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Ohio GOP Rep. eyeing Senate bid raps potential primary foes for courting Trump's support
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, who on Monday took a step toward a possible Senate bid in 2022, thinks little of would-be GOP primary rivals who’ve been auditioning for former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.
“I think this race should be about Ohio, and I think their focus certainly communicates to the state that Ohio voters come second,” Turner told NBC News when asked about reports that four Republicans running or preparing to run for the seat soon-to-be-vacated by Sen. Rob Portman traveled to Florida last week to have an audience with Trump.
The side meeting during a Trump-hosted fundraiser for a House candidate in Ohio — described to Politico as a “Hunger Games”-like exercise in political survival — included former State Treasurer Josh Mandel, former Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken, and businessmen Mike Gibbons and Bernie Moreno. Each had a chance to talk up his or her campaign and field questions from Trump, who has not endorsed in the race. Mandel and Timken are the only announced candidates, and both have been strenuously courting Trump and his supporters.
“I think Ohio voters are what's important in this race,” Turner said. “I have a record, and I can understand if people who have no record have to seek other people to validate them.”
A 10-term congressman from Dayton, Turner will launch a listening tour of Ohio that he said will help him decide whether to launch a full-fledged Senate campaign. He would run as a Trump ally. (He earned a Twitter attaboy from Trump after defending the then-president during the first impeachment hearings.) But fealty to Trump would not be his core argument to win. He said he’s received “pressure” to join the race from other Republicans unhappy with the developing field.
“Obviously my communications with people about this race are very different than the others running, because I actually can talk about what I've done,” said Turner, who plans to emphasize his service on the House Armed Services Committee.
In announcing the tour listening tour Monday, Turner released a 3-minute video with flourishes of the Trump era sprinkled in. One 25-second montage is nothing but footage of cable news hosts and talking heads introducing Turner to their viewers or mentioning him in coverage. Another clip shows Trump praising Turner. And Turner himself, in straight-to-camera remarks, asserts himself as an “America First” lawmaker.
There also are moments that seem designed to neutralize potential rivals. The video opens with Turner touting his Appalachia and Rust Belt roots, reminiscent of the personal story J.D. Vance — whom GOP mega-donors, including Peter Thiel and the Mercer family, are attempting to lure into the race with more than $10 million in donations to a super PAC — wrote in his bestselling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy.” And there are choices that present Turner as an original: a Republican who can win in Democratic Dayton and also has a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo.
Turner won re-election last year by nearly 17 points against an upstart candidate with a national fundraising profile. But Democrats have long seen his district as one that could flip under the right circumstances. This year’s redistricting could change the boundaries.
“My congressional district is a swing district,” Turner said. “In order for us to have anybody who wins in November, they have to win all of Ohio, and that means bringing people together and being able to support issues and communicate across the state.”
No Democrat has announced a candidacy for the Senate seat. Rep. Tim Ryan of the Youngstown area, former Ohio health director Amy Acton, and Danny O’Connor, the elected recorder of property deeds in Franklin County, are among those considering the race.
Colorful GOP ad maker signs on with Josh Mandel's Senate campaign in Ohio
Fred Davis, a Hollywood-based ad maker who specializes in attention-grabbing political commercials, said Friday that he is working with Senate hopeful Josh Mandel in Ohio.
It’s a pairing of two in-your-face Republicans.
Davis is known for the 2008 “Celeb” ad comparing Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, the bizarre “Demon Sheep” web video on behalf of Carly Fiorina’s California Senate bid in 2010, and Christine O’Donnell’s “not-a-witch” spot from that same year. (O’Donnell, a Senate candidate in Delaware at the time, was trying to walk back past comments that she had dabbled in witchcraft.)
A Marine Corps veteran and former state treasurer now running as a devotee to former President Donald Trump, Mandel is known for his combative presence on Twitter.
He frequently trolls one of his GOP rivals, Jane Timken, and Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, whom Mandel has branded as a Joe Biden Democrat. Twitter briefly restricted Mandel’s account last week after he violated the social media site’s rules against hateful conduct. Mandel had posted a poll asking which type of undocumented immigrants — “Muslim terrorists” or “Mexican gangbangers” — will commit more crimes.
Mandel also has criticized Timken for her past support of former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a vocal Trump critic. Davis produced ads for Kasich’s super PAC during the 2016 presidential primaries. One memorable spot depicted other Republican candidates, including a mean-mugging Trump and a water-chugging Marco Rubio, covered in mud.
The first spots from Mandel are set to debut next week, over Easter weekend. A Mandel representative did not disclose how much the campaign is spending on the opening salvo. But Davis’s more memorable ads have a way of earning free media coverage beyond what campaigns pay for on TV.
Bipartisan group of 16 senators meets to discuss immigration
A bipartisan group of 16 senators – 8 Republicans and 8 Democrats – met Wednesday to discuss prospects for immigration legislation, according to two Senate aides.
The meeting was convened by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and comes as challenges mount for the Biden administration and prospects for passing immigration legislation in the Senate have diminished.
Durbin has been speaking with senators individually for a couple of months. The in-person meeting inside the Capitol had no specific policies on the agenda but was an initial discussion to determine whether consensus on any immigration sub-issue exists.
One Democratic aide described the meeting as a test to determine whether Republicans are serious about wanting to find a solution to immigration problems.
In addition to Durbin, the Democratic senators in the group are Alex Padilla of California, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Chris Coons of Delaware, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico. The Republicans invited were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Rounds of South Dakota.
Murkowski and Crapo were unable to attend but sent staff instead, signaling that they want to be part of the conversation.
The group agreed to meet again, most likely after the two-week recess that starts Friday.
A group of 19 Republican senators are traveling to the border on Friday, including Graham, Tillis and Collins, who attended the Durbin meeting.
Republicans have been slamming the Biden administration for the influx of immigrants, including thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing the border.
“It’s a crisis. It is a crisis that was created by the Biden administration by their own policies as soon as Joe Biden was sworn in as president,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Wednesday. Cruz was not in the Durbin meeting.
Graham has introduced legislation addressing the asylum system. It would require immigrants to apply for asylum in their country of origin.
Republican faith in elections dropped quickly as Trump spread unfounded claims of fraud
The debate over voting access and election integrity continued Wednesday, as a key Senate committee debated Democrats’ sweeping legislation to set federal standards for early and mail-in voting.
Democrats describe the bill as a much-needed bulwark against efforts — many coming from GOP-led state legislatures nationwide — to roll back expanded ballot access. Republicans say the legislation is a major federal overreach that would further erode faith in elections and invite fraud.
With that backdrop, it’s worth taking a look back at what faith in America’s elections looked like leading into the 2020 presidential election — and how it eroded after former President Trump’s loss and subsequent unfounded claims of fraud.
According to the national exit polls for the general election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in November, few American voters were actually worried that their own vote wouldn’t be counted fairly.
An overwhelming 86 percent of voters said at the time they were polled that they were very or somewhat confident that the votes in their state would be counted accurately.
It’s true that Biden voters were somewhat more confident than their Trump-backing counterparts nationwide; of the 18% of all voters who said they were NOT confident, two-thirds backed Trump.
But big majorities of both Biden and Trump supporters did NOT have significant qualms about the count in their state as of November, despite the then-president’s warnings that the vote could be “rigged.”
How did the election results, and Trump’s loss, change those attitudes? Georgia offers an interesting test case.
As of exit polling up to Election Day in November, 84 percent of Georgia voters said they were confident that votes in the state would be counted accurately. In fact, more Georgia Trump voters were confident (89 percent) than Georgia Biden voters (79 percent).
But the exit polls from the January 5 special runoff election in Georgia showed a different story.
While overall faith in the vote count remained high, it fell by 10 percentage points — down to 74 percent.
And while just 10 percent of Trump voters in Georgia in November said they did NOT have faith in the vote count, that was up to 47 percent for backers of Republican Senate candidate Kelly Loeffler and 46 percent for those backing Republican Senate incumbent David Perdue in January.
Missouri AG jumps into race for Senate while Alabama Dem will skip her state's Senate contest
Two high-profile, potential Senate candidates are making moves in Alabama and Missouri, with one jumping into a marquee Senate race and one deciding to sit one out.
Missouri Republican Attorney Gen. Eric Schmitt announced his bid for Senate Wednesday morning on Fox News.
"You look around and increasingly it feels like our culture and our country is slipping away. And all the levels of power right now in Washington D.C. are tilted toward the Democrats," he said.
He went on to frame his role as attorney general as "defending President Trump and the America First agenda and all the prosperity that came with that," saying now he's "spending my time pushing back against Joe Biden as he tries to dismantle that."
"Washington D.C. needs more fighters, needs more reinforcements to save America. So after a lot of reflection, support from folks back home and on behalf of the people of the great state of Missouri, I'm announcing my candidacy for the United States Senate," he added.
Schmitt's announcement came two days after former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens announced his own bid on the same channel. The two men are the only high-profile Republicans in the race right now, but the field remains fluid.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, there was another development in Alabama's 2022 Senate race. Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, who had been actively considering a bid for Senate in the heavy Republican-leaning state, said Wednesday she would not run because she wanted to focus on her work in the House.
"The unfinished business of my home district, Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, is far too important for me to seek higher office at this time," she said, pointing to her push to get voting rights reforms enacted in Congress and to "expand economic opportunities for my constituents."
Sewell is the only Democrat representing Alabama in Congress, and had been among the highest-profile Democrats considering a bid. But winning the seat would be difficult for any Democrat, as both former President Donald Trump and future Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville won their November elections by more than 20 points.
On the GOP side, former Ambassador Lynda Blanchard and Rep. Mo Brooks are running, Brooks having announced his campaign this week.
Slim majority of GOP backs gay marriage, highest mark in the poll's history
For the first time, a new annual survey from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that a slim majority of Republicans now support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally.
Data from the sweeping American Values Atlas survey, which was conducted between February and November of 2020, finds that 51 percent of Republicans back legal gay marriage, up from 47 percent support in 2019.
Overall, about two-thirds of Americans — 67 percent — say that gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry legally, also an all-time high for the poll. The two-thirds majority represents nearly a doubling of support since the late 2000s, when similar studies found only a third of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage.
Support for same-sex marriage is also at an all-time high for independents, with backing from 72 percent; among Democrats, support stands at 76 percent.
Majorities among various religious groups also back legal marriage for gay and lesbian couples, a finding that may be particularly notable among Catholics.
