The Spin: U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth unleashes on Tucker Carlson | Biden signs $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package ahead of primetime address tonight | Chicago St. Pat’s bar patrol to kick in high gear Saturday

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Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·8 min read
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U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth was fairly laid back earlier this week when she announced via social media her bid for a second term. But today the Illinois Democrat sent an explosive tweet — that opens with a self-edited expletive — blasting conservative Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson.

A former Army helicopter pilot who lost her legs during combat in Iraq, Duckworth lashed out at Carlson who complained on the air this week about President Joe Biden’s efforts to curb an exodus of women from the military, which include better fitting uniforms.

“So we’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits. Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the U.S. Military. While China’s military becomes more masculine as it’s assembled the world’s largest navy, our military needs to become as Joe Biden says more feminine.”

On Twitter, Duckworth responded this morning with, ”F*ck Tucker Carlson.” While he was practicing his two-step, America’s female warriors were hunting down Al Qaeda and proving the strength of America’s women.” I forgot all about Carlson’s first-round flameout on ”Dancing With the Stars” back in 2006 — until now.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker co-signed Duckworth’s message, retweeting it with the message, “I’m with her.”

Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVD-19 relief package into law this afternoon, hours before he delivers his first prime-time address tonight at 7 p.m. Chicago time. It comes one year after the pandemic gripped the nation and the economy was shut down to stop the spread of the disease. Expect Biden to address that along with the recovery ahead — indeed the funding package is aimed at revving up the economy.

It will be carried by network and cable news stations and will be streamed on a variety of news websites.

And earlier today Biden’s old boss, former President Barack Obama, spoke with Chicago Public Schools students and CPS CEO Janice Jackson — virtually, of course — about his memoir “A Promised Land.”

Welcome to The Spin.

Tammy Duckworth isn’t the only one unleashing on Tucker Carlson

“Illinois U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth joined with top Pentagon and senior military officials Thursday in sharply condemning Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson, who decried efforts to accommodate women in the military while “China’s military becomes more masculine,” the Tribune’s Rick Pearson writes.

“Carlson’s comments were met with ‘revulsion’ by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

“Acknowledging a need for the U.S. military to be more inclusive and respectful, especially to women, Kirby said, ‘What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk show host or the Chinese military.’” Read the full story here.

“It’s not the first time that Duckworth and Carlson have clashed,” Pearson writes. “In July, Carlson labeled Duckworth a ‘coward,’ a ‘fraud’ and a ‘callous hack’ who hated America over comments she made to CNN that she was open to a national discussion over the removal of statues honoring historical figures, including George Washington, who owned slaves.

“As she did Thursday, Duckworth chose Twitter to respond to Carlson in July,” Pearson notes. “Does (Carlson) want to walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America?” the Hoffman Estates Democrat wrote in her social media post.

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Chicago Aldermen consider guaranteed basic income program for residents, discuss using COVID-19 federal relief money

The Tribune’s John Byrne writes, “Aldermen on Thursday started talking about setting up a way for the city to cut monthly income checks to struggling Chicago families to use for whatever they want.”

Northwest Side Ald. Gil Villegas backs the plan, which was discussed in broad brushstrokes during today’s City Council Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development, which he chairs. In a statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said she knows “Universal Basic Income and other cash transfer programs offer a promising method to help the hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans struggling right now as the pandemic continues.”

“Chicago’s consideration of the idea comes as it gains traction elsewhere around the country. Gary, Indiana, just announced it would start a pilot guaranteed income program,” Byrne explains.

“Critics have said such universal basic income programs, which have been championed by some progressives for years, remove the incentive for recipients to seek work, and give people money to spend on vices such as drugs and liquor,” Byrne writes. Read the full story here.

City promises crackdown on bar overcrowding for St. Patrick’s Day weekend: ‘Green beer does not protect you from COVID, right?’

Hoping to ward off the boozy St. Patrick’s Day weekend tradition of young people cramming into their favorite watering holes, city investigators are getting the word out that they’ll be patrolling and responding to complaints about bars not following COVID-19 distancing rules, the Tribune’s John Byrne writes. Read more about how Business Affairs and Consumer Protection investigators are partnering with Chicago police in the effort here.

