The Spin: President Biden in Illinois tomorrow | Lightfoot plans to press POTUS on gun control | Top cop David Brown hits refrain, blames July 4 violence on courts

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President Joe Biden makes his first official visit to Illinois tomorrow to sell his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan that calls for universal preschool, free community college, family tax breaks and more. The Democratic-backed package has drawn derision from Republicans who say they are concerned about the price tag and government overreach.

New or increased taxes on the wealthy are what is expected would bankroll the program.

Biden will talk up his proposal at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake; the reliably red Northwest suburb went for President Donald Trump in 2020. Given that Biden is traveling the country to sell the plan, he may be relying on constituents to lean on Republican elected leaders.

The Tribune will be on tarmac watch when Air Force One touches down at O’Hare International Airport. Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be among the prominent Democrats there to meet with the president. On the heels of another violent Fourth of July weekend, Lightfoot told reporters today she’ll press Biden and his Justice Department to hit the gas on a recently announced federal and local strike force that would crack down on gun trafficking.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he’ll also be with the president tomorrow, and that he expects Biden to trumpet both the American Families Plan and the $1.2 trillion bipartisan roads and bridges infrastructure plan.

Meantime, state health officials reported no new COVID-19 deaths in Illinois on Monday — the first time that’s happened since March 2020. It’s possible it’s the result of delayed reporting thanks to a three-day holiday weekend. But the cause for optimism remains with yet another restriction lifted: Chicago City Hall is reopening its doors to the public, the mayor announced this afternoon.

Welcome to The Spin.

Biden in Illinois tomorrow

President Biden will use McHenry County College as the backdrop to tout his politically divisive American Families Plan.

A closer look at the package shows he’s pushing to spend $109 billion to offer two years of free community college to all Americans, as well as to young immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who were brought to the country as children.

Billed as both a way to help lower and middle income Americans with everything from child care to education, Biden has also pitched this as a way to grease the nation’s economic engine. More on the plan here.

Republican lawmakers oppose the plan and some Democrats are grinding their teeth over it because of the cost. But The New York Times reminds that the president “has indicated his willingness to pass the ambitious social spending plan in the Senate with only Democratic votes by using the fast-track budget reconciliation process.”

A Democratic president trying to sell the proposal in McHenry County, traditionally Republican territory, might be tough. But White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters during a news conference that Biden “ran as someone who would represent, not just Democrats, not just Republicans, not just independents, but all people so I would see this as less of a political trip, more of as an opportunity to speak to all Americans.”

The president’s visit is part of a Midwest tour of sorts.

On Saturday, he traveled to Traverse City, Michigan, to promote the nation’s progress on COVID-19, despite the fact that the city fell short of his July Fourth goal to have 70% of the adult population vaccinated. The figure stood at 67%, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And last week he was in Wisconsin to talk about the infrastructure bill.

In La Crosse, he was talking about building up rail infrastructure when he took a tongue-in-cheek swipe at Chicago, according to a pool report of the event: “Imagine if you could get from Chicago — from La Crosse to Chicago in two hours, instead of four and a half,” only to quip: “I don’t know why you’d go to Chicago, but — you know, all kidding aside — it would reduce the largest source of pollution in America: vehicle travel.”

Lightfoot to meet with Biden, says she’ll ask him to push for ‘common sense gun control’

Biden arrives here on the heels of a long Fourth of July weekend in Chicago that saw at least 108 people shot, 17 fatally. That’s the most people shot over a July Fourth holiday weekend in the city since at least 2017, my colleagues Megan Crepeau and Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas report.

During a news conference this afternoon, the mayor said that when she meets with Biden tomorrow she’ll press the president to work with Congress to pass “commonsense gun control,” something her predecessors Rahm Emanuel and Richard M. Daley also pushed for, my colleague Gregory Pratt notes.

“It makes no sense that we have a no-fly list of people who are too dangerous to get on a plane, but yet they can purchase firearms,” she said.

She said she’ll also urge Biden to take steps to “hold gun traffickers accountable,” including straw purchasers who buy weapons for people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to guns, Pratt reports.

Last month, Biden’s Justice Department announced it would launch “cross-jurisdictional firearms trafficking strike forces” in five metropolitan areas including Chicago that will crack down on illegal gun sales and illicit trafficking of weapons.