Last week, the Vatican said that the Roman Catholic Church “does not have and cannot have” the power to bless nuptials between same-sex couples. But the poll finds that 75 percent of white Catholics and 71 percent of Hispanic Catholics support such marriages.
In fact, support for same-sex marriage is the minority position only in one major American faith group: White evangelical Protestants. Just 43 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
The poll also finds that, overall, 76 percent of Americans back laws to protect LGBT Americans from discrimination. That’s a slight uptick from previous years, when support for such measures clocked in closer to 70 percent. Just one in five Americans — 19 percent — oppose such nondiscrimination protections.
While 85 percent of Democrats back those anti-discrimination measures, it’s 79 percent for independents and 62 percent of Republicans, although younger Republicans remain notably more supportive of LGBT protections than their older counterparts.
Six-in-ten Americans — 61 percent — also oppose allowing a small business to refuse service to gay and lesbian people for religious reasons, including 73 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of Republicans. White evangelical Protestants are split, with 49 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.
Who are the House Democrats representing Trump country?
Last week, we took a look at the House Republicans representing districts that President Joe Biden won in 2020. Now, we'll look at the other side of that coin: Who are the House Democrats representing districts that former President Donald Trump won?
The number of these "crossover districts" continues to dwindle, and there are just seven currently represented by Democrats, according to the data folks at The Daily Kos. Here's a look at those seven:
Iowa 3: Rep. Cindy Axne
Just two years after Democrats held three of the four Iowa congressional seats, Axne is the lone Democrat remaining. Her district narrowly backed Trump by 0.2 percentage points in 2020, down from 3.5 percentage points in 2016, but backed Obama by just under 4 percent in 2012. In recent months, she's sought to play up the Covid relief legislation's effect on her district, as well as other legislation on issues like flood insurance.
Illinois 17: Rep. Cheri Bustos
After going 17 percentage points for Obama in 2012, Trump won the district narrowly each of the past two presidential elections. But Bustos, who took office after the 2012 election, has bucked the trends. During her tenure in the House, she also ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and been a member of Democratic leadership.
Maine 2: Rep. Jared Golden
Representing another district that went for Trump twice after going for Obama in 2012, Golden, a former staffer for Republican Sen. Susan Collins, has repeatedly bucked his party on high-profile votes. He voted against the recent Democratic Covid-relief package (he said it wasn't targeted enough); he voted against gun background-check expansions passed by Democrats earlier this month (he said existing laws need to be enforced more strongly; and he voted against the Democrats' police reform bill (he had concerns with how it handles protections for officers and wanted a bipartisan agreement).
Michigan 8: Rep. Elissa Slotkin
Slotkin's district backed Trump by less than 1 point in 2020, after backing him by almost 7 points in 2016 (and Mitt Romney by 2 points in 2012), making her the only one on this list whose district went for the GOP in the three presidential elections over the last decade. Slotkin has leaned into her past experience in the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency and is vocal on foreign policy issues.
New Jersey 3: Rep. Andy Kim
While Obama won this seat by about 3.5 points in 2012, Trump won the seat by about 6 points, before Biden narrowed Trump's victory to just 0.2 percentage points. Hes recently promoted a fix for prescription drug costs and has been outspoken about racism against Asian Americans.
Pennsylvania 8: Rep. Matt Cartwright
Like many of these members, Cartwright has faced repeated, well-funded attempts to wrest him from his seat, which backed Trump twice after going for Obama in 2012. As Republicans have criticized Democrats over the politics of school reopenings, Cartwright has pointed to the latest round of Covid relief as a way to get kids back into school.
Wisconsin 3: Rep. Ron Kind
Kind's district also went from supporting Obama to backing Trump twice. He was one of the only Democrats who didn't back Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for Minority Leader in 2017. Kind joined Golden in voting against a measure to extend the length of time needed for gun background checks in a vote this month.
White House misses its own 60-day review deadline for border wall construction
President Joe Biden's administration has missed its own, self-imposed, 60-day review into whether border-wall construction projects should be resumed, modified or terminated.
Biden issued a pause on all current border-wall construction on the day he took office, a timeout meant to allow the review to make recommendations for next steps. But the White House says the assessment has not been completed or presented to the president.
“When the Administration took office, funds had been diverted from military construction and other appropriated purposes toward building the wall, and wall construction was being challenged in multiple lawsuits by plaintiffs who alleged that the construction was creating serious environmental and safety issues,” a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget said. “Under those circumstances, Federal agencies are continuing to develop a plan to submit to the President soon.”
Biden’s Inauguration Day proclamation stipulated that the review should be completed within 60 days, which was this past Sunday.
That order — among the first signed by Biden — also made it U.S. policy that no more taxpayer dollars would be diverted to build the border wall and it revoked the national emergency that former President Trump had declared in order to access funds for construction.
It's unclear how much longer the White House is taking to complete the review, as officials did not provide a detailed explanation for the delay.
Once the proposal is complete, Defense Sec. Austin and Homeland Security Sec. Mayorkas are expected to deliver it to the president and then “take all appropriate steps to resume, modify, or terminate projects and to otherwise implement the plan.”
Fudge's move to HUD will leave House seat vacated until November
Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday that the state will hold the special election to replace newly-minted Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge in November, leaving the seat empty for eight months in the process.
The primary will be on Aug. 3, with the general election to follow on Nov. 2.
Under state law, special elections are only allowed to be held "on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May, August, or November," and Ohio can't have May special elections except during a presidential primary year, per the Ohio Secretary of State's office.
The seat is overwhelmingly favored to be retained by Democrats, as Fudge never won the seat with fewer than three-quarters of the vote.
That's why it's attracted a large group of Democratic congressional hopefuls, including Nina Sanders, the former co-chair for Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential bid, who is backed by a bevy of progressive members of Congress and figures, Cuyahoga County Councilor Shontel Brown, who has the backing of Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, and a host of other candidates, including a handful of state lawmakers.
While the seat will remain empty for a significant amount of time, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office pointed out the length of time the seat will remain vacant is similar to the schedule after two republicans, former Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Pat Tiberi, resigned from Congress in the last few years.
Who are the House Republicans representing Biden country?
Just 17 members of Congress represent districts that supported the 2020 presidential nominee from the opposing party, according to recent, district-level analysis by the Daily Kos, the liberal-leaning blog that sports a robust data program.
The number of these "crossover districts" is the lowest in recent memory — there were 35 of those kinds of districts after the 2016 election and 83 after the 2008 election.
The slim majority (nine) of these districts are currently represented by Republicans, including a majority who won their seats in 2020 (and one who first won in an early 2020 special election).
Here's a look at those Republican members, and how they've been able to buck their districts' presidential voting trends:
California 21: Rep. David Valadao
Valadao is a familiar face in this district, first winning the seat in 2012 before a loss to Democratic former Rep. TJ Cox in 2018. Valadao regained the seat — which backed President Joe Biden in 2020, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, and former President Barack Obama in 2012 — after defeating Cox in a 2020 rematch. Valadao was one of the 10 House Republicans who backed impeaching then-President Donald Trump, and said at the time that Trump was "without question, a driving force in the catastrophic events that took place on January 6."
California 25: Rep. Mike Garcia
Garcia had a busy 2020, defeating Democrat Christy Smith in a March special election to replace former Rep. Katie Hill and again in November's general election in a district that went for both Biden and Clinton (but narrowly backed 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney). Garcia is one of the two "crossover district" members of Congress who voted to object to Biden's Electoral College certification and so far has focused on issues like school reopening and criticized the Democrats' Covid-19 relief plan as too broad.
California 39: Rep. Young Kim
Kim's district backed Biden, Clinton and Romney in the last three elections, and has been represented by a Republican since 2012 (except for a two-year gap when Democrat Gil Cisneros served one term). Kim has crossed the aisle in support of a program to help DACA recipients (those brought to America as children illegally), voted with Democrats to strip Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of her committee positions (along with three other "crossover" members) and criticized Trump in 2020 for referring to coronavirus with "hurtful" language that associates it with Asians. Along with California's Michelle Steel, Kim is one of the three women elected in 2020 who became the first Korean-American women in Congress.
California 48: Rep. Michelle Steel
Steel's district also backed the same three presidential candidates as Kim's — Biden, Clinton and Romney — but tilts a bit more Republican. She's recently led efforts in the House to condemn hate crimes against Asians, and has spoken about giving DACA recipients "a break," while also coming out against sanctuary cities and for a "physical barrier" on the border.
Florida 27: Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar
Salazar represents a district that went for Democrats in each of the last three presidential elections, but has been represented by a Republican in the House for most of the last decade. She's expressed openness to a carbon tax and backs a more moderate immigration plan than most Republicans — on Wednesday, she released a draft of her "Dignity Plan" which increases border security, gives DACA recipients "immediate legal status" with a permanent pathway to legalization, and creates pathways to legal status for many undocumented immigrants.
Nebraska 2: Rep. Don Bacon
Bacon's district had leaned Republican at the presidential level, backing Trump in 2016 and Romney in 2012, before swinging narrowly to Biden and delivering him its Electoral College vote in 2020. Last cycle, Bacon won the endorsement of former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford, who Bacon beat to win the seat back for the GOP in 2016. Bacon's opponent the last two cycles, Democrat Kara Eastman, was from the party's more progressive wing.The Republican has supported protections for DACA recipients and bucked Trump by working to rename bases named after Confederate leaders.
New York 24: Rep. John Katko
Katko is another Republican in a district that backed Democrats in the past three presidential races. He, too, voted to impeach Trump in 2021 (the first GOP member to signal support for doing so), and has led the moderate Republican Tuesday Group in the House.
Pennsylvania 1: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick
Also representing a district that went for Biden, Clinton and Obama, Fitzpatrick has crossed the aisle on a variety of issues in his career. He's won the backing of the League of Conservation Voters for his climate record, supports DACA protections, defended the special counsel's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and voted with Democrats to expand background checks for firearms (along with Salazar).
Texas 24: Rep. Beth Van Duyne
Van Duyne represents one of the two districts on this list that went for Romney and Trump before switching to Biden (Bacon's district is the other). She won her bid after the retirement of longtime former GOP Rep. Kenny Marchant. She's just the second Republican woman to represent Texas in the Senate, and comes from a stint serving as the mayor of Irving, and then working in the Trump administration's Department of Housing and Urban Development. She's been a vocal critic of the Biden administration's border policy and criticized the Covid-19 relief package as not targeted enough.
New Mexico sets date for House special election to replace Interior Sec. Haaland
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has set the special House election to replace Interior Secretary Deb Haaland's former seat in the First Congressional District for June 1.