During a Thursday morning question-and-answer session, Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady reiterated the city’s vow to crack down on businesses violating capacity restrictions, adding that even vaccinated people should avoid large parties, Byrne writes.

“Green beer does not protect you from COVID, right?” Arwady said. “There is nothing different about St. Patrick’s Day that means you should give up on the things that you would normally take from a COVID precaution.”

Chicago announces $25 million fund to help women- and minority-owned contractors access small business loans, the Tribune’s Abdel Jimenez reports.

A year of COVID-19: Illinois saw a 27% jump in deaths, among worst in the US; now 10% of residents are vaccinated

The Tribune’s Joe Mahr looks back at the deadly year since the pandemic gripped our state: “In Illinois, nearly 111,000 people died from March 1 through Jan. 2, as tallied on a weekly basis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s 27% higher than the average for 2015 through 2019, which was about 87,000 deaths for the same 44-week period.”

“The virus is to blame for most of these extra deaths, but not all,” Mahr continues. ”For every five known COVID-19 deaths in Illinois, there were two other deaths that exceeded the typical numbers. Some of those deaths are undiagnosed cases, researchers have said; others are likely people who were unwilling or unable to get critical care for other serious medical conditions during the pandemic.” Read more here.

Data points: State officials also announced 1,700 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 55 additional fatalities today, bringing the total number of known infections in Illinois to 1.2 million and the statewide death toll to at least 20,863 since the start of the pandemic.

My Tribune colleague Hal Dardick examines the health care lessons we learned from all of this: From revelations that double-masking could better protect you from falling ill to the health inequities that saw a disproportionately higher rate of Black and Latino residents falling ill from the virus to the disparities in getting vaccines into arms. Read the deep dive here.

The year also offered some light at the end of the tunnel with a vaccine effort that’s underway: The Illinois COVID-19 vaccine tracker shows 10.25% of the state’s population has been inoculated: Check out the data here.

Pregnant women deserve more COVID-19 vaccine data, Duckworth writes in letter to CDC director: Read the Tribune story here.

Preckwinkle announces $73M rental assistance program in suburban Cook County, the Tribune’s Alice Yin reports. Eligible households would be subject to a $15,000 cap. Read the details here.

Illinois Supreme Court ruling on ‘double dipper’ case clears way for state Rep. Thaddeus Jones to become Calumet City’s first Black mayor

“An Illinois Supreme Court ruling clears the way for state Rep. Thaddeus Jones to become the first Black mayor in Calumet City’s 120-year history,” Ted Slowik writes this week for the Daily Southtown. Read the story here.

The state’s highest court this week affirmed an earlier appellate court decision declaring Jones was rightfully on the ballot for the February Democratic primary, Slowik writes. Unofficial results show he defeated Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush, who has been mayor since 2003.

If Jones prevails against a write-in candidate in the April 6 election, he is poised to take two publicly funded salaries: one as mayor — the current Calumet City mayor earns just over $94,000 — and his current $69,000 annual pay as a state legislator.

And that’s at the crux of the issue: A three-member electoral board ruled in December that Jones was ineligible to run for mayor because he already holds public office as a state representative, which isn’t permitted under a referendum approved by Calumet City voters in November.

That prompted Jones to sue, with the case rising to the state’s highest court.

While he faces a write-in challenger during the next month’s general election, “the ruling sets up Jones to play the role of historic trailblazer as a Southland community’s first Black mayor,” Slowik writes. Read his story here.

Former Portage, Indiana, mayor’s finances, phone records discussed during second day of bribery retrial, the Post-Tribune’s Alex Kukulka reports.

Editor’s note: Tuesday’s newsletter contained an incorrect website address for the Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission. It is https://chicagoswards.org/

Thanks for reading The Spin, the Tribune’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox weekday afternoons. Have a tip? Email host Lisa Donovan at ldonovan@chicagotribune.com.

Twitter @byldonovan