Quiet week of weather ahead
- The Week
The evenly split Senate is having a hard time agreeing who's in charge.Georgia's two new Democratic senators were sworn in Wednesday, giving Republicans and Democrats 50 senators each, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a Democratic tiebreaker. The two parties are now working out a power-sharing agreement, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) commitment to the filibuster is standing in the way.McConnell on Thursday formally acknowledged Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the chamber's new majority leader. But as he has been for days, McConnell again implored Democrats to preserve the filibuster that lets a senator extend debate and block a timely vote on a bill if there aren't 60 votes to stop it. Democrats "have no plans to gut the filibuster further, but argue it would be a mistake to take one of their tools off the table just as they're about to govern," Politico reports; More progressive senators do want to remove the option completely.If his filibuster demands aren't met, McConnell has threatened to block the Senate power-sharing agreement that would put Democrats in charge of the body's committees. But Democrats already seem confident in their newfound power, with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) telling Politico that "Chuck Schumer is the majority leader and he should be treated like majority leader." Giving in to McConnell "would be exactly the wrong way to begin," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) echoed.Other Democrats shared their resistance to McConnell's demands in tweets. > McConnell is threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution which allows Democrats to assume the committee Chair positions. It's an absolutely unprecedented, wacky, counterproductive request. We won the Senate. We get the gavels.> > -- Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 21, 2021> So after Mitch McConnell changed the Senate rules at a blistering pace during his 6 years in charge, he is threatening to filibuster the Senate's organizing resolution unless the Democratic majority agrees to never change the rules again.> > Huh.> > -- Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 21, 2021More stories from theweek.com Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit The Lincoln Project used an old Saved by the Bell PSA to troll Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley
- The Independent
Michael Flynn’s brother reveals he was involved in Capitol riot response after Army denied it, report says
Apparent U-turn by Pentagon officials could pose questions about police response
- National Review
Former President Donald Trump has hired South Carolina-based lawyer Butch Bowers to represent him in his Senate impeachment trial over a charge that he incited insurrection, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday. Bowers did not respond to requests for comment. While relatively unknown on the national stage, Bowers has represented former Republican governors in South Carolina and served in the U.S. Justice Department under Republican former President George W. Bush, according to his website.
The move prompted an outcry from some troops.
- National Review
During her first press conference on January 20, President Joe Biden’s White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, was asked by an EWTN reporter about Biden’s intentions on killing two pro-life policies: the Hyde amendment (a measure that prohibits direct federal funding of elective abortions under Medicaid) and the Mexico City Policy (an executive order that denies funding to overseas organizations that perform or promote abortion). Psaki said she’d have more to say in the coming days on the Mexico City Policy — a measure backed by every Republican president since Reagan and rescinded by every new Democratic president shortly following his inauguration. And on Thursday, Anthony Fauci announced that Biden will indeed be scrapping the policy. Psaki dodged on the Hyde amendment. “I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that he is a devout Catholic, and somebody who attends church regularly. He started his day attending church with his family this morning,” she said. “But I don’t have anything more for you on that.” The Hyde amendment has been the most important pro-life public policy in America for over four decades. It has survived for 45 consecutive years — regardless of partisan control of the White House and Congress — and by one estimate, it has saved 60,000 human lives from abortion each year it has been in place. Does Psaki’s dodge on the Hyde amendment mean anything at all? It could just be that Biden didn’t want to do anything on his first day to alienate a majority of the country that opposes taxpayer funding of abortion. It’s impossible to square the calls to unity and religious themes of his inauguration with repealing the Hyde amendment — a measure that Biden himself portrayed as a policy that protects fundamental conscience rights when he supported it from 1976 to 2019. “I will continue to abide by the same principle that has guided me throughout my 21 years in the Senate: those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them,” Biden wrote to a constituent in 1994. “As you may know, I have consistently — on no fewer than 50 occasions — voted against federal funding of abortions.” Biden reiterated his support for the “middle-of-the-road” policy in 2008, but under pressure from progressive activists during the most recent Democratic presidential primary, he abandoned his support for the Hyde amendment in June 2019. This made it clear that Biden would sign a bill killing the Hyde amendment if it made it to his desk, but it remains unclear whether Congress has the votes and the will to pass such a bill. Representative Rosa DeLauro, chair of the powerful House appropriations committee, is pushing full steam ahead to kill the Hyde amendment, and Speaker Pelosi has said she’s supportive of the effort. But former Democratic congressman Dan Lipinski — who lost a primary in 2020 because of his pro-life stance — said in an interview with National Review in December that he doesn’t think Pelosi will even put a bill killing the Hyde amendment on the floor. In Lipinski’s view, Pelosi might not have the votes and it could cost Democrats the majority in 2022. Polling shows that taxpayer funding of abortion is deeply unpopular. Still, that’s just one sincere pro-life Democrat’s (informed) opinion, and it’s entirely possible the House will pass a bill killing the Hyde amendment. If the House passes a bill ending the Hyde amendment, a lot will depend on West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin. The Hyde amendment is attached to spending bills that are subject to a 60-vote threshold, and Manchin has sworn up and down that he will not get rid of the filibuster. And Manchin told National Review in December that he is “strongly opposed” to getting rid of the Hyde amendment. “As a life-long Catholic, I have always been pro-life and believe that the Hyde amendment ensures federal funds are not used to perform abortions anywhere in the country,” Manchin said in a written statement. “Repealing the Hyde amendment would be foolish and I’m strongly opposed to this push from some Members of Congress. If this legislation is brought before the Senate I will vote against repealing the Hyde amendment.” Still, even if Manchin keeps his word on the filibuster, it remains possible Democrats could try to expand taxpayer funding of abortion when they pass a budget-reconciliation bill, which only needs a simple majority but is subject to complex rules. In budget reconciliation, Democrats will likely attempt to pass a government-run health-insurance program (the “public option”), and Biden explicitly cited his support for a public option as a rationale for abandoning his support for the Hyde amendment. Manchin hasn’t commented on whether he could support such a public option. Of course, there’s no reason that a public option must fund elective abortion. In November 2009, the House passed a health-care bill that applied the Hyde amendment to the public option, but neither provision made it into law. As president, Biden could insist on supporting such a public option if that’s what he wanted. As senator, Joe Manchin could do the same. They may not be able to dodge the issue for long, and they won’t be able to hide behind their faith when it comes time to choose. And if they pass a bill that kills or weakens the America’s most important pro-life policy for the last 45 years, they won’t be able to plausibly claim that they are restoring American unity.
- Architectural Digest
- Associated Press
Capt. Scott Moss, who led the NOSC in Knoxville, was relieved of command by Capt. Dale Maxey.
- Yahoo News Video
Joe Biden took the oath of office on Wednesday, making him the 46th president of the United States.
- The Week
Trump's team fired the White House chief usher right before Biden took office, maybe at Biden's request
When President Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, there was no chief usher to greet them. He had been fired at about 11:30 a.m., half an hour before Biden was sworn in as president, The New York Times reports. Former first lady Melania Trump had hired the chief usher, Timothy Harleth, from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2017, after the previous chief usher, Angella Reid, was dismissed a few months into Donald Trump's term.The White House chief usher is in charge of the first family's residence, overseeing everything from personnel issues to budgets. It is typically an apolitical job, and ushers typically stay through several administrations. Reid, hired in 2011, was only the ninth chief usher since 1885, though she was the first woman hired for the job. The Bidens had communicated to the White House counsel that they intended to bring in their own chief usher, a person familiar with the process told the Times. A Biden White House official told CNN that Harleth "was let go before the Bidens arrived," though CNN reports it was the Bidens who gave him the ax.Harleth was already in hot water with Trump's team, though. He "had found himself in an untenable position" since the election, "trying to begin preparations for a new resident in the White House, even as its occupant refused to concede that he would be leaving the premises," the Times reports. And Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was "unhappy" with Harleth "for trying to send briefing books about the residence to the Biden transition team in November." Harleth "had worked with Jill Biden's staff for weeks to organize the move of household belongings," The Washington Post adds.The absence of a chief usher was one manifestation of the chaotic transition period, but it doesn't entirely explain the curious breach in protocol where nobody opened the doors for the BIdens when they arrived at the White House, the Times notes. The doors, which awkwardly stood closed for about 10 long seconds as the Bidens watched, are typically opened by Marine guards.Once the Bidens passed through the doors into the newly sanitized White House, things got better, the Post reports. "Awaiting Biden in a room adjacent to the Oval Office were two trays stacked with chocolate chip cookies, each one in plastic wrap with a gold presidential seal."More stories from theweek.com Biden removes Trump's Diet Coke button from the Oval Office 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit The Lincoln Project used an old Saved by the Bell PSA to troll Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley
Returned Honduran migrants are directing anger against their president this week after their U.S.-bound caravan was blocked by the region's security forces, accusing him of making their county unlivable while thwarting their escape to a better life. Honduras is reeling from two back-to-back hurricanes that devastated Central America in November, as well as an historic economic contraction on the back of coronavirus pandemic. President Juan Orlando Hernandez has also been under fire from U.S. prosecutors that have accused him of having ties to drug cartels, an allegation he has strongly denied.
