It was supposed to be a unifying weekend for a Republican Party at war with itself over former President Donald Trump’s divisive leadership. Trump veered sharply from prepared remarks Saturday night and instead slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as a “stone-cold loser” and mocked McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who was Trump’s transportation secretary. Trump also said he was “disappointed” in his vice president, Mike Pence, and used a profanity in assessing McConnell, according to multiple people in attendance who were not authorized to publicly discuss what was said in a private session.
John Boehner gives an extraordinary rebuke of the GOP, an excoriation without precedent in modern times, leveled by one of the party's most senior figures.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday declared an “enduring and ironclad” American commitment to Israel, reinforcing support at a tense time in Israeli politics and amid questions about the Biden administration's efforts to revive nuclear negotiations with Israel's archenemy, Iran. Austin's first talks in Israel since he became Pentagon chief in January come as the United States seeks to leverage Middle East diplomatic progress made by the Trump administration, which brokered a deal normalizing relations between Israel and several Arab states.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., flashed a warning sign for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure ambitions this week, renewing his pleas for fellow Democrats not to ram through a large spending bill without first working to compromise with Republicans who have panned the president’s plans. In a divided Washington, the chances that such a compromise will materialize are slim — at least for a sprawling spending plan of up to $4 trillion, as Manchin, a pivotal swing vote in the Senate, and administration officials favor. Even so, Manchin’s calls for bipartisanship were less an insurmountable obstacle for Democrats than a road map for Biden if he wants his party’s tiny congressional majorities to deliver him another economic policy victory. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times It involves reaching out to Republicans to explore possible areas of compromise while laying the groundwork to steer around them if no such deal materializes. Biden has already begun the outreach to Republicans, while senior Democrats in Congress are exploring a budget maneuver that would allow the infrastructure bill to pass quickly with only Democratic votes. Both are aimed at increasing the pressure on Republicans to compromise — and, if they will not, giving Manchin and other moderate Democrats whose backing Biden needs the political cover to accept an all-Democratic plan. “I’m going to bring Republicans to the White House,” Biden said Wednesday. “I invite them to come. We’ll have good-faith negotiations. And any Republican who wants to get this done, I invite.” A moment later, he urged Republicans to “listen to your constituents,” arguing that voters across America back infrastructure spending on the scale Biden envisions — not the scaled-back versions many Republicans have floated. The comments reflected a huge caveat in Biden’s willingness to negotiate that Republicans say could scuttle any deal: The president wants to be the one to set the terms of how large the problems are, and of whether the proposed solutions are sufficient. Behind the scenes, his team is working to soften the ground for bipartisan work. Administration officials are considering carving off some parts of Biden’s economic agenda into smaller pieces that could attract 10 or more Republican votes each, starting with a bill focused on supply chains and competition with China that the Senate is set to take up next week. They have discussed postponing Biden’s proposed tax increases on corporations, which Republican oppose, if doing so would get Republicans on board with a spending bill. And they have considered financing the spending through any means acceptable to a critical mass of Republicans, including borrowing, as long as they do not raise taxes on people earning less than $400,000 a year. The negotiations appear, at first glance, like a slower-moving repeat of the cross-party dance that produced a nearly $1.9 trillion economic aid package this year. Biden started with a large proposal. Republicans countered with one a third its size. White House officials wrote them off as unserious, Senate Democrats stuck with the president, and the bill passed with every Republican voting in opposition. This version will take longer, in part because Manchin and other moderate Democrats want it that way. In interviews and, this week, a prominent op-ed piece, Manchin, who could be the 50th vote Democrats need to pass a bill through the budget reconciliation process, has blared his message: First, try bipartisanship. “Senate Democrats must avoid the temptation to abandon our Republican colleagues on important national issues,” Manchin wrote in the Washington Post op-ed Thursday. “Republicans, however, have a responsibility to stop saying no, and participate in finding real compromise with Democrats.” Privately, many Democrats and Republicans say there is little chance that lawmakers could produce a bill as ambitious as Manchin wants while also attracting at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate. Liberals and conservatives are trillions of dollars apart in their appetites for how much to spend and what to spend it on — and nowhere near one another on how or whether to pay for any of it. Some Republicans are pushing for a bill that is a third the size of Biden’s initial infrastructure plan, an echo of their position in the debate on the stimulus bill, while rejecting Biden’s proposed tax increases on corporations. At the same time, progressive Democrats are clamoring for the White House to go bigger, and would be unlikely to support a whittled-down plan tailored to win Republican backing. Congressional Democrats say Republicans’ resistance to spending on the order Biden — and even Manchin — has called for, coupled with widespread opposition to most tax increases, leaves little chance of common ground. “They don’t want to pay for anything,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. “I think the faster everyone recognizes that Republicans are not going to support these efforts, the better. But I