The major parties will choose their own candidates, instead of holding a more traditional primary. By state law, the parties must declare their nominees by 56 days before the election (in this case, by April 6) — Democrats have already announced their plans to do so on March 30.
Parties will have to choose from a large list of potential nominees, including a handful of state lawmakers, businesspeople and a former top aide to New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Aubrey Dunn Jr. the state's former Public Lands Commissioner, is also running as a Libertarian.
Democrats have represented the seat for more than a decade, and the district historically backs Democrats at the presidential too, most recently picking President Joe Biden over former President Donald Trump by a margin of 60 percent to 37 percent, according to data crunched by the Daily Kos.
The New Mexico race is the latest election aimed at replacing a Biden administration official. On Saturday, New Orleans-area voters will decide who will replace former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who left to be one of Biden's senior advisers.
Lousiana's special elections put every candidate on the same ballot, regardless of party, and if no candidate wins the majority, the top-two vote-getters move onto a runoff. The top two Democrats in the race are state Sens. Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson.
And Ohio is poised to announce the date for the election aimed at replacing Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, who previously represented Ohio's Eleventh Congressional District. The seat is overwhelmingly Democratic, making it likely the party retains the seat.
Current candidates there include Nina Turner, the former co-chair of Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaigns, as well as a handful of state lawmakers.
Significant majority of Republicans don’t believe Biden’s win was fair
Almost two-thirds of Republicans believe that President Joe Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election, even as more than six-in-ten Americans overall believe he won fair and square, according to a new Monmouth University poll.
The survey, conducted February 25 – March 1, found that 65 percent of Republicans believe that Biden’s win was solely the result of voter fraud. What’s more, 29 percent of Republicans say they will never accept Biden as president.
The belief in widespread fraud among Republicans persists despite a multitude of probes, intelligence assessments and court rulings that have found no evidence that either domestic fraud nor foreign interference affected the election results. But former President Donald Trump spent months spreading baseless allegations of widespread fraud nonetheless.
The Monmouth poll found that a majority — 53 percent of Americans — support an independent commission to look into the Capitol breach. That includes 62 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of Republicans.
Another 37 percent of Americans say internal investigations into the breach should suffice.
Americans broadly support investigating into the failures of Capitol Police preparation for the attack (81 percent), the growth of militant groups (76 percent), the role of white nationalists in the insurrection (70 percent), and allegations of voter fraud (59 percent.)
Still, a combined 26 percent of Americans — and 40 percent of Republicans — say that the anger that led to the Jan 6. riot was either fully (8 percent) or partially (18 percent) justified.
About two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans say that white nationalism is a problem in the United States, while 34 percent say it is not a problem at all.
And two-thirds of Americans have heard of QAnon. Twenty-seven percent have heard a lot, while 38 percent have heard a little. But just two percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the theory.
Congress gets boost of Covid-19 vaccines for staffers
As access to Covid-19 vaccines expands across the country, Congress will soon be increasing the number of staff that will receive the vaccine, multiple sources tell NBC News.
8,000 new vaccine doses were expected to be delivered yesterday, a source familiar told NBC News. The doses will be split evenly between the House and Senate, 4,000 each.
Lawmakers were previously given access to the Covid-19 vaccine in December as an emergency measure for continuity of government purposes. In the personal office of each Senator, five staff members were given access to the vaccine, with two additional staff per Senator given access just last week. In the House, however, only two staffers per congressman were given access to the vaccine.
That’s all changing now, after a notice sent to House offices last night by the Capitol physician gave further details on distribution. Each House office is getting 6 doses for staff, and 16 per committee, with additional doses allocated to institutional and support staff, two sources add.
A Senate aide says the additional doses allocated to the upper chamber continue to be prioritized for restaurant workers, custodians and all the support staff that make the Capitol run.
While most Senators have been vaccinated, NBC News spoke to four that haven’t gotten their shots — yet. Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) say they haven’t gotten the vaccines for different reasons.
Johnson and Paul, who both had Covid-19 in the last year, told reporters they don’t need the vaccine because they’ve already had the virus — something studies show is not a scientifically-sound reason for choosing to ditch the shot. Scott, meanwhile, said he is still consulting with his doctor on whether or not to get the vaccine.
As of early March, 1 in 4 House lawmakers have still not been fully vaccinated despite having access to the vaccine since December, according to a letter from GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Biden gets chance to show his Irish roots on St. Patrick's Day
The White House is going green — literally, not figuratively, as President Joe Biden would put it. The presidential mansion's north facade will be illuminated in green Wednesday evening in one of many tributes to Ireland planned on Biden's first St. Patrick's Day as president.
Recent presidents have all laid claim to at least some Irish ancestry every March 17 — President Barack Obama even joked about the missing apostrophe in his last name — but Biden boasts the most direct claim to the Emerald Isle of any president since John F. Kennedy.
His great-great-grandfather Owen Finnegan brought his family to New York from County Louth in 1849, and Patrick Blewitt, another great-great grandfather, brought his family from County Mayo two years later. Biden's maternal grandparents, Ambrose Finnegan and Geraldine Blewitt, married each other in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1909.
Covid-19 protocols are putting a damper on what would otherwise be a more robust celebration of St. Patrick's Day in the Biden White House. But officials say they're making the most of the holiday nonetheless. In addition to lighting the White House green, they will dye both the North and South Lawn water fountains green, reprising Obama's tradition, which was an homage to Chicago.
Biden will start the day at home in Wilmington, Delaware, attending a St. Patrick's Day Mass, before he returns to Washington for a virtual bilateral meeting with Ireland's prime minister, Micheál Martin. A White House official said he will be wearing an array of shamrocks sent straight from Ireland on his lapel. The bowl of shamrocks, traditionally presented in person by the taoiseach, as the Irish prime minister is called, was sent ahead to Washington by the Irish government.
And officials fully expect that Biden will be quoting Irish poets a time or two during the day, including at the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon traditionally held at the U.S. Capitol, which is also going virtual this year. Biden, who is especially fond of Seamus Heaney, often jokes that he quotes Irish poets so often not because he's Irish, "but because they're the best poets."
Biden made a multiday visit to Ireland in his final year as vice president in 2016, touting the resilience and inherent optimism of the Irish and Irish Americans. "I think we Irish are the only people in the world who are actually nostalgic about the future," he said in his keynote address in Dublin.
Asked in an interview Sunday whether he expected Biden to return now as president, Martin told CBS News: "I invited him to Ireland, and he just said to me, 'Try and keep me out.'"
Poll: Majority of Iowans, one-third of Republicans, hope Grassley won't run again in 2022
Fifty-five percent of Iowans, including a significant portion of Iowa Republicans, say they hope Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, decides not to run for what would be his eighth term in the Senate in 2022, a new poll out of the state shows.
The new survey from the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, conducted by the prominent Iowa pollster Ann Selzer's Selzer & Co., found that just 28 percent of Iowans hope Grassley will run for another term. Another 17 percent say they are not sure.
A majority of Democrats and independents (77 percent and 54 percent respectively) say they hope Grassley does not run, a sentiment shared by 35 percent of Republicans. Fifty percent of Republicans, however, say they hope he does decide to run, compared to 11 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents.
Grassley is currently 87 years old and is the oldest Republican senator serving in the body (Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is just a few months older than him). Grassley's age has prompted questions as to whether he'll run again — he's told reporters he'll decide later this year and has, in the meantime, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to begin fundraising for a possible reelection.
The poll is a mixed bag for Grassley — while he retains a 48 percent approval rating among Iowan adults (with 38 percent disapproving), it's his lowest Iowa Poll approval rating since 1982, according to the Des Moines Register.
It also found that the favorable rating for Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has dipped below her disapproval for the first time since the poll began testing her rating in 2015. Forty-three percent of Iowans say they approve of how Ernst, who just won reelection last November, is handling her job, compared to 45 percent who say they disapprove. In February of 2019, the poll found Ernst's approval at 57 percent.
The Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll surveyed 775 Iowa adults between March 7-10 by telephone (landline and cell phone) in English. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.
Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. tells MTP he won't run for Senate in 2022
Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan will not run for Senate in 2022, he told “Meet the Press” on Sunday, saying instead he wants to focus on helping to “rebuild” the GOP after a difficult election that saw Democrats flip both Senate seats and former President Donald Trump raise unfounded accusations of widespread voter fraud in the state.
One of the top Republicans in the state, Duncan had been seen as a possible candidate to run against Sen. Raphael Warnock in 2022. The Democrat won his election to fill the remainder of the term vacated by retired Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson. But Isakson’s term would have ended in 2022, Warnock will be on the ballot again then.
“My family and I have talked about it, and we’re not going to run for the U.S. Senate seat. We’re going to stay focused on being the lieutenant governor here in Georgia and we are going to focus hard on trying to rebuild this party and refocus GOP 2.0,” Duncan said Sunday.
Even though Democrats flipped both Senate seats in 2020, next year's election is expected to be one of the marquee Senate races of the cycle. Former Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who lost to Warnock, has kept the door open to another bid, while other Republicans have been considering it too. Former President Donald Trump recently encouraged Herschel Walker, once a standout football player for the University of Georgia, to run.
Duncan and other top GOP officials spent much of the past few months defending the state from Trump's unfounded allegations of massive voter fraud, accusations that he said lost Republicans "credibility" in the state. He went onto criticize Trump's tone as "divisive" and add that the former president's "strategy is unwinnable in forward-looking elections."
Even so, many Georgia Republicans are supporting widespread new restrictions to election laws sparked in part by Trump's baseless allegations. The GOP-led legislature is weighing changes such as ending no-excuse absentee voting and limiting weekend early voting.
Duncan opposes the changes to absentee voting, recently vacating his role presiding over the debate on the issue in protest. He also told "Meet the Press' he was sensitive to concerns that limiting early voting on weekends could primarily hurt black voters since "souls to the polls" drives are popular events at predominately black churches in the south.
"There’s a lot of solutions in search of a problem. Republicans don’t need election reform to win, we need leadership," he said.
"I'm one of the Republicans that want more people to vote. I think our ideas help people."
Democratic groups are spending big to support the Covid-19 relief law
WASHINGTON — Unite the Country, a Democratic Super PAC, is the latest outside group to release paid advertisements celebrating the Covid-19 relief package President Joe Biden signed into law on Thursday.
"It's more money in your pocket, billions to speed up vaccinations, safely reopen schools, and help small businesses come back," a narrator says in the new ad.
