’s newsworthy and if keeping it visible is in the public interest.” The platform claims that, moving forward, it will no longer apply the newsworthiness standard differently to politicians.

    The platform is also publicly publishing its strike system that it uses to determine the severity of punishment that can be doled out to successive infringements of Facebook policies.

    Trump was initially suspended for posts made about the 2020 election and deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Other platforms, including Twitter, went further than Facebook and instituted a permanent ban on the former president.

    The Oversight Board—a collection of academics, former journalists, and politicians—said that while the decision to suspend Trump was justified given the situation, the lack of clarity around the length of the suspension and what policy explained the duration was problematic.

    Facebook said that it will fully implement 15 of the board’s 19 recommendations.

    Notably, it is only partially accepting a suggestion to review its own role in facilitating the spread of the narrative that the 2020 was stolen.

    “Ultimately…we believe that independent researchers and our democratically elected officials are best positioned to complete an objective review of these events,” the company wrote in its responses to the recommendations.

    Facebook also made clear it believes the responsibility for the events of Jan. 6 “lies with the insurrectionists and those who encouraged them.”

    The platform was rife with posts about both the election and plans for Jan. 6 in the weeks leading up to the deadly riot, and critics have said Facebook did not do enough to proactively address them.

    Facebook critics slammed the platform’s announcement that leaves open the possibility of Trump coming back onto the platform ahead of the 2024 election.

    “Facebook’s decision to reinstate Donald Trump’s accounts just in time for the 2024 presidential election puts the public and our democracy in danger,” Muslim Advocates’s senior policy counsel, Madihha Ahussain, said in a statement.

    James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, said Facebook’s failure to permanently ban Trump underscored the need for a “comprehensive tech agenda.”

    “A two-year ban gets us past the 2022 election cycle, but does not protect Americans from his interference in the next presidential election, which is why Facebook should, and can, permanently ban Trump,” Steyer said in a statement.

    The Real Facebook Oversight Board, a group of tech advocates critical of Facebook and its oversight body, slammed Facebook’s Friday announcement as “accountability theater.”

    “This is more evidence that we need actual independent oversight where the terms are enforceably set for Facebook, not just optional recommendations from a body they created and fund,” the group said in a statement.

    The Oversight Board that advises the company is funded through a $130 million trust from Facebook to cover the operational costs, but has its own staff independent from the social media giant.

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    Biden poised to announce first slate of ambassador nominees as he eyes first trip abroad
    by Jeff Zeleny, Kevin Liptak, and Kaitlan Collins, CNN
    Updated 9:02 AM ET, Sat June 5, 2021

    (CNN) President Joe Biden has made final decisions on several high-profile ambassador posts around the world and is poised to announce the first slate of nominees in the coming days as he prepares to set off on his first overseas trip since taking office.

    The White House has started notifying countries of the President’s choices, officials said, which is one of the final steps before the ambassador nominations are formally made. Extensive vetting, along with a desire to find a diverse roster of candidates, has caused repeated delays but officials said an announcement of the top diplomats could come next week.

    “We hope to have more soon,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday, adding that the notification process of officials in host countries was already underway.

    A White House official said Friday that it was the administration’s goal to make the announcements before the President leaves next week for his first trip abroad. Yet the timeline has been repeatedly moved back, so the official declined to guarantee the goal would be reached.

    Top diplomats to China, Japan, Israel, India, and several European countries are expected to be among those included in the first wave of ambassador nominees. The list includes several top donors, former senators and their spouses, people familiar with the selection tell CNN.

    One of the biggest questions still hanging over the search for US ambassadors is for the Court of St. James, which is the prestigious post in the United Kingdom. It has been the subject of considerable discussion on both sides of the Atlantic, but several officials told CNN they weren’t certain whom Biden had settled on or whether a final choice would even be made before Biden is set to visit next week on the first stop of his weeklong tour. Several candidates have turned the post down, which extended the selection process, a person familiar with the matter said.

    Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat who has served presidents of both political parties, is expected to be nominated as ambassador to China.
    Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor, Illinois congressman and the first White House chief of staff in the Obama administration, is poised to be nominated as ambassador to Japan.

    Tom Nides, a former deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration and a longtime executive at Morgan Stanley, is expected to be tapped as ambassador to Israel. This post has taken on even greater significance in the wake of the ceasefire reached late last month between Israel and Gaza and the expected fall of longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    The nominees are subject to confirmation hearings in the closely divided Senate, which means none of the ambassadors are likely to be in their posts before late summer or early fall.

    The timing has put the Biden administration behind the pace set by his most recent predecessors and has led to frustration among some State Department officials and top donors, who have been in something of a holding pattern for months. Foreign diplomats in Washington have also privately raised questions about the delays.

    Vickie Kennedy, the wife of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, is also a leading contender to serve as ambassador to Germany, people familiar with the process told CNN.

