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“Chuck Schumer has a hard job. And he has to confront the fact every single day that Mitch McConnell controls what gets a vote on the floor of the Senate,” Warren said in an interview. Student loan cancellation is an “example of Chuck’s good partnership on things we’d like to get done. And using every tool available to us to make it happen.”

Recruiting Schumer on student loans shows how Warren will use her sway in Democrats’ impending internal debates as a centrist Biden confronts a narrowly divided Congress. Unlike some liberals, Warren also plays the inside game to shape policy — and picks her spots carefully.

Along with a seat at Schumer’s leadership table, Warren now has a presidential run under her belt plus a progressive record that includes hard-fought battles both with her own party and the GOP.

She even secured language in a critical defense bill to rename bases honoring Confederate soldiers over President Donald Trump’s opposition; his veto is on the verge of being overridden for the first time of his presidency. It’s not Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, but she says it exemplifies what Democrats can accomplish during divided government: “It’s the right side of history.”

Yet Warren warns her party needs to act quickly on things like student loan debt to make sure anti-Trump voters don’t see Democrats running a gridlocked Washington that does little to improve their daily lives. Biden’s view on this is less clear: he recently told several newspaper columnists that it was “pretty questionable” that he has the authority to cancel all that debt.

“Democrats need to deliver,” Warren said. “No matter what. We have to use every tool, and we need to use it early, boldly, confidently, and unapologetically.”

Warren is widely recognized in the Senate for her aggressive push to rename bases, working closely with Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) in the House.

“She realized what the interests were of Republicans and why we could and should stand on principle,” Brown said of his work with her. “This is real commitment on Elizabeth Warren’s part.”

But some blanch at her tactics: Senate Armed Services Chair Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Warren is “anti-defense” for ultimately voting against the bill because the defense spending was too high.

“I’ve always questioned her consistency, because she’ll sometimes get real tied up in one of these issues, then she turns around and votes against it,” Inhofe said in an interview. “I don’t know what makes her tick.”

It’s something everyone is assessing as Warren fully recalibrates for the long haul in the Senate. The progressive second-term senator tends to exhibit a more pragmatic streak than when she came into the Senate eight years ago. She’s also got boundless energy and scorns Zoom, preferring to pace endlessly on telephone calls.

“That’s what I hate about Zoom. You’ve got to plunk your fanny in a chair,” she says. She’s also picked up a unique pandemic-era habit of recording her own interviews with congressional reporters.

Despite falling short in her bid for the White House or a Cabinet slot, Warren says she’s legitimately excited about her role in the Senate as a power center under a new administration. Some privately wonder if she might contemplate a bid for party leadership, given her national reputation and standing with the party’s left.

Warren’s current role on Schumer’s 10-person leadership team is opaque, with the title of vice chair of the Democratic Caucus. She says she cares little about a promotion: “I lived in the academic world, right? Where it was all about titles. And not the same focus on making change.”

“This is a moment when it’s possible to make a difference,” she said. “The Confederate base naming is a real difference. And we got that done in a Mitch McConnell-controlled Senate with Donald Trump sitting in the White House.”

Republicans have tried to vilify Warren, warning in the fall that Biden could make her Treasury secretary. That dream evaporated when Democrats failed to take the Senate in November. And though she has no qualms antagonizing the GOP, her real influence is within her own party.

Her approach differs from the antagonistic style of the House’s “Squad” or even Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who also serves on Schumer’s leadership team. Sanders has criticized Biden’s Cabinet for lacking progressives and joined Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) to aggressively push for stimulus checks. Now Sanders is delaying the veto override vote on the defense bill unless the Senate votes on larger checks.

Warren previously signed onto Sanders’ letter to Democratic leaders requesting more aid but stayed out of a debate this month between Sanders and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) over the contours of the stimulus bill. She spoke with Schumer about the legislation’s direction but ceded the spotlight to Sanders, who even briefly threatened a shutdown.

“They just come at it different,” Manchin explained. “Elizabeth probably has probably the same perceptions of what needs to be done. But she keeps working on it differently.”

Sanders declined to comment on their relationship, which was tested during their fierce presidential primary contest.

Warren has so far held her fire as Biden fills out his administration. That doesn’t mean she isn’t ready to strike if Biden hires lobbyists or someone she views as improper.

“Personnel is policy. So getting the right people in those slots is really important. And it’s not only the top slots, it’s also the deputies and assistants,” Warren said.

Does any appointment bother her so far? “Let me leave it at that there’s some people I need to talk to,” she said.

Warren’s occasional jabs at her own party usually stem from her desire to take on Wall Street. Soon after she was elected in 2012, she took on a Democratic compromise on student loan rates. “This whole system stinks,” she declared. Then in 2015 she tanked Antonio Weiss’ nomination to be a top Obama Treasury official because of his ties to the financial industry.

Then she battled with moderate Democrats in 2018 over a banking deregulation bill as they pursued reelection in red states. It resulted in painful internal debates, with Warren publicly lamenting “some of our teammates don’t even show up for the fight.”

But it’s now in the rear view as Democrats prepare to move back into the White House: “That fight has been fought,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

“She doesn’t make stuff up. She believes in what she believes in,” said Tester, who was on opposite sides of Warren on the banking debate.

Warren’s stayed below the radar of late despite her occasional intra-party fights, but is setting herself up as a team player. She raised money for the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm and worked as a surrogate for Biden, making fall stops in Wisconsin, Minnesota and neighboring New Hampshire.

She may end up as a check on the Biden administration from the left. But Warren is signaling she’d rather that Biden just take her advice.

“No one should be surprised about what I fight for, or how hard I will fight,” said Warren, declining to detail her private conversations with Biden. “For me, it’s always about finding the way to be most effective.”

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Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump

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“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.

The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”

But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.

On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.

Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.

The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.

Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.

Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.

A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.

But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.

The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.

Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.

A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.

Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.

The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.

Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout

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Matt Hancock has agreed to remove some of the training modules required for volunteers to sign up to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine (PA)

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Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.

It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.

The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.

“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.

In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.

“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.

“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”

Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.

He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same. 

“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”

Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.

The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.

But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.

Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”

The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”

The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.

“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided. 

“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”

Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.

“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”

The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.

He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.

He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.

“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.

“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.

“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”

Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”

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How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers


Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.

The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.

After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.

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