Distraught and exhausted parents are emerging as a new class of voters that could torment President Joe Biden — and the White House is moving quickly to head off the pain.
Nearing a year into the pandemic, Biden’s advisers and allies recognize that they need to respond to the spiraling angst felt by families or risk driving them into the arms of waiting Republicans.
It is a crucial test for Biden and Democrats as they try to consolidate their gains from the 2020 election. The pandemic has disrupted lives and exacerbated inequities and a raft of public and private surveys show clear political potholes and opportunities because of it. The coronavirus is spawning sweeping policy prescriptions from Democrats and Republicans alike, from billions in school reopening funds to the creation of a federal child allowance. And it’s prompting pollsters to loosely coin emerging voter demos like “women in chaos” and “families in crisis.”
Within the GOP, there is a belief that the pandemic and resulting turmoil make Biden and Democratic incumbents especially vulnerable among those demographics. Republicans see room to capitalize on the grim public health and economic situation the White House inherited from Donald Trump by trying to put Democrats on the defensive for being too removed from the pain or too slow-moving to address it.
GOP lawmakers, while offering no commitment to meaningfully engage on policy proposals, have responded to continued school closures by striking hard at Biden and Democrats, with more Republicans each week accusing the administration of scaling back their ambitious goals on everything from testing to school reopenings.
“The science says that the schools should open, but instead of listening to the science, the Biden administration is caving in to Democrat special interest groups,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel told POLITICO. “As a result, the education of our children is suffering and hundreds of thousands of working moms are being forced out of the workforce.”
Republicans believe they’ve been aided in their attacks by mixed messaging from the administration on how and when schools should open. GOP officials have circulated several rounds of talking points on schools, with Senate, House and party leaders blasting out criticism on the issue in emails to constituents and the media on a near-daily basis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday released long-awaited guidance on the matter, which offered step-by-step advice to reopen classrooms that health officials said was “grounded in science and the best available evidence.”
Republicans have attacked Biden’s school reopening goals as underwhelming, given that the White House has already dialed back expectations for the first 100 days. They are preparing to “hammer away” at the schools issue, including charging that Democrats have dragged their feet on reopenings to appease powerful school unions, according to an RNC official.
Even as more schools resume robust in-person schedules, the stress imposed on families by months of distance learning won’t soon fade.
“Their proposal buys into the myth from Big Labor that schools should stay shut a lot longer,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week of Biden’s “rescue” package.
White House aides and close allies acknowledge that getting kids back into classrooms is a thorny political challenge thanks to its visceral toll on families. But they insist they’re following the advice of scientists and health experts to keep children safe. They have framed their approach as part of a comprehensive, emergency effort to address several interrelated problems with necessary funding.
In interviews, they made the case that the president’s $1.9 trillion rescue package — which includes direct payments, funds for pandemic relief and money to safely reopen schools and fund local government — will be welcomed by voters because it will work.
“President Biden isn’t going to rest until students are back in school five days a week, and if Republicans agree, they should match their words with action and support the president’s Rescue Plan, which will get schools the resources they desperately need to reopen safely,” said Michael Gwin, a White House spokesperson.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Millions of Texans were without heat and electricity Monday as snow, ice and frigid temperatures caused a catastrophic failure of the state’s power grid.
The Texas power grid, powered largely by wind and natural gas, is relatively well equipped to handle the state’s hot and humid summers when demand for power soars. But unlike blistering summers, the severe winter weather delivered a crippling blow to power production, cutting supplies as the falling temperatures increased demand.
Natural gas shortages and frozen wind turbines were already curtailing power output when the Arctic blast began knocking generators offline early Monday morning.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which is responsible for scheduling power and ensuring the reliability of the electrical network, declared a statewide power generation shortfall emergency and asked electricity delivery companies to reduce load through controlled outages.
More than 4 million customers were without power in Texas, including 1.4 million in the Houston area, the worst power crisis in the state in a decade. The forced outages are expected to last at least through part of Tuesday, the state grid manager said.
CenterPoint Energy, the regulated utility that delivers electricity to Houston-area homes and provides natural gas service, started rolling blackouts in the Houston region at the order of state power regulators. It said customers experiencing outages should be prepared to be without power at least through Monday.