    People tracking the process closely, including former ambassadors, donors and State Department officials also say Cindy McCain, wife of the late Sen. John McCain, is expected to be nominated as the US envoy to the United Nations Food Program in Rome.

    Denise Bauer, an ambassador to Belgium in the Obama administration and leader of Women for Biden, is poised to be tapped as ambassador to France. And Michael Adler, a Miami real estate developer who has a long friendship with Biden, is expected to be nominated for the post in Belgium.

    Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who served on Biden’s vice presidential selection committee, is expected to be selected as ambassador to India.
    The President is also considering former Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar for ambassador to Mexico. Former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake are also being considered for other posts, people familiar with the matter say, as is Claire Lucas, a top Biden fundraiser and chair of the LGBTQ Victory Institute Board of Directors.

    At least two high-level contenders were taken out of consideration in recent weeks, a personal familiar with the matter said, after the vetting of finances and statements on social media emerged as a potential challenge during the confirmation process.

    Above all, a senior administration official said, one of the biggest reasons for the delay is that the selection has become something of a game of musical chairs. Several donors or friends of Biden expressed interest in one position, but were offered second choices, given the overall list of nominees.

    “Diversity among ambassadors is just as important to the President as diversity in his Cabinet,” a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to talk about the closed-door process. “And that is a process.”

    Even since Biden has taken office, the political circumstances in several key countries has changed. Israel is the greatest example, with a deadly conflict last month giving way to a ceasefire and likely a new prime minister.

    The Biden administration’s policy on the Middle East will be scrutinized during confirmation hearings, which are expected to be held later this summer.

    From Capitol Hill to the Middle East, the selection of Nides has been the subject of considerable discussion for weeks among close watchers of Israel.

    A longtime top Democratic donor, Nides served as chief operating officer at Morgan Stanley before stepping down in 2010 to work under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He returned to Morgan Stanley in 2013 as vice chairman. Nides is married to CNN executive Virginia Moseley, who is senior vice president of domestic newsgathering.

    A White House official declined to say whether a formal offer had been extended to Nides or nominees to other countries but told CNN: “We are not commenting on anyone and no one is final until they’re announced.”

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    McAuliffe wins Democratic primary in Virginia governor’s race
    BY JULIA MANCHESTER 06/08/21 07:46 PM EDT

    Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) won his party’s gubernatorial nomination on Tuesday, advancing in his bid to serve a second term in the governor’s mansion.

    The Associated Press called the race for him at 7:44 p.m. EDT.

    McAuliffe continuously led the five-person field in polling and fundraising throughout the primary. He competed against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, former Virginia Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, and Virginia Del. Lee Carter.

    While the primary was largely uneventful, McAuliffe came under attack from his opponents toward the end of the race. The other Democrats argued that McAuliffe was out of touch and that it was time for a change in leadership in the commonwealth.

    McAuliffe previously served as governor from 2014 to 2018 after running unopposed in the Democratic primary in 2013. He did not run for a second consecutive term due to term limits in Virginia.

    Before wading into Virginia politics, McAuliffe served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and as chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. He lost his first bid for Virginia governor in 2009.

    The former governor addressed his supporters on Tuesday night, along with Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D), and Virginia state Senate President pro tempore Louise Lucas.

    “Are you ready to light it up?” he told a crowd in Tysons Corner.

    McAuliffe highlighted Democratic leadership in the state under him and Northam before launching a barrage of attacks on Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin. The former governor hit the former private equity CEO on a number of fronts including his ties to former President Trump.

    “We cannot let Glenn Youngkin do to Virginia what Donald Trump has done to our country,” McAuliffe said.

    The former governor targeted Youngkin particularly on social issues, touting his own record in the governor’s mansion.

    “We are a different state than we were eight years ago and we are not going back,” McAuliffe said. “I can tell you this, folks. There is not one business that wants to move to Virginia where they have a governor who is putting a social agenda on us.”

    McAuliffe said he spoke to President Biden after his primary win, telling CNN that the president said he was “all in” on helping him in his election efforts.

    Youngkin and McAuliffe started lobbing attacks at each other weeks before primary day, with McAuliffe painting Youngkin as too close to Trump and Youngkin hitting McAuliffe’s and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s records.

    The Republican nominee released two new ads highlighting his status as a political outsider and hitting McAuliffe shortly after his primary win on Tuesday.

    Youngkin also released a statement following McAuliffe’s win, referring to him as a “a recycled, 40-year political insider and career politician who pretends to be a businessman.”

    “Voters from across the political spectrum agree that we need a new kind of leader to bring a new day to Virginia. Get ready, because Terry McAuliffe will default to the same political games he’s played his entire life,” Youngkin said.

    The race is expected to be expensive. McAuliffe’s campaign announced this month that he’s raised $13.1 million since he announced his candidacy in December.

    Youngkin’s campaign announced this month the Virginia businessman raised $15.9 million since announcing his candidacy in January, including a $12 million loan from Youngkin himself, meaning his own personal wealth could boost him.

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