am OK with people trying for a while, as long as it doesn’t run the clock out.” Republican senators, singed by their experience on the pandemic aid bill, responded to Biden’s gestures to bipartisanship by issuing a chilly statement saying that the last time he made a public plea to work together, “the administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy.” In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., pushed the administration to negotiate an infrastructure measure that would represent about 30% of the $2.25 trillion being proposed, before turning to budget reconciliation for any additional spending increases. “My advice to the White House has been, take that bipartisan win, do this in a more traditional infrastructure way and then if you want to force the rest of the package on Republicans in the Congress and the country, you can certainly do that,” Blunt said. Importantly, Republicans have no interest in the corporate tax increase that would essentially undo their most significant legislative achievement of the Trump era. Neither do business groups, which have helped broker some bipartisan compromises on economic issues in the past but have lost some power in recent years as populist impulses have swept both parties. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, called the tax proposal “an effort to rewrite the 2017 tax bill,” which itself passed via budget reconciliation with no Democratic votes. The Trump tax law “in my view was principally responsible for the fact that in February 2020 we had the best economy of 50 years,” McConnell said. “But they are going to tear that down.” Still, business lobbyists and some lawmakers remain hopeful that Manchin’s appeal could prod Biden and congressional leaders toward a set of mini-compromises on infrastructure. Such deals could including spending big on research and development for emerging industries, like advanced batteries, in the supply chain bill, which carries bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate. They could also include spending a few hundred billion dollars on highways and other surface transportation projects. That could satisfy at least some of Manchin’s quest for bipartisanship and give both parties the ability to claim victory. Some Democrats worry that such compromises could sap momentum for the rest of Biden’s agenda, including forthcoming proposals for education, child care and more. Others say the opposite: that a few deals would give Biden and his party traction with voters, and fuel to pass a large spending bill, funded by tax increases, later this year with only Democratic votes. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
"When you're the leader, you've got a responsibility to the institution to be rid of these people," the former House speaker said of indictment.
Two Korean electric vehicle battery makers have reached a last-minute settlement, saving President Biden from a Sunday deadline to decide whether to intervene in the global trade secret dispute.Why it matters: The deal between SK Innovation and its rival, LG Chem, "averts a 10-year import ban on SK Innovation Co.'s products and protects thousands of jobs in the politically important state of Georgia," according to Bloomberg, which first reported the news.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeSK Innovation is the battery supplier for certain Ford and Volkswagen U.S.-built EVs. Catch up fast: LG Chem had accused SK Innovation of stealing its EV battery technology and hiding the evidence, per Axios' Joann Muller. The U.S. International Trade Commission in February sided with LG Chem, restricting SK from importing critical components for lithium-ion batteries for 10 years (with some temporary exceptions).Prior to the deal, SK said it may have to stop construction of a $2.6 billion battery plant in Georgia, putting at risk the 2,600 clean energy jobs that came with it. The import ban was set to take effect Sunday, unless President Biden intervened and overturned the ITC decision. South Korean officials and the Biden administration urged the companies to come to an agreement instead, according to Bloomberg. Of note: "The settlement will cover not only a ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission but also litigation in federal court," the Washington Post reported. The big picture: Speeding up domestic EV and and supply chain manufacturing is part of Biden's climate and jobs push, and the trade dispute threatened to create new headwinds.Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan includes $174 billion to "win" the electric vehicle market. What he's saying: Biden in a statement Sunday called the settlement "a win for American workers and the American auto industry.""We need a strong, diversified and resilient U.S.-based electric vehicle battery supply chain, so we can supply the growing global demand for these vehicles and components - creating good-paying jobs here at home, and laying the groundwork for the jobs of tomorrow."Go deeper: Biden calls for massive climate and transit packageLike this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
Ramsey Clark, the attorney general in the Johnson administration who became an outspoken activist for unpopular causes and a harsh critic of U.S. policy, has died. Clark, whose father, Tom Clark, was attorney general and U.S. Supreme Court justice, died on Friday at his Manhattan home, a family member, Sharon Welch, announced to media outlets including The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Two Republican congressmen, Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Tom Reed of New York, are under separate investigations by the House Ethics Committee.
Maryland lawmakers voted Saturday to override Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes of three far-reaching police reform measures that supporters say are needed to increase accountability and restore public trust. Maryland approved the nation’s first Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights in 1974, and about 20 states have adopted similar laws setting due process procedure for investigating police misconduct. Maryland is the first to repeal the law, replacing it with new procedures that give civilians a role in the police disciplinary process.
While describing McConnell as a "loser," and attacking other Republicans, Trump told the party's wealthiest donors they should pursue his agenda.