“How long is it going to be? I don’t know the answer,” said Kenny Mercado, executive vice president at the Houston utility. “The generators are doing everything they can to get back on. But their work takes time and I don’t know how long it will take. But for us to move forward, we have got to get generation back onto the grid. That is our primary need.”
Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s senior director of system operations, said the rolling blackouts are taking more power offline for longer periods than ever before. An estimated 34,000 megawatts of power generation — more than a third of the system’s total generating capacity — had been knocked offline by the extreme winter weather amid soaring demand as residents crank up heating systems.
The U.S. Energy Department, in response to an ERCOT request, issued an order late Monday authorizing power plants throughout the state to run at maximum output levels, even if it results in exceeding pollution limits.
Ed Hirs, an energy fellow in the Department of Economics at the University of Houston, blamed the failures on the state’s deregulated power system, which doesn’t provide power generators with the returns needed to invest in maintaining and improving power plants.
“The ERCOT grid has collapsed in exactly the same manner as the old Soviet Union,” said Hirs. “It limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.
Main story continues to be the failure of thermal power plants -- natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants -- which ERCOT counts on to be there when needed. They've failed. Of about 70,000 MW of thermal plants in ERCOT, ~25-30,000 MW have been out since Sunday night. Huge problem.— JesseJenkins (@JesseJenkins) February 16, 2021
Some Utah Republicans are hoping to censure Sen. Mitt Romney for voting to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.
The motion, being circulated on social media, says Romney failed to “represent the average conservative Utah Republican voter” and “misrepresented himself as a Republican,” when he ran for office.
The Utah Republican Party’s top leaders are not behind this effort. Instead, the party issued a statement Monday noting that both Romney and Sen. Mike Lee, who voted to acquit Trump, have faced criticism for their impeachment votes. “The differences between our own Utah Republicans showcase a diversity of thought, in contrast to the danger of a party fixated on ‘unanimity of thought.’ There is power in our differences as a political party, and we look forward to each senator explaining their votes to the people of Utah.”
The draft censure of Romney includes a list of criticisms. It says Romney “embarrassed the State of Utah” when he was the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump during his first impeachment trial. Romney had voted to remove Trump for abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation into then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The censure, pushed by party insiders, then attacks Romney for opposing the effort to declare Trump’s second impeachment trial unconstitutional since Trump was no longer in office, and for voting in favor of calling witnesses. It further excoriates Romney for joining six other Republicans to convict Trump on Saturday. It takes two-thirds of senators to remove a president, so Trump was acquitted.
The censure motion concludes Romney used his “senatorial power and influence to undermine” Trump and claims “Romney appears to be an agent for the Establishment Deep State.”
Evan McMullin, a former Republican who ran for president as an independent in 2016, said he was dumbfounded by the backlash against Romney from members of his own party.
“Mitt has done more to defend the Constitution than any congressional Republican in modern history. He is serving the country and doing more to defend liberty than anyone else,” said McMullin. “We need to stand with him.”
McMullin, a frequent critic of Trump during his time in office, said Romney’s courage should be celebrated, not condemned.
“There is a tremendous need and opportunity for Utah to lead on this. There are plenty of good Republicans in Utah who are committed to the founding principles of our country, the very same kind of leadership Mitt is offering right now,” McMullin said. “This isn’t about Republicans, Democrats or independents. It’s about putting the country and Constitution first.”
Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown says he’s aware of the censure motion but has not seen it yet.
“I’ve been saying the best censure occurs at the ballot box,” says Brown, a reference to 2024, when Romney would face reelection.
- Texas and other Southern states are digging out from a bitterly cold winter storm, thousands remain without power in the coldest temperatures in a century in parts of the Lone Star State.
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- President Joe Biden will visit Wisconsin this week to pitch the administration's COVID-19 stimulus bill in a CNN town hall event, and he will visit Michigan on Thursday.
- Military leaders in Myanmar are dismissing US sanctions after the coup earlier this month, saying the United States has no standing to interfere after its own "election problems".
- Harvard researchers believe a comet fragment, not an asteroid, was responsible for the KT boundary impact that killed Earth's dinosaurs, possibly a fragment thrown out of orbit by Jupiter.