"Joe Biden kept his word, and that's exactly what your president should do," the ad concludes.
According to a spokesperson from Unite the country, the ad is a seven-figure buy targeted in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all which Biden narrowly won last November, and all of which hold key Senate and gubernatorial contests in 2022. The ad campaign will be mostly featured on digital platforms.
The buy is the latest in a group of Democratic organizations with campaigns airing across the country.
On Friday, the Democratic National Committee released a new ad that will air nationally and in battleground markets. Entitled, "Help is here", the ad features parts of Biden's speech explaining the Covid-19 relief bill.
Also this week, the Democratic group Priorities USA said it was placing digital ads — like this one — in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — in support of the new legislation.
And House Majority Forward, the Democratic outside group that focuses on House races, said it’s launching a $1.4 million ad campaign across nine competitive House districts — like one focused on Texas' 7th district — thanking Democratic members for voting for the relief package.
Steve Schale, chief strategist for Unite The Country, said it’s critical for Democrats’ chances in the 2022 midterms to see support remain strong for both the rescue plan and for Biden.
“We know the next year is pretty important. All of us who lived in the 2010 trenches remember how hard it was to get across the finish line in a world where almost all of the messaging around the first two years of Obama was negative,” he said.
A look back: How presidents have used their first primetime TV address
WASHINGTON — When President Joe Biden makes his first national prime-time address on Thursday night, he’ll be following in a long tradition of presidents focusing their first televised evening speech on a key White House priority.
Biden will use his address — scheduled to begin just after 8 p.m. ET — to commemorate the one-year anniversary of restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19. He is expected to talk about the more than 500,000 Americans who have lost their lives to Covid-19, as well as his efforts to increase the number of vaccines available to Americans. The president is set to sign the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill into law Thursday afternoon.
Here’s how some of Biden’s predecessors used their first major prime-time TV addresses:
President Donald Trump: Trump made his first national address on Aug. 21, 2017 to discuss his strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia. Unlike many former presidents, Trump didn’t make his first prime-time speech from the White House. Rather, the former president spoke from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia.
Trump used the speech to outline new pillars of his foreign policy plan and to announce he wouldn’t pull all troops out of Afghanistan and South Asia.
“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically, I like following my instincts. But all my life, I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office, in other words, when you're president of the United States,” Trump said.
The former president also used the speech to solicit support for his foreign policy strategy from NATO allies.
Trump also addressed a joint session of Congress in February 2017.
President Barack Obama: Obama’s first prime-time televised address was different than both his predecessors and successors: He held a prime-time press conference on Feb. 9, 2009.
Before taking questions, Obama focused his prepared remarks on the economy and his wish for Congress to pass the stimulus plan. The bill was signed into law about a week later.
“As long as I hold this office, I will do whatever it takes to put this economy back on track and put this country back to work,” Obama said.
President George W. Bush: Bush’s first national address didn’t end up being a long-term focus of his administration – especially given it occurred one month before the Sept. 11th attacks.
Rather, on Aug. 9, 2001, Bush announced that he would allow federal taxpayer money to be used on stem cell research. The decision was controversial given Bush’s pro-life stance because some stem cell research includes cells extracted from embryos.
“The issue is debated within the church, with people of different faiths, even many of the same faith coming to different conclusions. Many people are finding that the more they know about stem cell research, the less certain they are about the right ethical and moral conclusions,” Bush said, pointing to the “great promise” embryonic stem cell research offers in discovering treatments and cures for serious diseases.
President Bill Clinton: Clinton used his first televised address on Feb. 24, 1993, to drum up support for his economic proposals ahead of a speech to Congress later that week.
He called for Americans’ support for a significant shift in economic policy from the Republican presidents before him, laying out plans to hike taxes on the rich and cut spending to control the deficit and reshape the government.
Days later, he took his appeal to a joint session of Congress. Ultimately Congress narrowly passed much of Clinton’s economic plan (former Vice President Al Gore needed to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.
The plan hinged on greater law enforcement spending, a program aimed at fighting drug crime in public housing, fighting international cartels, an investment in drug treatment programs, and an anti-drug education effort.
That speech included the iconic scene of Bush holding up crack cocaine seized near the White House (media reports later found agents “lured the seller” to the spot).
President Ronald Reagan: Reagan made his first address to the nation just about two weeks after his inauguration.
On Feb. 5, 1981 Reagan began his economic address by telling Americans “we’re in the worst economic mess since the Great Depression.”
Reagan’s message to Americans was that the federal deficit was unmanageable and required spending cuts, a hiring freeze and a hold on pending regulations.
Reagan also introduced his legislative economic package during the address that he would present to Congress about two weeks after his speech.
He spoke almost immediately after signing the Emergency Natural Gas Act to give him expanded powers to address the natural gas shortage stemming from the oil embargo against America during the 1979s.
“The real problem — our failure to plan for the future or to take energy conservation seriously — started long before this winter, and it will take much longer to solve,” Carter said, before asking Americans to conserve energy while the government would make efforts to expand energy production while providing Americans with tax incentives.
Missouri Secretary of State Ashcroft declines Senate bid to replace retiring Blunt
WASHINGTON — Missouri Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft announced Wednesday he would not run to replace the retiring Sen. Richard Blunt, R-Mo., as the senator's retirement has prompted a scramble to fill the open Senate seat.
"Our hearts are in Missouri and we cherish the opportunity to continue raising our family here. Service to Missourians is a profound privilege in which we intend to persist and honor in every respect," he tweeted to explain his reasoning for not running.
"We hope those who pledged support to me will devote their efforts to electing the eventual Republican nominee."
Ashcroft is the latest high-profile name to rule out a bid, but the first major Republican to do so after Blunt's announcement. Former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill (now an NBC and MSNBC analyst) and 2016 Democratic nominee Jason Kander have both said they will not run.
On the GOP side, there are still a handful of prominent candidates publicly weighing a bid.
Rep. Ann Wagner said in a statement that she's considering a bid, as did Rep. Billy Long in an interview with Springfield's KY3.
Former Gov. Eric Greitens has also signaled his openness to running. He resigned in 2018 amid investigations related to allegations of campaign finance violations, as well as an unrelated affair where he was accused of blackmail, invasion of privacy and sexual misconduct.
And other Republicans may jump in as well.
On the Democratic side, former state Sen. Scott Sifton announced his bid last month and has the backing of dozens of state lawmakers, as well as State Auditor Nicole Galloway and former Kansas City Mayor Sly James. And Marine veteran Lucas Kunce announced his bid after Blunt made his decision.
With weeks to go before Louisiana special House elections, new filings show best-funded candidates
WASHINGTON — Just weeks before two special elections in Lousiana, new campaign finance reports show there's a clear gap between the haves and the have nots looking to win each seat.
Each party is favored to hold onto the seats each won in November. Republicans have the edge in the Fifth Congressional District, where Republican Luke Letlow won a runoff last December but passed away from Covid-19 before he could take office. And Democrats are the favorite in the Second District, which was vacated by Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond, who decided to join the White House.
Julia Letlow, the widow of the former congressman-elect who is running as a Republican, leads the cash race in the Fifth District. She raised $682,000 through February and started March with $521,000 banked away. Letlow has won a smattering of Republican endorsements in her quest for Congress, including House Minority Whip and Lousiana Rep. Steve Scalise, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Lousiana State GOP.
The only other Republican who appears to have filed by the FEC's Monday deadline is Sancha Smith, who raised less than $10,000. Sandra Christophe, a Democrat and social worker who ran last cycle, just short of $70,000 for her bid and closed February with $50,000 in cash on hand.
In the Second District, three candidates raised at least $100,000, two Democrats and one Republican.
State Sen. Troy Carter, Sr., raised more than any other candidate with $519,000, ending February with almost $292,000 in cash on hand. Karen Carter Peterson, who previously ran the state's Democratic Party and was in leadership at the Democratic National Committee, raised about $450,000 and had $208,000 cash on hand. Along with others who have weighed into the race, Richmond is backing Carter while Democratic voting-rights activist Stacey Abrams endorsed Carter Peterson.
Claston Bernard, the former Olympic decathlete endorsed by the Louisiana Republican Party, raised $113,000 and had $38,000 in the bank at the close of February.
Voters will cast their ballots in both races on March 20, with the top two vote-getters (regardless of party) moving onto a runoff election if no candidate can win the majority in March.
Former FDA officials urge Biden to nominate a permanent commissioner
WASHINGTON — Five former U.S. Federal Drug Administration officials sent a letter to President Biden on Tuesday pressing him to name a new permanent commissioner for the agency.
The call comes as some medical experts and members of Congress are raising questions about whether a leadership void compromises approval of additional tools, beyond vaccines, needed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, like rapid antigen testing.
The letter, obtained by NBC News, urged Biden to prioritize securing the FDA's leadership team including "seeking a formal nomination and confirmation of an FDA Commissioner."
"The coming days and weeks will require further timely and effective actions, for example to support the development of antiviral treatments and advance the availability of reliable, easy-to-use tests,” wrote former commissioners Robert Califf, Scott Gottlieb, Mark McClellan, Margaret Hamburg and Andrew von Eschenbach.
FDA veteran Janet Woodcock has been serving as acting commissioner since Biden took office.
Rapid antigen testing is being used in other countries, but the FDA has been slow to approve the tests because of accuracy concerns.
During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University's school of public health, said the tests could still be useful.
"The FDA has been slow to approve these cheap, rapid antigen tests primarily due to concerns about accuracy and lack of thorough data and maintaining the rigor and high standards of FDA approval are important. However, rapid tests serve a different role than PCR tests and should be evaluated accordingly," Jha said.
Mike Pence will make first post-White House speech in South Carolina
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Mike Pence will make his first post-vice presidential speech on April 29 in Columbia, S.C.
The Palmetto Family Council confirmed Pence's speech, and announced Pence will speak to roughly 500 guests. The Palmetto Family Council is a faith-based group that describes itself as having been “on the front lines of the fight to keep biblical values a consideration in the culture at large and in public policy decision.”
The Associated Press first reported the speech.
Pence is widely believed to be planning his own presidential run in 2024, which casts a light on Pence's decision to make his first post-White House appearance in an early primary state like South Carolina.
Since leaving the White House, Pence joined the Heritage Foundation and the Young America's Foundation, with plans to deliver lectures and launch a podcast.
Ralph Northam makes first endorsement of 2021 cycle — bucking his attorney general
WASHINGTON — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam endorsed state delegate Jay Jones for Virginia attorney general on Thursday, bucking incumbent Mark Herring who served with Northam and is seeking his third term.
