President Biden will mark the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol with a ceremony at the White House at which he will award the Presidential Citizens Medal to 12 election officials and law enforcement officers.
Among those being honored on Friday is former Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R), who refused to overturn his state’s election results in 2020 despite pressure from then-President Trump and others.
Bowers and other election officials garnered widespread national attention amid the Jan. 6 House select committee’s investigation as the panel revealed the pressure put on state officials behind the scenes by Trump allies.
The mob of Trump supporters that breached the Capitol in early 2021 sought to block Biden’s electoral victory, forcing lawmakers to be rushed to safety and then-Vice President Pence, who was presiding, to be escorted to a secure area.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has called the federal response to the riot “one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history.”
“We remain committed to ensuring accountability for those criminally responsible for the January 6 assault on our democracy,” Garland said in a statement. “And we remain committed to doing everything in our power to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Advocates and former D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone are marking the anniversary Friday by calling on Republicans to publicly condemn political violence.
The Jan. 6 panel released its final 840-page report last month, with key testimony from Trump administration figures and others connected to the former president. The panel recommended criminal charges against Trump.
Jan. 6 by the numbers:
950+: People arrested in nearly all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
484: Guilty pleas.
350: People the FBI continues to seek information on.
$500,000: Reward for information leading to the arrest of the still unidentified person who left pipe bombs near the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters near the Capitol.
*Figures according to Justice Department as of January 2023.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) announced she won’t run for reelection in 2024, a year with a tough Senate map for Dems.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is leaving the door open to a 2024 presidential run, acknowledging he’s having conversations about a bid.
Investigators used a DNA sample on a knife sheath to link a suspect to the fatal stabbing of four University of Idaho students, according to court documents.
McCarthy loses — again
On the third day of the House trying to elect a Speaker, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) again failed to muster enough votes to get a win, even after hours of haggling with the 20 Republicans who have blocked his election.
On Wednesday, Republican leaders called for an early adjournment to continue their efforts to whip votes for McCarthy, with the California Republican reportedly making several concessions to the hard-liners late in the evening.
It didn’t work.
Without a Speaker named, lawmakers could be stuck in D.C. through the weekend. The Hill’s Emily Brooks recently looked at the three main scenarios for McCarthy moving forward.
The Trump Factor: Former President Trump has been an advocate for McCarthy in the race, though his vocal support and repeated statements haven’t swayed any members to move to McCarthy. On Thursday, in the seventh round of voting, Trump himself received a vote to become the next Speaker.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who has been a staunch Trump ally as well as a ringleader behind the efforts to tank McCarthy’s chances, cast the lone vote for the former president.
The move came after Gaetz responded with disappointment to Trump’s continued support for McCarthy.
“Sad!” Gaetz said in a statement Wednesday, via Fox. “This changes neither my view of McCarthy, nor Trump, nor my vote.”
He previously described Trump’s McCarthy support as part of a pattern of hiring a “parade of horribles” to serve in his administration.
Shortly after Gaetz’s move Thursday, “Trump for Speaker” began trending on Twitter.
THE OTHER SPEAKER ELECTIONS THIS WEEK
D.C. isn’t the only site of an eventful leadership election. State houses in Pennsylvania and Ohio saw Speaker surprises of their own that stand to affect the states’ legislative agendas.
State Rep. Mark Rozzi was elected Speaker of the Pennsylvania House this week as a Democrat, announcing immediately after that he’d govern as an independent. Sixteen Republicans joined Democrats in electing Rozzi.
Rep. Joanna McClinton, whom Democrats selected as their leader last month, was among Rozzi’s supporters.
Democrats won the thinnest of majorities in November at 102 of 203 seats, but three Democratic vacancies left the GOP with a slight, and possibly temporary, majority — currently at 101-99. (One special election will be held next month, while the timing of the other two is up in the air.)
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “The power struggle was significant in part because House Republicans indicated that with control of the chamber, they might advance constitutional amendments that the GOP-led legislature had already passed in July.”
The state House voted 107-92 to put constitutional amendments before voters on a range of topics, including a voter ID requirement and giving the legislature more power to block regulations. The legislature would need to pass the amendments again this session for them to appear on the ballot.
According to the Inquirer, “With Rozzi as speaker, it seems unlikely that any controversial amendment will come up for a vote.” Rozzi voted against the amendments package last year.
Rozzi said after his Speaker election, “My staff will be made up of people from both parties. I pledge my allegiance and my loyalty to no interest in this building, to no interest in our politics. I pledge my loyalty to the people of the commonwealth, to the people who are tired of the hyperpartisanship in both parties.”