During this weekend’s highly anticipated donor retreat hosted by the Republican National Committee in Palm Beach, Ohio Senate candidate Josh Mandel was escorted off the premises while his primary opponent, Jane Timken, was allowed to stay, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell Axios.What we’re hearing: The invitation-only event is taking place at the Four Seasons Resort, and the RNC reserved the entire hotel. While Timken, former Ohio GOP chair, was invited to the event “because she is a major donor” — Mandel was not, so he was asked to leave, according to one of the sourcesStay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeDespite not having his name on the list, Mandel seized on the opportunity to get some face time with top Republican donors while they all were in one place, one source familiar with his plans told Axios.But when the first event formally kicked off at the hotel Friday night, Mandel and others who did not have credentials were asked to leave.A spokesperson for the RNC declined to comment. Mandel's team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.Between the lines: Those attending the retreat not only have access to big donors, but also key party players, including former President Trump. Saturday evening, the group will travel to Mar-a-Lago, where Trump is expected to delver remarks and mingle with attendees. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2022 presidential contender, will also speak. Why it matters: The incident gives Timken more visibility and access to Trump, which is crucial as he continues to be the party’s rainmaker and most influential player. It also underscores how Trump’s efforts to continue leading the GOP have made all interactions with donors high-stakes. Background: Trump previously showed interest in endorsing Timken, but was ultimately talked out of it by his son, Donald Trump Jr., and other top advisers.Mandel and Timken have long been extremely pro-Trump and both are vying to get the former president's endorsement — which could be the deciding factor in who wins the race to replace Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who recently announce he will not run for reelection.Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, said Saturday that he has undergone eye surgery and will be virtually sightless for a month. Crenshaw, 37, is a Navy veteran who lost his right eye and suffered damage to his left eye in 2012 when a homemade bomb exploded when he was deployed to Afghanistan. “The blast from 2012 caused a cataract, excessive tissue damage, and extensive damage to my retina," Crenshaw said in a statement.
Devin Murphy, Rep. Matt Gaetz's legislative director, has stepped down amid a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations against the Florida Republican congressman, the New York Times first reported and Axios has confirmed.The latest: "It's been real," Murphy wrote in an email, obtained by Axios, to Republican legislative directors on Saturday morning, with the subject line: "Well...bye."Get market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.Context: Gaetz, who has not been charged with any crimes, has repeatedly denied allegations of being sexually involved with a 17-year-old girl and claims that he shared naked images of women with other Congress members. Gaetz doubled down on his denials on Friday evening, saying he's not "going anywhere," and vowing, "I have not yet begun to fight." Gaetz's communications director Luke Ball resigned in early April.What they're saying: As of Saturday afternoon, Murphy's automated email response says: "I am no longer with the office of Congressman Matt Gaetz. Womp womp. Cue the sad trombone."Murphy directed requests to Isabela Belchior, who was named as legislative counsel for Gaetz in February. She previously assisted Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) in the 2020 impeachment trial of former President Trump.Murphy told associates he was interested in working on legislation, not working at TMZ, the New York Times reported earlier this week.Murphy left not because of the representative's legal troubles but over media coverage of the investigation, per CNN.The big picture: The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it had launched a probe into Gaetz.Gaetz said the Justice Department launched an investigation after charging one of his associates, Joel Greenberg, with federal sex trafficking and other crimes.A lawyer for Greenberg indicated last week that he is in plea negotiations with federal prosecutors over his sex trafficking of a minor.A plea deal may indicate that Greenberg is open to cooperating with investigators by providing information, though it's unknown how deep the negotiations are.Go deeper: Gaetz to speak at pro-Trump women's conference amid sex trafficking probe Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
Republican lawmakers in Georgia have overhauled the state's elections. Here's a breakdown of what will change under Senate Bill 202.