The governor’s endorsement is the first he’s made for Virginia’s 2021 election cycle. And the choice to back Jones — who is young, Black and more progressive — could represent a wider shift in the direction of the Virginia Democratic Party.
“[I]t is time for a new generation of leaders to take the reins. Jay Jones has stood with me every step of the way in our journey to make Virginia a more just and equitable place to live. He has been my partner as we have worked to change our Commonwealth. He also understands the deep scars of racism and will represent the diversity of our Commonwealth,” Northam wrote in a statement.
Northam’s endorsement also raises eyebrows about his relationship with Herring. In 2019, Herring called for Northam's resignation after a yearbook picture surfaced alleging Northam was either in blackface or a Klu Klux Klan costume in the photo. Northam later revealed he wore blackface as a student.
However, days after the initial scandal, Herring revealed he had also worn blackface. He tried to clarify his calls for Northam to resign by saying it was Northam’s flip-flopping explanation of the yearbook photo that was problematic.
The governor resisted resignation calls and later pushed issues of racial justice and equity to the forefront of his administration. Democrats in Virginia passed legislation banning the death penalty and expanding voting rights. Northam has also been outspoken about changing the names of schools and highways that are named after confederate leaders, and has committed to removing confederate monuments in Richmond.
Northam has not yet made announcements on who he would endorse in the races for governor and lieutenant governor, but Northam served as lieutenant governor when former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was in office. McAuliffe is now a frontrunner in the Democratic primary.
The Virginia Democratic primary takes place on June 8.
Chuck Grassley files FEC paperwork for possible 2022 re-election bid
WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission Wednesday morning, setting up a possible re-election bid for the 2022 cycle.
Grassley, elected to Congress as a member of the House of Representatives in 1974 and then the Senate in 1980, is the oldest Republican currently serving in the Senate and would be 89 by Election Day of 2022.
The Iowa senator filed a new statement of candidacy with the FEC on Wednesday for the 2022 cycle, which allows him to kickstart his fundraising for a potential bid. Though the paperwork makes him an official candidate in the eyes of the FEC, it doesn't guarantee he'll actually run for an eighth term. Former Georgia GOP Sen. David Perdue, who in January lost his Senate seat in a runoff to now-Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff, announced last week he wouldn't launch another campaign just days after he filed paperwork with the FEC and tweeted he was considering a 2022 bid.
Grassley has told reporters he'll make a decision "sometime in September, October or November," according to the Des Moines Register.
Grassley tested positive for Covid-19 in November but reported his case was asymptomatic and he recovered.
A handful of senators have already announced plans to retire at the end of 2022, with more potentially on the way.
Alabama’s senior GOP Sen. Richard Shelby announced last month he won’t seek re-election in 2022 after serving in Congress for over 40 years. And Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Richard Burr of North Carolina have also said they won’t pursue re-election bids in 2022.
Two other Republican senators have not said if they'll run again in 2022: Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. Johnson said in 2016 he would only serve two terms in the Senate but has not recently addressed whether he would seek a third one. Blunt told POLITICO earlier this year he had no timetable on deciding whether to run again.
Hawley ends his confirmation no-vote streak by backing Biden's pick to chair Council of Economic Advisers
WASHINGTON — After voting against all 12 of President Joe Biden's previous Senate-confirmable nominees, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., backed his first nomination on Tuesday, Cecilia Rouse, who the Senate confirmed as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers by a wide margin.
Hawley's vote makes Rouse the first of Biden's nominees to win the senator's support, as he had previously opposed Biden's whole slate of nominees, including about half that passed with support from at least 80 senators.
He told NBC News last week that he didn't have an explicit strategy of opposing nominees, adding his test is that he hopes Biden "will nominate folks and pursue policies that will be good for working Americans and good for the middle of the country."
Ethics watchdog says Rep. Palazzo may have improperly spent campaign, official funds
WASHINGTON — The Office of Congressional Ethics found there is "substantial reason to believe" Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., improperly gave special favors to his brother and misused campaign and official funds on a variety of expenses, including renovations to a riverfront home, according to a new report released Monday.
The nonpartisan OCE, an independent group that advises the House Committee on Ethics, voted unanimously to recommend lawmakers continue an investigation into Palazzo.
In a 47-page report, the OCE board laid out allegations of wrongdoing by Palazzo that mainly fall into two tranches — improper conduct related to Palazzo's brother, who worked for his campaign, and spending related to a river home he owned and listed as his official campaign headquarters.
Palazzo's office denied the allegations in a statement, arguing that his conduct was proper and that he will cooperate with the investigation.
While the board found that Palazzo's brother "provided at least some bona fide services to the campaign committee," it also alleged that "the work Kyle Palazzo performed may have not justified the salary he received." Campaigns must pay employees fair market value, and a failure to do can be seen as receiving (or giving) an improper campaign contribution. CQ Roll Call first reported on the potential wrongdoing in December.
The congressman's office is also accused of special treatment in helping his brother attempt to update his re-enlistment code with the Navy.
The home in question has been owned by Palazzo's family for about 20 years, the OCE board said. Palazzo himself bought it from his mother and a business associated with her in 2017. The report found the congressman's campaign paid Palazzo's LLC $60,000 in rent for the property, as well as another $22,000 in expenditures for things like landscaping and utilities.
The report claims there's "substantial reason to believe there was not a bona fide campaign need for the space and that the campaign committee did not pay fair market value for its actual use of the property" and that the upkeep expenses "more accurately represented campaign-funded improvements to Rep. Palazzo's personal property."
There are also other allegations related to Palazzo's use of his staff — that his congressional staff ran personal errands or campaign work during their official work hours.
Colleen Kennedy, Palazzo's communications director, said in a statement that he "welcomes the opportunity to work through this process with the House Committee on Ethics and will fully cooperate with the Committee to show that he has complied with all relevant rules and standards."
She called the matter "a direct result of false allegations made by a primary opponent and the Campaign Legal Center," the campaign finance watchdog group that first raised questions about Palazzo's spending.
Former Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., a former House Committee on Ethics member, is representing Palazzo, she added.
"Congressman Palazzo will continue to serve his constituents with honor and integrity, and he looks forward to having this matter concluded as soon as possible," Kennedy said.
In a statement, House Ethics Committee Chairman Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Ranking Member Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., acknowledged the referral from the OCE and noted that "the mere fact of conducting further review ... does not itself indicated that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee."
McConnell says Senate GOP campaign arm will back Murkowski despite Trump's criticism
WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters Monday that the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the official Senate GOP campaign arm, will back Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-AK, for reelection in 2022 despite former President Donald Trump's push for the party to oppose those who voted against him during his second impeachment.
McConnell told the Congressional press pool in brief comments that the NRSC will "absolutely" back Murkowski's reelection and that he's not concerned Trump's opposition could hurt her ability to win another term. As the Senate GOP leader, McConnell plays a large role in setting the party's political strategy.
The NRSC's long-standing policy has been to support incumbents. But Trump has regularly threatened members of his party that he felt were not loyal enough to him, a dynamic that doesn't appear to have changed now that he's out of the White House.
During a Sunday speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee's annual event in Florida, Trump criticized Republicans who are "attacking me, and more importantly the voters of our movement," before
"The Democrats don't have grand-standers like Mitt Romney, Little Ben Sasse, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Toomey," Trump said of Republican senators who voted for his conviction.
It's far from the first time Trump and Alaska's senior senator have locked horns. She called on him to resign in the wake of the attack on the Capitol earlier this year, questioning whether she wanted to continue in the Republican Party if it's "become nothing more than the party of Trump."
And last June, she applauded former Defense Secretary James Mattis' criticism of Trump, prompting the then-president to tweet that he would endorse any candidate with a "pulse" to run against her.
Murkowski has deep roots in Alaska politics. She has served in the Senate since 2002, winning three elections to the seat after being appointed that year to fill her father's term when he left to serve as governor.
She also has experience weathering a divided party — after losing the Republican primary in 2010, she won a write-in campaign to secure reelection.
Plus, Murkowski is running in a non-traditional style of primary next year, a ranked-choice vote where all candidates will be on the same ballot, regardless of party, and the top-four candidates move on to a general election.
Elizabeth Warren and two House Democrats introduce wealth tax bill
WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., rolled out a wealth tax bill on Monday with two House Democrats, aimed at raising trillions of dollars to help finance investments in infrastructure, clean energy and other Democratic priorities.
The bill would impose an annual 2 percent tax on households with a net worth above $50 million, and an additional 1 percent annual tax on assets above $1 billion.
Warren, who was recently added to the Senate Finance Committee, unveiled her legislation with Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the leader of the Progressive Caucus, and Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
"It is time for a wealth tax in America," Warren told reporters on Monday. "A two cent wealth tax would just help level the playing field a little bit, and create the kind of revenue that would let us build back better, as Joe Biden says."
The Massachusetts senator made the wealth tax a primary issue in her 2020 presidential campaign.
Warren said she has spoken to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., about the legislation but wouldn't say if they support her bill.
"You should ask them," she said. "I don't want to speak for them."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki demurred Monday when asked if President Joe Biden favored a wealth tax. Psaki said his priority now is Covid-19 relief and that he has "a lot of respect for Sen. Warren" but will consider how best to tax the wealthy at a later time.
Cruz received a special ‘welcome back’ message in Senate gym
Sen. Ted Cruz’s colleagues had a little fun at the Texas Republican’s expense when he returned to Washington this week following his infamous trip to Cancun.
When senators arrived at the Senate gym on Wednesday morning, they found that one of them had taped memes on the lockers welcoming Cruz home and showing him in the short-sleeve polo shirt, jeans and Texas-flag mask that he had at the airport, according to two people familiar with the prank. “Bienvenido de Nuevo, Ted!” was the “welcome back” message typed at the top of the color printouts, one of which was viewed by NBC News.
The rendering featured a manipulated photo of Cruz from his well-documented trip to Mexico, dragging his luggage across an arctic landscape while holding a tropical cocktail garnished with a slice of fruit in his other hand. He is shown walking toward an image of a masked Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. with his arms crossed and wearing striped, knitted gloves — a pose famously captured during January’s inauguration.
The memes were taken down sometime Wednesday, according to the people familiar with them.
It's unclear whether Cruz saw the memes and a spokesperson for the senator did not respond to a request for comment.
The Senate gym is only used by current and former senators. The Senate Rules Committee hadn’t received a complaint about the prank, according to a committee aide.