All 32 Democrats in the Ohio House joined 22 Republicans to secure a win for Rep. Jason Stephens (R) — pushing him past the 43 Republican votes for Rep. Derek Merrin (R), who had won support from the Republican caucus over Stephens in a vote in November.
“I pledge to respect and to work with each and every one of us to address the many concerns of our state,” Stephens said after the vote.
News5Cleveland reported that House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D) “mentioned they [she and Stephens] spoke about getting fair district maps — but most of the conversation was on priority bills, like education issues.”
News5Cleveland discussed the fate of a bill known as the “Backpack Bill” as possibly affected by the Speaker vote.
Merrin is a cosponsor of that bill, which calls for the creation of an education funding formula “that allows families to choose the option for all computed funding amounts associated with students’ education to follow them to the schools they attend,” including nonpublic schools.
Biden blasts GOP over border politics
Republicans have called on President Biden for months to travel to the U.S. Southern border to view the migrant surge first-hand. That visit will finally come on Sunday when the president visits El Paso.
The planned trip is being overshadowed — at least for now — by the yet-unresolved House Speaker election, a protracted battle that has exposed GOP tensions and threatens to throw a wrench into Republicans’ plans to quickly launch probes targeting Biden and his administration.
On Thursday, Biden dismissed GOP attacks centered on his administration’s immigration enforcement as he unveiled new efforts along the border:
“Republicans haven’t been serious about this at all. Come on,” Biden told reporters, accusing the GOP of using immigration to divide people.
“It’s clear that immigration is a political issue that extreme Republicans are always going to run on,” Biden said. “Immigration reform used to be a bipartisan issue.”
Biden said he hasn’t previously traveled to the border because he was waiting for an outcome on the Trump-era Title 42 border policy that has allowed officials to reject migrant asylum claims under a public health emergency.
The administration officially opposes Title 42, though the Supreme Court upheld the policy in a narrow vote last month.
Biden announced several initiatives on Thursday that he said would increase enforcement. (More on that here via The Hill’s Alex Gangitano.)
“If the most extreme Republicans continue to demagogue this issue, and reject solutions, I’m left with only one choice: Act on my own,” Biden said. “I know that migration is putting a real strain on the border and on border communities. We’re gonna get these communities more support.”
Southwest faces growing scrutiny over meltdown
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee plans to hold hearings on the airline industry “in the wake of Southwest Airlines massive operational and customer service failures,” the panel has announced.
“Southwest’s customers are rightfully dissatisfied and deserve better,” Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said in a statement. “These consumers need refunds and reimbursements for their expenses.”
Cantwell said in her statement she has been in touch with Southwest CEO Robert Jordan and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the issue, after thousands of passengers were left stranded by mass flight cancelations during the holidays. Many customers still haven’t received their luggage.
Southwest has blamed “operational” issues related to bad weather for the fiasco.
“The problems at Southwest Airlines over the last several days go beyond weather,” Cantwell said, noting the Senate panel plans to evaluate the causes of the disruptions, as well as the impact on customers.
“Many airlines fail to adequately communicate with consumers during flight cancellations,” she said. “Consumers deserve strong protections, including an updated consumer refund rule.”
Southwest has said it’s working on technological upgrades and to address the concerns of affected passengers.
“We received the release from Senator Cantwell’s office and our teams in D.C. remain engaged with our partners on Capitol Hill,” a Southwest spokesperson told NotedDC.
Cantwell’s office didn’t immediately respond to NotedDC’s request for more information on a possible hearing timeline or anticipated witnesses to be called.
The hearings aren’t likely to focus solely on Southwest’s recent issues, though.
Cantwell, along with Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), reached out to the Department of Transportation last year urging the agency “to take further action to make the process for obtaining refunds more transparent and efficient for U.S. airline passengers.”
They noted a surge in consumer complaints amid the coronavirus pandemic.
With customer complaints mounting over the holidays, Buttigieg reached out to Jordan last week seeking an update on the company’s “efforts to do right by the customers it has wronged.”
The Biden administration has even threatened to pursue fines against the company.
“Southwest Airlines failed its customers — point blank,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday. “The Department of Transportation will hold them accountable to their commitments to make their customers whole.”
NUMBER TO KNOW
Days until the Senate is scheduled to return to the Capitol after the January district work period.
ONE MORE THING
Our colleague Niall Stanage wrote about a silver lining of the Speakership saga for viewers: camera freedom.
“Under normal circumstances, the majority party imposes strictures on the kind of shots that can be filmed,” Stanage wrote.
But these aren’t normal circumstances, and C-SPAN’s cameras have caught some memorable moments while operating freely in the chamber in recent days.
From Stanage: “Viewers have seen ideological opposites Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in conversation Tuesday, and anti-McCarthy hardliner Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in a series of animated exchanges Wednesday.”
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