Nowhere in America is the coronavirus pandemic more out of control than in Michigan. Outbreaks are ripping through workplaces, restaurants, churches and family weddings. Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients. Officials are reporting more than 7,000 new infections each day, a sevenfold increase from late February. And Michigan is home to nine of the 10 metro areas with the country’s highest recent case rates. During previous surges in Michigan, a resolute Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shut down businesses and schools as she saw fit — over the din of both praise and protests. But this time, Whitmer has stopped far short of the sweeping shutdowns that made her a lightning rod. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times “Policy change alone won’t change the tide,” Whitmer said on Friday, as she asked — but did not order — that the public take a two-week break from indoor dining, in-person high school and youth sports. “We need everyone to step up and to take personal responsibility here.” It is a rare moment in the pandemic: a high-profile Democratic governor bucking the pleas of doctors and public health researchers in her state and instead asking for voluntary actions from the public to control the virus’ spread. Restaurants and bars remain open at a reduced capacity, Detroit Tigers fans are back at the stadium and most schools have welcomed students into the classroom. Whitmer’s new position reflects the shifting politics of the pandemic, shaped more by growing public impatience with restrictions and the hope offered by vaccines than by any reassessment among public health authorities of how best to contain the virus. Her approach, calling for individual responsibility over statewide restrictions, might have been lifted from the playbook of a Republican elected official, and on Friday she seemed to try to shift attention to the Biden administration for turning down her request to send extra vaccine doses to her beleaguered state. That approach prompted an unexpected uttering of approval from Republicans in Michigan, who control the state Legislature and until now have fought Whitmer’s decisions at every turn. State Rep. Beau LaFave, a Republican from the Upper Peninsula, said that patience for the governor’s rules had evaporated long ago in his district and that Whitmer was correct to not impose additional restrictions, even as reports of new cases approached their late-fall peak and deaths continued to increase. “She should have been doing that this whole time,” LaFave said, “allowing individuals to do risk assessments on their own health.” Even many Democrats in Michigan seem to concur that the time for shutting things down might have passed. Mayor Sheldon Neeley of Flint said he was worried about the steep rise in new cases but for now did not favor sweeping restrictions from Whitmer. Neeley, a Democrat, issued a strict curfew for his own city earlier in the pandemic, but said he doubted whether such measures would have the same impact now. “Those things were effective,” he said. “I think they would be less effective if you tried to use the same tools and tactics as you did once before.” There is also reelection looming in the background. Michigan is a closely divided state, Whitmer’s office will be on the ballot next year and Republicans sense an opportunity. “This is the biggest thing in 100 years,” Jack O’Malley, a Republican member of the Michigan House, said of the pandemic. “I would say it’s got to be 80% of why somebody’s going to vote or not vote for her.” Still, a small but growing number of doctors and public health officials are calling on Whitmer to take much more aggressive action as cases worsen by the day. There is no single reason Michigan has been hit so hard in recent weeks, though the latest surge has been partly attributed to the B.1.1.7 variant that was originally identified in Britain and is widespread in the state. Recent infections suggest that small social gatherings were driving case increases, events that are hard to target with government restrictions. Children are also accounting for a higher percentage of cases, with spring break trips and youth sporting events emerging as points of concern. Several hospitals in Michigan delayed some elective procedures this past week because a wave of coronavirus patients has stressed their resources. Smaller, rural hospitals struggled to find urban hospitals that could accept their coronavirus patients who needed intensive-care beds. One doctor in Lansing, the state capital, described admitting five such patients in a five-hour period. “It’s hard for me to have hope when I don’t see the basic public health precautions being implemented and sustained,” said Debra Furr-Holden, a Michigan State University public health researcher whom Whitmer appointed to the state’s Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. “If we continue the way we’ve been going, we’re going to continue to get what we’ve been getting, which is these ebbs and flows and these spikes. It will be a vicious cycle and the vaccines will not be able to keep pace.” The balance between politics and public health, never simple, has become even more volatile as the pandemic enters a second year. Residents are exhausted, business owners are reeling and, unlike last year, no other state is seeing a similar surge. There is also reason for optimism that distinguishes this virus surge from those that came before: One in three Michigan residents has started the vaccination process, and one in five is fully immunized. With older residents swiftly getting vaccines, health officials say that most of the people who are infected with the coronavirus now are younger than 65, a less vulnerable population. And so Whitmer, who received her first shot on Tuesday, has pointed to vaccines — rather than new lockdowns — as the way out of this moment. “I want to get back to normal as much as everyone else. I’m tired of this,” Whitmer said in a news conference on Friday where she defended her strategy for the weeks ahead. “But the variants in Michigan that we are facing right now won’t be contained if we don’t ramp up vaccinations as soon as possible.” Whitmer, whose administration rolled back restrictions last month when virus cases were relatively low, pressed President Joe Biden in a Thursday night phone call for extra vaccines to address the surge. Biden declined, and the administration said on Friday that it would continue allocating vaccines based on adult population. A state official with knowledge of the call, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private conversation, said the president expressed concern about loosened restrictions in Michigan but seemed to have inaccurate information about what restrictions remained in place. The official said Whitmer explained to Biden that capacity remained limited at restaurants, gyms and social gatherings, and masks were still required. Still, the Whitmer administration is not ruling out a more stringent approach. Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said she was optimistic that the continued rollout of vaccines and the governor’s new recommendations would help bring case numbers down. But if that did not happen, she said, more restrictions were possible. “If we were to get to a point where the health care system says, ‘We are overwhelmed and we cannot take care of COVID patients in addition to our regular patients that we see,’ then we may have to talk about further restrictions,” Hertel said in an interview. Yet even county health officials, who have been pleading for more than a year that the public wear masks and practice social distancing, have not been pushing Whitmer to institute new restrictions. Linda Vail, the health officer in Ingham County, which includes most of Lansing, said some residents had grown lax about masking and other prevention measures just as cases had started spiking again. Vail recommended that schools in her county pause in-person instruction after spring break. And she has an order in place limiting outdoor gatherings in an area near Michigan State University’s campus. But she senses little appetite for the sort of sweeping restrictions seen at the beginning of the pandemic. “I think we’re so at a point where people are just going to ignore restrictions,” said Vail, who recounted a recent trip to a gym whose once-diligent patrons were now using treadmills without masks. “And quite honestly, statewide restrictions are going to cause significant pushback.” Dr. Mark Hamed, the medical director for several rural counties in Michigan, said he had lost sleep in recent days, worrying about how to get the surge in his region under control. On Thursday, he spent 90 minutes on a brainstorming call with his counterparts from across the state. Not once did the group discuss whether the governor should start to close down businesses and schools again, he said. “I think people are definitely COVID fatigued,” he said, adding that he has noticed more people choosing on their own to wear masks since the latest surge began. “They’re seeing their neighbors affected and their loved ones affected, and they’re starting to change behaviors.” In Port Huron, a particularly hard-hit region northeast of Detroit, cases are spiking and hospitals filling, Mayor Pauline Repp said. Repp said she sympathized with the position the governor and health department were put in last year, when Michigan hospitals were overflowing and strict rules on movements were imposed. But she said some people lost patience as the months wore on and Michigan’s rules remained firm even when cases dropped. “I almost think in some respects it had a little bit of a backfire,” Repp said. The latest surge has complicated life in Port Huron. Public schools have gone back to online instruction. City Hall closed this past week after too many workers tested positive. Still, she said, it is common to see shoppers at Walmart or the Meijer grocery store refuse to wear face coverings. “It’s been a long time,” Repp said. “It’s a long time to be restrictive and you get to the point where you kind of think, ‘Will life ever go back to normal?’” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers are passing voting restrictions to pacify right-wing activists still gripped by former President Donald Trump’s lie that a largely favorable election was rigged against them. GOP leaders are lashing out in Trumpian fashion at businesses, baseball and the news media to appeal to many of the same conservatives and voters. And debates over the size and scope of government have been overshadowed by the sort of culture war clashes that the tabloid king relished. This is the party Trump has remade. As GOP leaders and donors gather for a party retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, this weekend, with a side trip to Mar-a-Lago for a reception with Trump on Saturday night, the former president’s pervasive influence in Republican circles has revealed a party thoroughly animated by a defeated incumbent — a bizarre turn of events in U.S. politics. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Barred from Twitter, quietly disdained by many Republican officials and reduced to receiving supplicants in his tropical exile in Florida, Trump has found ways to exert an almost gravitational hold on a leaderless party just three months after the assault on the Capitol that his critics hoped would marginalize the man and taint his legacy. His preference for engaging in red-meat political fights rather than governing and policymaking have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for, even when it comes to business, which was once the business of Republicanism. Yet his single term has made it vividly clear what the far-right stands against — and how it intends to go about waging its fights. Having quite literally abandoned their traditional party platform last year to accommodate Trump, Republicans have organized themselves around opposition to the perceived excesses of the left and borrowed his scorched-earth tactics as they do battle. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, excoriated businesses this week for siding with Democrats on GOP-backed voting restrictions, only to backpedal after seeming to suggest he wanted corporations out of politics entirely. They are doing relatively little to present counterarguments to President Joe Biden on the coronavirus response, his expansive social welfare proposals or, with the important exception of immigration, most any policy issue. Instead, Republicans are attempting to shift the debate to issues that are more inspiring and unifying within their coalition and could help them tar Democrats. So Republicans have embraced fights over seemingly small-bore issues to make a larger argument: By emphasizing the withdrawal from publication of a handful of racially insensitive Dr. Seuss books; the rights of transgender people; and the willingness of large institutions or corporations like MLB and Coca-Cola to side with Democrats on voting rights, the right is attempting to portray a nation in the grip of elites obsessed with identity politics. It is a strikingly different approach from the last time Democrats had full control of government, in 2009 and 2010, when conservatives harnessed the Great Recession to stoke anger about President Barack Obama and federal spending on their way to sweeping midterm gains. But Biden, a white political veteran, is not much of a foil for the party’s far-right base and is unlikely to grow more polarizing with the country at large. “2010 had the veneer of philosophical and ideological coherence, but we don’t even bother paying lip service to that now,” said Liam Donovan, a Republican lobbyist. “Trump made grievances that were the aperitif into the entree.” While this approach may not be the political equivalent of a well-balanced meal — a plan for long-term recovery — that does not mean it is a poor strategy for success in the 2022 elections that will determine control of the House and Senate. Even Democrats see the risk that Republican messaging on cultural issues will resonate with a large segment of voters. Dan Pfeiffer — a former aide to Obama who suffered through what his boss called the 2010 “shellacking” — warned members of his party this week that they should not simply roll their eyes when