Cruz has been widely mocked on social media — and criticized in his home state — for hopping on a plane last week to Cancun for a family trip while millions of Texans were without water and power in frigid temperatures. He returned to Texas after the controversy erupted and said the trip was a “mistake.”
Mike Memoli contributed to this report.
Meet the Republican senator who's voted against every Biden nominee so far
WASHINGTON — Just one Republican senator has voted against each of President Biden's Cabinet nominees so far: Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley.
And Hawley's "nay" voting record on each of the 10 nominees who have had a vote is particularly visible given how bipartisan the majority of the confirmations have been.
Hawley was just one of:
- Two senators who voted against Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's confirmation
- Seven senators who voted against Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
- Seven senators who voted against VA Secretary Denis McDonough
- 10 senators who voted against the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines
- 13 senators who voted against Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg
- 15 senators who voted against Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen
Biden's four other confirmed Cabinet members (Secretary of State Antony Blinken, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm) were all confirmed with closer margins.
Hawley may be one of many Republicans eyeing a potential 2024 presidential bid. He told NBC News' Frank Thorp and Garrett Haake that he didn't have a strategy of opposition.
"I just I hope that he will nominate folks and pursue policies that will be good for working Americans and good for the middle of the country," Hawley said. "So, that's my only test."
Hawley said he was undecided on how he'd vote on Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland.
New York Democratic Senator and former presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand boasted of having “the best voting record against Trump nominees of anyone else running for president” on the trail in 2019. She voted against 20 of 22 nominations for former President Trump's original Cabinet. She casted the only "no" vote against former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Five other Democratic senators voted against at least 80 percent of Trump’s original Cabinet nominees, and four of those senators also sought the Democratic presidential nomination: Sens., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, Cory Booker, D-N.J., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and now-Vice President Kamala Harris.
Several of Biden's Cabinet nominees are still awaiting a vote:
- Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland
- HHS nominee Xavier Becerra
- Interior nominee Deb Haaland
- Education nominee Miguel Cardona
- Commerce nominee Gina Raimondo
- Labor nominee Marty Walsh
- HUD nominee Marcia Fudge
- EPA nominee Michael Regan
- SBA nominee Isabel Guzman
- U.S. Trade Representative nominee Katherine Tai
And of course embattled OMB Director nominee Neera Tanden.
Virginia Republicans decide on drive-up convention to pick 2021 statewide nominees
WASHINGTON — The Republican Party of Virginia on Tuesday night approved a plan to nominate its gubernatorial candidate by a convention – instead of a primary – in what’s shaping up to be the marquee general-election race of 2021,
The convention will take place on May 8 at conservative Liberty University, whereby convention delegates will drive up and cast their pick for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general under ranked-choice voting.
By contrast, Democrats will be selecting their nominee at the ballot box, through a statewide primary contest on June 8.
This drive-up GOP convention at Liberty University is the same process that took down then-incumbent Congressman Denver Riggleman, R-Va., who lost the GOP nomination last year to conservative Bob Good; Good ended up winning the general election and now represents Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.
But this time around, the conventional wisdom is that this convention process is a bad outcome for the most controversial GOP candidate in the field: state Sen. Amanda Chase.
Chase denounced the process after its approval, arguing relying on a process that relies on people driving from all over the state to Lynchburg will disenfranchises voters.
“I would like the VA GOP State Central Committee to answer a question. 1,962,430 voters voted for President Trump in Virginia. How are you going to accommodate these people who will want to cast a vote for our statewide candidates?” she tweeted.
The assumption in this multi-candidate GOP field — which not only includes Chase, but also House Delegate Kirk Cox, businessman Pete Snyder and former Carlyle Group executive Glenn Youngkim — is that the percentage of the field a candidate needs to win could be as low as 25 or 30 percent. That could leave the door open for someone like Chase if the rest of the field splits the vote.
But it will likely be more difficult for Chase to win a process where she’ll need more than 50 percent, even at a convention at Liberty University, where the former university president has been a stalwart backer of former President Donald Trump and has hired a handful of Trump allies in recent months.
But the convention process also has a downside for Republicans trying to win back the governor’s mansion: It encourages less participation. And since Virginia is an open-primary state – where primary voters can request either a Democratic or Republican ballot – the only option that primary voters will have on June 8 is on the Democratic side.
Perdue opts out of 2022 Senate race after runoff loss
WASHINGTON — Former Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., announced Tuesday he will not join the field for the 2022 Senate race in the state — a surprising move coming a week after he publicly signaled he was considering a run.
Perdue told supporters in an email that he and his wife, Bonnie, "have decided that we will not enter the race for the United States Senate in Georgia in 2022." He called the decision "personal," not "political," and said he plans to "do everything" to help the eventual Republican nominee defeat Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., in the fall.
There were two runoff elections for Georgia's Senate seats in January because Georgia election law mandates runoffs between the top-two vote-getters if no candidate wins a majority of the vote on Election Day. Perdue lost his runoff to now-Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., by just over 1 percentage point in January.
That race was for a full term, so Ossoff is not on the ballot in 2022. But Warnock, who defeated then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., by 2 percentage points, is on the ballot, because his race was a special election to fill the remainder of the term of former Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who retired in 2019.
Perdue declared in his statement that the 2020 election cycle proved that "Georgia is not a blue state" and "the more Georgians that vote, the better Republicans do."
"These two current liberal US Senators do not represent the values of a majority of Georgians," he said.
Perdue had been publicly weighing a 2022 bid, filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to kickstart a potential candidacy and tweeting last week to confirm he was considering another campaign.
While Perdue is passing on a bid this cycle, Loeffler continues to float a comeback bid against Warnock. She told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she's starting a group to mobilize Republican voters in Georgia and that a possible Senate bid is "certainly on the table."
Manchin undecided on supporting Deb Haaland for Interior
WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is undecided on whether he'll support Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland, Manchin's spokesperson Sam Runyon told NBC News.
Haaland, a Democratic congresswoman representing New Mexico, would be the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency and will testify before Manchin's committee on Tuesday. Haaland has been a fierce public lands defender, and has been critical of fossil fuel energy development on those lands.
Manchin “hasn’t made a decision on Haaland yet. He’s looking forward to her hearing tomorrow,” Runyon said.
Manchin's support will be critical for Haaland's nomination, as Democrats can't afford to lose any one of their members' votes before needing Republican Senators to confirm a Cabinet nominee. Manchin flexed his political muscle in the nomination process when he announced he wouldn't support Neera Tanden to be Office of Management and Budget director, likely sinking her nomination.
When Haaland testifies on Tuesday, in addition to Manchin, she will also face a committee stacked with western-state Republicans who strongly support energy development. At least two Committee members, Sens. John Barasso, R-Wyo., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., have expressed reservations about Haaland.
After Barrasso spoke with Haaland on the phone, Barrasso said, "energy development on our nation’s public lands is essential to Wyoming’s economy and America’s global energy dominance. The United States is a world energy powerhouse. We need to act like one.”
And Daines called Haaland “radical” and pointed to her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and her support of the Green New Deal as likely reasons to oppose her. Daines also threatened to try and block her confirmation.
Senate Parliamentarian to decide if $15 minimum wage can be in Covid-19 relief
WASHINGTON — The Senate Parliamentarian, who officially advises the Senate on Senate rules, could determine as early as Tuesday if a minimum wage hike could be included in the Covid-19 bill, according to a senior Democratic aide.
The decision by the parliamentarian could come before the House of Representatives completes its work on the $1.9 trillion plan which currently includes an incremental increase to the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next four years.
If the parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, rules that a minimum wage measure can be included in the budget package, Democrats would just need 50 votes with Vice President Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chair of the Budget Committee has repeatedly expressed optimism that the minimum wage would satisfy the budgetary requirements for inclusion.
If she rules that it is acceptable, Democrats will still have to work to ensure all 50 Democrats are on board. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have come out against raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
If MacDonough rules that the minimum wage hike isn't germane to the Covid-19 package, Democrats will need to find a new way to get this priority through an evenly-split Senate. Democrats are aiming to pass the Covid-19 relief bill through budget reconciliation to avoid a 60-vote threshold in the Senate. But that would require all 50 Senate Democrats voting together.
MacDonough will need to determine if a federal minimum wage hike will meet the specific parameters of a budget reconciliation, including if the wage hike has to have significant budgetary impact.
Update: A meeting with the Senate parliamentarian is now slated for Wednesday, two Democratic aides tell NBC News.
This meeting will consist of Republican and Democratic staff who will present their cases to the parliamentarian as to why the minimum wage should or should not be allowed to be included in the Covid-19 budget reconciliation bill.
A decision could come as early as Wednesday night, one of the aides said.
Town Hall Project merges with Indivisible as progressive groups chart path after Trump presidency
The Town Hall Project, a progressive group that sprung up after the 2016 election to track members of Congress’ public forums, is folding into Indivisible, one of the prominent so-called “resistance” groups that emerged to oppose former President Donald Trump’s agenda.
The Town Hall Project filled a simple, but valuable niche of crowdsourcing and publicizing information on lawmakers' local town halls so constituents — and journalists — could attend to ask questions and push lawmakers in the interest of transparency and accountability.
That mission was upended by the pandemic, but the group has continued to track virtual town halls and host their own, while also starting an offshoot to aggregate local mutual aid groups.
The merger, which includes the group's town hall database and a small handful of staff, comes at an inflection point for the liberal activism that flourished in opposition to Trump, now that Democrats control Washington.
“The moment is obviously different, not just because of who’s in the White House and controlling Congress, but the work is different. It was pretty straightforward in 2017,” said Nathan Williams, the founder of the Town Hall Project. “Now we're at a moment where there is a really broad assault on democratic institutions to try to really remove the possibility of accountability and representative democracy.”
Indivisible has made what they call "democracy reform" — voting rights, anti-gerrymandering efforts, filibuster reform and more — their new raison d'etre, especially after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which they say fits well with the Town Hall Project.
“The Town Hall Project's work of focusing on how constituents can directly put pressure on their elected representatives are directly aligned with what we’re trying to do,” said Ezra Levin, an Indivisible co-founder. "(Some lawmakers) don't really care about what national progressives say, they don't care about what the national media really says, but they do care what their constituents say.”
Ivanka Trump won't run against Rubio in 2022 Senate race
WASHINGTON — Ivanka Trump, former President Donald Trump's eldest daughter, called Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio a few weeks ago to offer her support for Rubio’s re-election, multiple aides confirm to NBC News.