The so-called strike forces would pair federal law enforcement with local police to focus on what Biden said last month was “significant firearms trafficking corridors that fuel violence in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, D.C., as well as in cities and towns along the way.”

During today’s news conference, the mayor said she’ll tell Biden “I want those resources — today.”

Chicago police Superintendent David Brown again takes swipe at court system as he addresses holiday weekend violence

During a late-morning news conference, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown today insisted his department did its part in fighting violence while casting blame once again on Cook County’s judicial system, the Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner and Gregory Pratt write.

It was a familiar refrain from Brown, who as recently as Friday said at a special meeting of City Council that too many criminal defendants are out on bail and electronic monitoring for serious offenses, even murders. Court officials and crime experts have pushed back on that narrative with data that suggests issues in the bond system are not a root cause of increased violence.

So have some aldermen. This morning, Chicago Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th, criticized both the top cop and his boss — Mayor Lightfoot — during a Zoom news conference called to discuss a drive-by shooting and other crime in the Chinatown neighborhood.

“What we continue to see is finger-pointing, we continue to see a narrative that takes away from the research and evidence-based solutions we’ve provided,” Sigcho-Lopez said, saying studies show there’s no connection between violent crime and the pretrial release of crime suspects.

The alderman also raised concerns about the superintendent’s crime-fighting playbook. Indeed, Chicago’s top cop was asked during his own news conference whether the Police Department’s strategies under his watch are ineffective.

“Brown was quick to point out how Chicago’s rise in violence over the last year and a half is part of a nationwide trend seen in other major cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Houston,” Gorner and Pratt notes in their story. “But his rationale inevitably drifted into a discussion about what he perceives as an ineffective judicial system.”

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans’ office issued a statement seeking to deflect the criticism. Read Gorner and Pratt’s full story here.

Lightfoot, too, was asked whether she’s happy with Brown’s crime-fighting strategy and quickly came to his defense, saying Brown and his police department can only do so much to tamp down the violence when illegal gun trafficking is so pervasive.

“Every single day, they rethink their strategy,” Lightfoot said of the police department. “They look at the data, they see where the hotspots are, and whether or not their deployments are meeting up with the data” on shootings and homicides. “So that recalibration happens, literally every single day. We’re fighting a losing battle. When we are overwhelmed with the number of illegal firearms that are here in our city.”

Also: South Side Ald. Anthony Beale, a frequent Lightfoot critic, reportedly wrote a letter to Gov. Pritzker requesting that he send the National Guard into Chicago to assist police, WGN-Ch. 9 reports.

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New Illinois law aims to improve Medicaid, slash costs for some families

The Tribune’s Lisa Schencker writes: “Illinois residents on Medicaid will have access to more services and some families with children in a state health insurance program may no longer have to pay premiums, thanks to a bill Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law Tuesday.

“The new law puts into place an array of measures aimed at improving access to health care and affordability for those on Medicaid, which is a state and federally funded health insurance program for low-income people. More than 3 million people in Illinois were on Medicaid as of fiscal year 2020.”

Those on Medicaid can access now marriage therapy and smoking cessation counseling under the new law, she writes. And every patient experiencing an opioid-related overdose or withdrawal will be admitted to a hospital overnight when medically necessary, Schencker notes, adding that the new law “increases the rates Medicaid will pay providers for certain services and will provide community-based support for veterans.” Full story here.

Column: Bobby Rush wants to rename I-57 for Obama. What about the Tuskegee Airmen?

Daily Southtown columnist Ted Slowik writes: “The biggest problem I have with a bill U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush introduced in Congress (in late June) proposing to rename Interstate 57 through Illinois as the Barack Obama Highway is that part of the highway already is named in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen.

“The Illinois General Assembly voted unanimously in 2011 to name a 23-mile stretch of I-57 from Sauk Trail in Richton Park to Wentworth Avenue in Chicago the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Trail.”

Slowik thinks that honor should remain, reminding readers that about 80 miles of Interstate 55 from the southwest suburbs to Pontiac is named the Barack Obama Presidential Expressway.

“I offered Rush a chance to respond,” Slowik writes. “A representative declined to speak for attributions, but said naming the full 386-mile length of I-57 in Illinois was a more befitting honor for the former president than the 80-mile stretch of I-55 that Obama would drive between Chicago and Springfield when he was a state legislator.” Full column here.

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Twitter @byldonovan

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