Republicans lament “cancel culture.” “Republicans are raising these cultural topics to unite their party and divide ours,” he wrote in an essay. “Therefore, we must aggressively move the conversation back to the economic issues that unite our party and divide theirs.” Longtime Republicans do not much deny that. “Democrats have done the one thing I never thought could happen this quickly: They’ve caused Republicans to take their eyes off what divides us and made us set our eyes on the true opposition,” crowed Ralph Reed, a Republican strategist. That may be on overly rosy assessment given that Trump is still hungry for payback against his intraparty critics, with a series of contentious primaries on deck and Democrats poised to reap the benefits of an economic recovery. But there is no doubt that Republicans are rallying around a style of post-Trump politics that makes that prefix superfluous. In particular, they are eager to highlight immigration at a moment when there is a surge of undocumented migrants at the border. Besides being Trump’s signature issue, it also has the strongest cultural resonance with their heavily white base. An NPR/Marist survey last month found that while 64% of independent voters approved of Biden’s handling of the pandemic, only 27% supported his approach to immigration. At a private lunch last month on the same day House Democrats pushed through Biden’s stimulus bill, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., with the ear of McConnell, confidently predicted that the influx at the border would be the party’s ticket back to the majority. “I think this is a central issue in the campaign in 2022 — in part because it’s not clear to me that Joe Biden is strong enough and has the political willpower to do what is necessary and get the border under control,” Cotton said in a subsequent interview. It is not just conservatives who are focusing on the border. Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y. and a moderate who represents an upstate district that went heavily for Biden, warned that immigration flare-ups would be “hung around” Biden’s neck if he was not careful. “It’s not a good issue for people in the suburbs; it’s not a good issue for moderate Republicans; it’s not a good issue for moderate Democrats; it’s certainly not a good issue for independents,” he said. With much to gain from blaming the issue on Democrats, Republicans have all but abandoned a comprehensive immigration agreement, despite the pleadings of the business lobby. But that is hardly the only issue on which Republicans are growing uncomfortable with industry, although they are being selective in their choices. McConnell, for instance, continues to hold up the 2017 tax cuts, which slashed the corporate rate, as the crown jewel of the party’s legislative accomplishments in the Trump years, and he is highly unlikely to join a union picket line anytime soon. But he plainly sees a political upside in confronting MLB and the corporate titans, like Delta and Coca-Cola, that have denounced Georgia’s voting bill — an intervention that itself would have been unlikely in a pre-Trump era. “Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order,” he warned this week, later adding that he had no problem with businesses continuing to fund candidates. Others in the party have gone even further, threatening the antitrust exemption professional baseball enjoys — a distinctly Trumpian retribution tactic. Recent party polling indicates that, more than any issue, Republican voters crave candidates who “won’t back down in a fight with the Democrats,” a finding that showed up in a survey by GOP firm Echelon Insights earlier this year. People who have gravitated to the right “feel the way of life that they have known is changing rapidly,” Kristen Soltis Anderson, the Republican pollster who conducted the survey, said in an interview with Ezra Klein. Republicans have sought to stoke those fears, wielding liberal positions on issues like policing or transgender rights as culture war bludgeons, even if it means dispensing with some conservative values. In Arkansas this week, a drive by conservative legislators to make it illegal for transgender children to receive gender-affirming medication or surgery drew a veto from Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican. He argued that the bill would “set new standard of legislative interference with physicians and parents” and that it failed to make exceptions for children who had already begun hormone treatments. Still, he was overridden by his party’s lawmakers, and Trump assailed him as a “lightweight RINO.” Yet it is the willingness to engage in brass-knuckle political combat that is most important in the party right now. “It has become the overarching virtue Republicans look for in their leaders,” said Reed, the GOP strategist. He said that in an earlier, less tribal era, the party would have backed off the divisive Georgia bill limiting voting access. “After business and the media circled the wagons, we would have called the Legislature back in, done some fixes and moved on,” he said. “Now we just dig in.” The shifting culture of the GOP is on clear display in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis is emerging as presidential timber, almost entirely because he has weaponized news coverage critical of his handling of the coronavirus. DeSantis’ actual response to the crisis is not what delights conservatives; rather, it is how he bristles at skeptical coverage, just as Trump did when he was excoriating the “fake news.” The most recent example came this week when “60 Minutes” aired a segment that suggested DeSantis had improperly made Publix grocery stores, which are ubiquitous in Florida, distributors of the coronavirus vaccine after the company contributed $100,000 to him. DeSantis did not cooperate with CBS for the piece. But with the sympathy of other Republicans, he cried foul about the segment after it ran and was rewarded with a coveted prime-time interview on Fox News to expound on his grievance. “This is the beating heart of the Republican Party right now; the media has replaced Democrats as the opposition,” said Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist in Kentucky. “The platform is, whatever the media is against today, I’m for, and whatever they’re for, I’m against.” That has made for an odd alchemy in the capital, where a number of business-oriented Republicans increasingly find themselves politically homeless. Notable among them is the Chamber of Commerce, which angered GOP lawmakers by cozying up to Democrats but is now aghast at Biden’s proposed corporate tax hike. “It’s a weird time,” said Tony Fratto, a former Bush administration official who supported Biden but represents business clients who are uneasy with a tax increase. “I don’t know where to go, but a lot of people don’t feel comfortable with where the parties are right now.” Except, perhaps, for one recently retired Florida man. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
A plea deal for Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg would "almost certainly be very bad" for the Florida Republican, said a former federal prosecutor.