Trump informed Rubio that she was behind his campaign and will not run for Florida's Senate seat in 2022, which would have pit her against Rubio in a GOP primary. The two had a “great talk,” an aide for Senator Rubio adds.
A person close to Ivanka Trump confirmed the conversation and told NBC News that Ms. Trump was never considering a Senate run in Florida.
In a statement provided to NBC News, Trump said that Rubio is a “good personal friend and I know he will continue to drive meaningful progress on issues we both care deeply about.”
There was also discussion on the call of holding a joint event to highlight Rubio and Ivanka Trump’s push to expand the Child Tax Credit, a Rubio spokesperson added.
The New York Times first reported the news.
Asked about the potential for Ivanka Trump to enter the race, here’s what Sen. Rubio told Fox News' Chris Wallace on Jan. 24th:
“When you decide to run for re- election in a state like Florida, you have to be prepared for its competitive race. You run it like a competitive race. So that's what I'm preparing to run, a very competitive race against the tough opponent.”
“I like Ivanka. We've worked very well together on issues," Rubio added. "Look, anybody can decide to run if they want to. I mean I'm not entitled to anything and so forth. I've got to earn my way forward.”
Trump previously worked as an executive at the Trump Organization, her father's business, before joining him in the White House as a senior adviser.
Job guarantee resolution joins a growing list of progressive proposals
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., is introducing a resolution Thursday calling for a federal job guarantee, seeking to actualize an idea from Franklin Delano Roosevelt 77 years after it was proposed.
The 16-page resolution states that "it is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Federal job guarantee," in order to "finally eliminate the moral and economic scourge of involuntary unemployment."
The idea is the latest in a flurry of proposals from the new Democratic-led Congress that paints a portrait of a party embracing its more economically liberal roots and throwing caution to the wind after decades of moderating its platform in response to a series of defeats in the 1980s.
Biden to mark anniversary of initial coronavirus shutdowns next month
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden plans to mark the one-year anniversary of the country’s initial coronavirus shutdown by addressing Americans next month, according to two White House officials.
The occasion will allow the president to reflect on the difficulties the country has endured since March 11, 2020, the day that the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic, the NBA canceled its season and Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress the Covid-19 outbreak in the U.S. — then at roughly 1,000 cases — would get worse, officials said.
While Biden intends to give a significant nod to the sacrifices Americans have made, he also would outline how he sees the path forward, officials said.
“He’ll acknowledge how far we’ve come,” one White House official said. Officials said plans are for him to do so on March 11 or close to that date.
As of Wednesday the number of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. was nearing 28 million and the number of deaths caused by the pandemic is more than 490,000. Some 55 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine also have been administered in the U.S., with Biden promising this week that all Americans eligible to receive it should be able to do so by the end of July.
White House officials said they are discussing specifically what Biden might do to mark the one-year anniversary of shutting down the country, including whether it’s simply a speech or a broader event and if it’s held in Washington our elsewhere in the country.
Biden, a month into his presidency, is making his first official travel outside of Washington this week with a trip to Wisconsin on Tuesday and one to Michigan planned for Thursday.
During a CNN town hall in Milwaukee Tuesday night, he telegraphed his vision for when life may return to some semblance of normal for the country.
“By next Christmas I think we'll be in a very different circumstance, God willing, than we are today,” Biden said. “A year from now I think that there will be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, have to wear a mask, but we don't know. So I don't want to over promise anything here."
A new 'Medicare X' bill looks like Biden's public option plan
WASHINGTON — Teeing up what’s likely to be a major Democratic policy priority this year, two Democratic senators have unveiled the latest edition of their bill to create a government-run health plan — popularly known as a public option — to compete with private insurance and put pressure on health care providers to lower prices.
Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. and Tim Kaine, D-Va. released their new “Medicare X” bill on Wednesday, which would create a public option plan to be sold alongside private plans on the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces. Health care providers who accept Medicare or Medicaid plans would also have to accept “Medicare X."
While versions of this bill have been introduced before, the senators emphasized that their latest proposal tracks closely to what President Biden promised during his 2020 campaign.
“We think what we’re introducing is the closest match to the Biden campaign,” Kaine said in a Zoom call with reporters.
The senators also said they crafted their plan to be passed through budget reconciliation — meaning they only need to get a simple majority of senators to approve the proposal (or all 50 Democratic senators and Vice President Kamala Harris' vote).
And in addition to consulting with the White House, Kaine and Bennet said they spoke with key Senate votes like Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.. and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
“If it’s a blend of this proposal and others, we think that that’s great,” Kaine said. “We’re not going to mourn another bill passing.”
There's wide Democratic support for a public option but there’s also a wide range of proposals, some of which are functionally close to single-payer Medicare for All and others that would fill more narrow gaps in the current system.
Bennet and Kaine's bill falls in the latter category. It would initially be available only in places with few private insurance options, then gradually open up to everyone on the ACA exchanges. Medicare X would reimburse health care providers at up to 150 percent of Medicare rates depending on local costs.
Biden also ran on a relatively narrow, if more vaguely defined, public option proposal. Kaine and Bennet noted that their bill reflects Biden's 2020 policy papers by capping premiums at 8.5 percent of income. It would also cover people whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to qualify for subsidized insurance. In line with Biden’s campaign promises, the new Medicare X plans would also come with no-cost primary care services.
Biden’s 8.5 percent income cap on ACA plans is included in his Covid-19 bill being debated in the House, but it would last for only two years.
While a public option has broad support within the party, this proposal is likely to face pushback from progressives who want a public option that more aggressively supplants private plans.
“These issues were litigated fiercely in the last presidential campaign in both the primary and the general election and the place where Biden started the race and ended up is essentially where Tim and I are,” Bennet said.
Milwaukee Bucks vice president announces run for Senate
WASHINGTON — The senior vice president for the Milwaukee Bucks, Alex Lasry, announced his Wisconsin Senate run on Wednesday.
Lasry, who served as an aide to former President Barack Obama before joining the Bucks, said he is entering the Democratic primary to bring a "new perspective" to Washington.
"We've lived through three systemic shocks to the system over the last 20 years: 9/11, the Great Recession and now this pandemic, and we still haven't fixed things," Lasry said in his announcement video.
The 2022 Senate race in Wisconsin is still wide open. Incumbent GOP Sen. Ron Johnson hasn't said whether or not he'll run for a third term. And the state's Democratic Treasurer, Sarah Godlewski, has said she's considering a run.
But grassroots Democratic groups are already mobilizing. On Tuesday, a progressive labor group launched a $1 million ad buy against Johnson. It's the first step for Wisconsin Democrats to try and capitalize on President Biden's narrow victory in the state in 2020.
In his announcement, Lasry said he wants companies to "earn" tax cuts by increasing their manufacturing in America and paying their workers $20 an hour, and create a "worker's bill of rights."
Lasry served as chair of the Bid Committee and Finance Chair for the Democratic Convention's Host Committee, and he will take a leave of absence from the Bucks for the duration of the campaign.
"Through my work with the Milwaukee Bucks, I have shown that progressive values are good for business. Making sure that we are paying people family sustaining wages, providing workers with good union jobs, and investing in projects that respect our communities and our environment should be the new model for business across our state,” Lasry said in a press release.
Perdue takes first step toward possible bid against Warnock
WASHINGTON — Former Sen. David Perdue, D-Ga., filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission Monday night that moves him closer toward a possible challenge to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Perdue lost his bid in last month's runoff against now-Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff. But while that race was for a full six-year term (as Perdue's term expired in 2020), Warnock is up for re-election in 2022 because his 2020 election was for the right to fill the final two years of the seat vacated by former Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
So with the Warnock seat on the ballot in 2022, Perdue took a first big step toward a bid against him by filing a statement of candidacy with the FEC.
But while the move means he's formally a candidate in the race, it's not an explicit announcement of his intentions. That's because candidates considering running for office have to file this paperwork once they hit certain thresholds (typically fundraising) in order to stay on the right side of campaign finance law. So candidates who file with the FEC don't always follow through with an actual campaign, although they typically do end up running.
Perdue described the filing as a "necessary legal step that will allow me to continue to keep all options open," adding that he's considering running again.
It's unclear whether Perdue would face a primary challenge as Republicans look to take advantage of typically-favorable midterm headwinds to win back the Senate seat. But if Perdue does decide to run, he'll start with a nice nest-egg, as he ended his 2020 campaign with $5.7 million left in the bank, which he can use on a subsequent bid for federal office.
Wisconsin labor group targets Johnson on Covid-19 relief votes
WASHINGTON — Ahead of President Biden’s visit to Milwaukee on Tuesday, a Wisconsin labor group is on the airwaves with a $1 million ad buy targeting Republican Sen. Ron Johnson over his votes against Covid-19 relief.
The spots, as well as a full page newspaper ad in Johnson’s hometown paper in Oshkosh, feature personal stories of Wisconsinites struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. Johnson voted against the December omnibus package that included additional Covid-19 relief, and has blocked votes for direct stimulus checks from coming to the floor.
The ads mark a grassroots push for Biden's agenda. This week the House is moving Biden's Covid-19 relief package through committees and will likely vote on the bill by the end of February.
But the labor group's mobilization is an early look into how Democrats plan to use Covid-19 relief in the Wisconsin 2022 Senate contest.
Johnson, the GOP incumbent, has not yet signaled if he will run again or not, but the ads showcase how votes on Covid-19 relief could be weaponized politically in coming races.
Pennsylvania Democrat Lamb says he'll 'look' at running for Senate
WASHINGTON — Rep. Conor Lamb, the Pennsylvania Democrat who won a pivotal special election in 2018 in his Pittsburgh-area district, told MSNBC's "Way Too Early" that he is considering whether to run for Senate to replace retiring Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey.
"I will look at it, I think. For me, it's about the work. I really feel lucky to get to serve in Washington D.C. and try to have an impact on some legislation," he said.
"I'll spend some time trying to figure out: Where can I do that most effectively? Where can I help people?"
Lamb said he has not spoken to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., about any potential bid. And while many House members looking for the exit typically argue that they can have more influence in the Senate, Lamb pointed to the work Congress is doing on passing laws like the latest round of pandemic relief to say: "We're doing a lot in the House."
The race to replace Toomey could be a crowded one, with a laundry list of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle weighing bids.
On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announced a bid last week, and a handful of other prominent members of Congress and state lawmakers are seen to be considering a bid. And the long list of possible Republican contenders include former Rep. Ryan Costello, who has acknowledged he's considering a bid, as well as a host of other politicians.