- Associated Press
A prominent Chicago family law attorney who was charged last summer with sexually assaulting a colleague has been charged with doing the same thing to two other women, including a client who says he told her that if he didn't have sex with him, she'd lose custody of her children. Prosecutors outlined the new charges against David Pasulka, 61, during a court hearing on Wednesday that ended with Judge Susana Ortiz setting his new bail amount at $100,000 on charges of sexual assault, aggravated sex assault and criminal sexual abuse. Pasulka, who was already out on bond in the initial case, was released from custody after posting the new amount, according to the Cook County Jail.
A Starbucks branch in Dublin, Ireland compensated a female customer of Thai descent €12,000 ($14,600) after one of its employees drew a smiley face with "slanty" eyes on her cup. Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication officer Kevin Baneham forced Atercin Liffey Unlimited trading as Starbucks Tallaght to pay Suchavadee Foley for the Jan. 12 incident, according to The Irish Times. Baneham, while recounting Foley’s story, said the woman was interrupted by a female employee from Brazil while trying to spell out her name in her order.
- The Week
It's the end of a very caffeinated era.When former President Donald Trump occupied the Oval Office, he quite literally had a button on his desk that ordered a Diet Coke to the room whenever it was pressed. But as a glimpse at President Biden's desk just hours after his inauguration shows, the soda-summoning button is gone.> President Biden has removed the Diet Coke button. When @ShippersUnbound and I interviewed Donald Trump in 2019, we became fascinated by what the little red button did. Eventually Trump pressed it, and a butler swiftly brought in a Diet Coke on a silver platter. It's gone now. pic.twitter.com/rFzhPaHYjk> > — Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) January 21, 2021While it may have sounded just too weird to be true, Trump's Diet Coke obsession and his button to match were absolutely real. No word on if Biden will install some kind of ice cream-ordering alternative.More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit The Lincoln Project used an old Saved by the Bell PSA to troll Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley McConnell is already moving to strangle the Biden presidency
Former California Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham was convicted of taking bribes from defense contractors.
- Associated Press
Iran's capital and major cities plunged into darkness in recent weeks as rolling outages left millions without electricity for hours. With toxic smog blanketing Tehran skies and the country buckling under the pandemic and other mounting crises, social media has been rife with speculation. Within days, as frustration spread among residents, the government launched a wide-ranging crackdown on Bitcoin processing centers, which require immense amounts of electricity to power their specialized computers and to keep them cool — a burden on Iran's power grid.
- The Independent
What happened to Joe Biden’s father? President references his dad’s unemployment in inaugural address
Joe Biden Sr was an important influence in 46th president’s life
- National Review
Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) on Wednesday warned fellow Republicans that if they try to “erase Donald Trump from the party, you’re going to get erased.” “I hope people in our party understand the party itself,” he told Fox News hours after President Joe Biden was sworn-in. “Most Republicans like his policies. A lot of Republicans like his style,” Graham said. “A lot of people are disappointed with him personally at times but appreciate the outcomes he’s achieved for our country.” Asked if he thinks Trump will try to start another political party — according to the Wall Street Journal, the former president is toying with the idea of forming a “Patriot Party” — Graham said he hoped Trump does not, adding that he would like to see him “stay the leader of the Republican Party.” He defended Trump’s presidency as “a good four years for judges, for rebuilding the military, for bringing order to the border, for historic peace agreements in the Mideast.” He also commended the former president’s appointment of three Supreme Court justices. “I hope President Trump understands that his legacy and his best future lies with the Republican Party,” he said. He added that removing Trump from the party “would be a disaster … The one way Democrats can survive is for the Republican Party to crack up. The best way for the Republican Party to crack up is try to move forward without Donald Trump.” A number of Republicans have disavowed Trump in recent weeks after a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, leaving five people dead. A handful of House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach the president for “incitement of insurrection.”
- Associated Press
Yosemite National Park will remain closed through the weekend after high winds that battered much of California knocked down two giant sequoias and caused millions of dollars in damage. The park hoped to reopen Tuesday except for areas south of Yosemite Valley, including one entrance, that will remain shut to visitors, the park said Thursday. The winds eased Tuesday in the northern and central areas and Wednesday in the south.