More than 100 corporate executives and leaders gathered on a Zoom call Saturday to discuss ways to combat controversial voting bills being considered in states across the country that would restrict voting access, per the Washington Post.Why it matters: American corporations flexed their advocacy muscles earlier this month when more than 100 companies signaled their opposition to Georgia's new voting law, inciting the wrath of GOP leaders, including former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeDriving the news: During the call, executives from "major airlines, retailers and manufacturers — plus at least one NFL owner" — discussed possibly stopping donations to politicians who support bills curbing voter access and postponing investments in states that approve the controversial measures.As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, a new statement from Corporate American could be coming this week, condemning voter discrimination and calling for greater voter access. Saturday's call between company executives "shows they are not intimidated by the flack. They are not going to be cowed," Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor and one of the call's organizers, told the Post.“They felt very strongly that these voting restrictions are based on a flawed premise and are dangerous,” Sonnenfeld said.Sonnenfeld also noted that some of the companies on the call included representatives from Starbucks, Linkedin, Levi Strauss and Boston Consulting Group.More from Axios: Sign up to get the latest market trends with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free
Nevada’s Republican Party voted to censure the secretary of state, accusing her of failing to fully investigate allegations of fraud in the 2020 election. Barbara Cegavske, the only Republican statewide office holder in Nevada, said members of her party are disappointed with the election results and believe fraud occurred “despite a complete lack of evidence to support that belief.” Cegavske, who has overseen elections in the state since 2014, has repeatedly defended the results as reliable and accurate despite attacks from President Donald Trump and other Republicans.
Former Trump campaign lawyer Joe diGenova issued an apology Thursday to former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director Chris Krebs for previously saying Krebs "should be drawn and quartered" and "taken out at dawn and shot."State of play: The apology comes four months after Krebs sued diGenova, the Trump campaign and Newsmax Media for defamation and emotional distress.Get market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.diGenova had been responding to an appearance by Krebs on "60 minutes," during which the former CISA head disputed former President Donald Trump's baseless claims of election fraud. What they're saying: "During the show, I made regrettable statements regarding Christopher Krebs, which many interpreted as a call for violence against him," diGenova said."A few days later on Newsmax, I apologized for my grossly inappropriate statements, and today I reiterate my public apology to Mr. Krebs and his family for any harm my words caused.""Given today's political climate, I should have more carefully expressed my criticism of Mr. Krebs, who was just doing his job," he concluded.Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
Hutchinson was targeted by his own party for vetoing the bill, including by former President Donald Trump who called him a "lightweight RINO."
The Fox News host asked Texas' Greg Abbott why he has been outspoken about Biden's handling of the issue but didn't complain when Trump was president.
The retreat offered candidates coveted opportunities to mingle with donors and GOP leaders like former President Donald Trump.