Hogan: I 'probably' would have voted to convict Trump in impeachment trial
WASHINGTON — Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan would "probably" have joined the seven Republicans and 50 Democrats in the Senate to vote to convict former President Donald Trump of inciting last month's attack on the Capitol had he been a member of the Senate during this week's impeachment trial.
Hogan told "Meet the Press" Sunday that he was "proud" of Republicans who did so despite pressure from their base.
"I probably would have voted with some of my colleagues that were on the losing side," he said.
"I was very proud of some of the folks who stood up and did the right thing. It's not always easy. In fact, it's sometimes really hard to go against your base and your colleagues, to do what you think is right for the country."
Hogan also pointed to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's comments after the vote, arguing that while "he didn't vote to impeach, his words were pretty strong."
"I think time will tell, you know, how that impacts Donald Trump and how it impacts the Republican Party," said Hogan.
"It's going to go far beyond just that vote yesterday in the Senate. There's going to be potentially courts of law and the court of public opinion, and we're going to decide how history remembers this day and what people did and said."
Pompeo State Department spent $10k on “Madison Dinner” pens shipped from China
WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department spent more than $10,000 on customized pens ordered from China to dole out as gifts for guests for then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's dinner guests, new documents show, while Pompeo was publicly pushing an aggressive stance toward Beijing.
In May, NBC News revealed that Pompeo had been hosting a series of elite, private dinners funded by the taxpayer at the State Department for Republican leaders, billionaire CEOs, celebrities and even Supreme Court justices. State Department officials had raised concerns internally that Pompeo was using federal resources to build a powerful rolodex for his own political future.
Now, government documents obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and released Thursday show that the State Department bought 400 customized pens for Pompeo to give to his guests.
At about $26 each, each pen was embossed with the Madison Diner logo.The emails show State Department officials engaged in lengthy conversations with a Florida-based vendor for pens embossed in China and shipped from there to Chicago before being routed to Washington, the documents show.
During his tenure helming State, Pompeo repeatedly warned that a menacing Beijing was threatening the U.S. and its economy.
A representative for Pompeo did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.
Republicans are eying Pompeo, a staunch Trump ally, as a likely contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. Pompeo is one of the only high-ranking Trump officials to serve for all four years in Trump’s administration without ever publicly breaking with the president, potentially positioning him as an attractive successor to the Trump brand and his political base.
Emails turned over to NBC News in response to a separate Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the news organization filed against the State Department revealed Pompeo’s wife, Susan Pompeo, was heavily involved in directing State Department employees on carrying out the Madison Dinners.
Former Ohio treasurer jumps into Senate race amid jockeying for Portman seat
WASHINGTON — With a full-throated endorsement of former President Donald Trump's agenda and an attack on career politicians on both sides of the aisle, former Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel announced Wednesday that he is running for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Sen Rob Portman, R-Ohio in 2022.
Mandel tweeted that he's jumping into the race in the midst of the ongoing impeachment largely to come to the defense of the former president.
"Watching this sham impeachment has made my blood boil and motivated me to run. I’m going to Washington to fight for President Trump’s America First Agenda," Mandel tweeted.
"In Washington, I will pulverize the Uniparty — that cabal of Democrats and Republicans who sound the same and stand for nothing. My candidacy is about standing up for working people, economic freedom and individual liberty. We must stop the far left’s assault on American values."
Mandel served two tours in Iraq as a Marine, and has spent much of his post-Marine professional life in politics. After a stint as a city councilman, he won a seat in the state House in 2006 when he was just 29 years old. In 2010, he won the state treasurer post, serving two terms in the position.
The Republican is no stranger to a Senate bid — he was the GOP's nominee who ultimately lost to Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in 2012. He ran again against Brown in 2018, but dropped out citing his then-wife's illness.
Mandel's move is the latest in a busy few weeks for Ohio Senate hopefuls. A handful of big-name Republicans — Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Rep. Jim Jordan and Attorney Gen. Dave Yost — all recently announced they were not running. Former Rep. Jim Renacci, Rep. Steve Stivers, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and former state GOP chair Jane Timken are among those discussed as other potential candidates.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan, former state health department head Amy Acton, Rep. Joyce Beatty and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley are among those openly considering bids.
Impeachment trial carries 2022 campaign considerations for some
WASHINGTON — While politics in general will loom large over former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Republican senators up for re-election in 2022 may have the most at stake, at least in the near future.
Twenty Republicans senators’ terms expire after the 2022 cycle. Four of them (Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Patrick Toomey, R-Penn.) have announced they will not run again, relieving at least some pressure from them about how their electorates might react to their decision.
While campaign politics won’t be the only question on the minds of Republican senators, the political pressure will be clear. Depending on their situations, some running for re-election will face more potential backlash from their own party, while others may be looking toward a general election.
Four Republican senators up in 2022 voted that the impeachment trial was constitutional: Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Mitt Romney, R-Utah. Toomey joined them in that vote. That leaves 15 who voted that the inquiry shouldn't take place.
One senator up for re-election in 2022, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., voted to object to the Electoral College count in several states on Jan. 6.
Murkowski was one of the few Republican senators who supported the House's impeachment, saying that “Trump’s words incited violence.”
While a vote for impeachment could anger Republican voters at home (Trump himself has floated supporting a primary against Murkowski), she’s proven to be politically durable in a state with an independent streak.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., expressed regret for following the former president’s lead on Jan. 6 by initially objecting to the 2020 election results. And while he hasn’t said how he’ll vote in the Senate trial, he called the former president’s election claims “inflammatory.”
Most red-state Republicans aren't expected to vote to convict — their pvoters still overwhelmingly support the president and voting against him could spark a primary challenge.
But a few may be more concerned about their general elections. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., is a strong supporter of Trump. But Biden won Wisconsin by less than a point in the 2020 election, and statewide elections there are typically decided by thin margins.
And in Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio — who is running for re-election in a state Trump carried by 3 points but also one where Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, has been rumored to be considering a GOP primary challenge — has said it’s “arrogant” to impeach the former president so he can’t seek public office again.
Republican Claudia Tenney to return to Congress after election finally certified
WASHINGTON — Former Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., has won her seat back in Congress after a lengthy vote count that stretched on for months and into courtrooms.
The New York State Board of Elections certified New York's 22nd Congressional District election by a unanimous vote on Monday,giving Tenney a victory over Democratic incumbent Rep. Anthony Brindisi. Shortly after, Brindisi conceded in a statement.
The results end the drawn-out contest in an election that saw significant delays in counting the votes and then court fights.
Tenney previously served one term in the House, losing to Brindisi in the 2018 midterms before winning again.
The race is the final undecided race of the 2020 cycle, but the second-to-last to be fully adjudicated. While the House is provisionally seating Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, her Democratic opponent, Rita Hart, has officially contested the results with the House and is asking for the body to step in and recount ballots.
High profile exit boosts Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Arkansas gubernatorial bid and cements Trump’s influence on GOP
WASHINGTON — A decade before becoming Arkansas’ lieutenant governor, Tim Griffin served as the Republican Party’s research director during George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.
After that, Griffin worked in the Bush White House under Karl Rove, was appointed by Bush as an interim U.S. attorney and then ran for Congress and won – all impressive credentials for any emerging Republican politician, particularly one looking at higher office.
But with his announcement Monday that he was ending his gubernatorial bid in Arkansas and running for attorney general instead, it more than further cleared the field for GOP gubernatorial frontrunner (and former Trump White House Press Secretary) Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
It showed how today’s Republican Party continues to be remade in Trump’s image, even three months after the former president’s defeat and as he stands trial for an unprecedented second presidential impeachment.
That someone with Griffin’s resume – and ties to the last GOP president before Trump – has less political currency than Trump’s former press secretary underscores how loyalty to Trump beats everything else in today’s Republican Party.
To be sure, Huckabee Sanders has a political identity outside of Trump. She’s the daughter of the state’s former governor, Mike Huckabee, who worked at high levels on her father’s past presidential campaigns.
And the field isn't completely clear for her, either — Arkansas' current attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, is also running for governor.
But Huckabee Sanders' most prominent, and recent, job was as Trump's White House press secretary, with Trump endorsing her last month.
And in her statement welcoming Huckabee Sanders to the race last month, Rutledge in part celebrated her own support for the Trump agenda, a reminder of his standing in the party, even as she argued that the race "is about Arkansas's future and who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric."
Loyalty to Trump trumping experience among GOP primary voters isn’t anything new.
In the 2018 cycle, then Rep. Ron DeSantis beat Adam Putnam in Florida’s GOP gubernatorial primary due in large part because DeSantis was seen as a more loyal Trump ally. Putnam had spent a decade in the House (including a stint in leadership) and two terms as the state's agriculture commissioner before his 45th birthday, a resume that had him seen as one of the state GOP's rising stars.
In 2020, former college football coach Tommy Tuberville defeated Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the runoff for Alabama senator – because Trump had grown dissatisfied with his former Cabinet official. Tuberville had never held a job in politics, while Sessions sat in that Senate seat for two decades.
And now in 2021, weeks after he left office, loyalty and service to Trump — like Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ work for the former president — trumps everything else.
In first interview since Senate announcement, John Fetterman promises to be 'sedition-free'
WASHINGTON — Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announced his run for Senate on Monday morning. Fetterman, a Democrat, is running for the seat of retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn.
In his first TV interview since announcing his candidacy, Fetterman echoed language that gained him national attention in the wake of the 2020 election: attacking former President Trump's false claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania and responding to the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
"I would promise to the people of Pennsylvania, I plan to be 100 percent sedition-free if I'm elected," Fetterman said on MSNBC. "There's already too many sedition-curious members of the United States Senate and I would never be one."
During his Monday interview, Fetterman said he supported ending the Senate filibuster, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and legalizing marijuana.
"In order to get those kind of important things passed, whether it's climate change or things like that, you need to get rid of the filibuster," Fetterman said. "This idea that some random senator from a state with 600,000 people can holdup the democratic will and the sense of urgency that these policies are coming from — I don't think that's very democratic at its core."
Fetterman also said that he agreed with Biden's decision to end construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline, but supported maintaining the balance between "transitioning away from fossil fuels, but also safeguarding and holding the union way of life sacred."
"We had a president who was actively tearing up the Paris Accords and other agreements, and throwing environmental concerns away. And now you have a president who's building that back and making decisive actions like canceling the Keystone Pipeline, which some people don't support, and I think he made the right call," Fetterman said.