MIAMI — No one had to tell Ron DeSantis that his mock debates had bordered on disastrous. His answers rambled. He seemed uninspired. By the time he got to the greenroom of the biggest political stage of his career, a Republican primary debate for Florida governor in June 2018, he had made a risky decision. “I thought about everything we did in debate practice,” his campaign manager, Brad Herold, recalled DeSantis telling him. “I’m going to throw it out and do my own thing.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times At the debate’s start, the audience applauded louder for his better-known opponent, Adam Putnam. By its end — after he had cast Putnam as a vestige of old Republicanism and delivered a rat-a-tat of one-liners — DeSantis had taken command of the crowd. Nearly three years and a pandemic later, DeSantis’ inclination to keep his own counsel and drive hard at reopening Florida has made him perhaps the most recognizable Republican governor in the country and a favorite of the party faithful. In turn, he has become a polarizing leader in the resistance to lengthy pandemic lockdowns, ignoring the advice of some public health experts in ways that have left his state’s residents bitterly divided over the costs and benefits of his actions. Now, with Florida defying many of the gloomy projections of early 2020 and feeling closer to normal as the pandemic continues to dictate daily life in many other big states, DeSantis, 42, has positioned himself as the head of “the free state of Florida” and as a political heir to former President Donald Trump. DeSantis owes a mightier debt than most in his party to Trump, who blessed his candidacy when he was a nobody congressman taking on the staid Florida Republican Party. DeSantis’ political maneuvering and extensive national donor network have allowed him to emerge as a top Republican candidate to succeed Trump on the ballot in 2024 if the former president does not run again. The governor’s brand of libertarianism — or “competent Trumpism,” as one ally called it — is on the ascent. Seizing on conservative issues du jour like opposition to social media “censorship” and vaccine passports, he has forged strong connections with his party’s base. And his bonds with Republican leaders may be deepening: DeSantis had a plum speaking spot Saturday night at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s resort and political base in Palm Beach, Florida, for the Republican National Committee’s spring retreat. Other possible 2024 rivals, like Sen. Marco Rubio, were relegated to appearances Friday night. “We have too many people in this party who don’t fight back,” he told the gathering, according to audio obtained by The New York Times. “You can’t be scared of the left, you can’t be scared of the media, and you can’t be scared of Big Tech.” The governor has also taken steps to shore up his political standing around his handling of the pandemic, summoning reporters to the state Capitol on Wednesday to blast — complete with a slideshow presentation titled “FACTS VS. SMEARS” — a report in CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that did not have sufficient evidence to prove a pay-to-play dynamic between DeSantis’ administration and COVID-19 vaccine distribution for white and wealthy Floridians. His record on the virus is, in fact, mixed. By some measures, Florida has had an average performance in a pandemic that is not yet over. Yet his decisions helped keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. He highlights that he helped businesses survive and allowed children to go to school. What his critics cannot forget, however, is how he resisted some key public health guidelines. An op-ed article endorsing masks that his staff drafted under his name in mid-July was never approved by the governor for publication. The restrictions he now dismisses as ineffective, such as local mask mandates and curfews, which experts say in fact worked, were imposed in most cases by Democratic mayors with whom he hardly speaks. Given the ways people admire or despise him, however, the nuances seem beside the point. He infuriates passionate critics who believe he operates shrewdly to tend to his own interests. They fear that approach contributed to confusing public health messages, vaccine favoritism for the wealthy and the deaths of about 34,000 Floridians. “DeathSantis,” they call him. (DeSantis declined repeated interview requests for this article.) But at almost every turn, DeSantis has seized the criticism as an opportunity to become an avatar for national conservatives who relish the governor’s combativeness. He can score points that his potential Republican rivals in the minority in Washington, including Rubio and Sen. Rick Scott, his predecessor as governor, cannot. “He’s taken the wrong approach on some of our most critical issues, COVID being first and foremost, yet within Republican political circles, he is considered to be the front-runner for the White House,” said former Rep. David Jolly, an ex-Republican who is flirting with a possible run for governor. “He’s worked his hand perfectly.” DeSantis has raised his profile despite lacking the gregarious personality that might be associated with an aspiring Trump successor. Unlike the former president, no one would describe the publicly unemotional and not especially eloquent DeSantis as a showman. (After a record day of coronavirus deaths in July, he offered, “These are tough, tough things to see.”) People close to him describe an un-Trump-like fondness for poring over articles in scientific journals. And, they say, do not underestimate the intellect and instinct that have repeatedly defied expectations and propelled DeSantis from Little Leaguer in middle-class Dunedin, Florida, to potential presidential contender. “He has a set of skills and traits that are ideal for the times,” said former Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican who served in the House with DeSantis. “Today, it would be very difficult to defeat him.” A Long Resume He pronounces his last name “DEE-san-tis.” On the baseball field, he went simply by “D.” His team from Dunedin, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, made it to the Little League World Series in 1991. He was a 12-year-old known to be serious and competitive. His father installed Nielsen TV-ratings boxes. His mother was a nurse. When he went to Yale, the Florida native — he was born in Jacksonville — arrived on campus in cutoff denim shorts. “One of the reasons we got along is we weren’t the traditional, Ivy-League-mold students,” said Nick Sinatra, a former Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity housemate. “He always talked politics. I’m a conservative, and at a place like that, that’s not common.” A history major, DeSantis lugged around a backpack full of books. He studied for both academics and athletics, scrutinizing ballplayers on TV. The Yale baseball team elected him captain. His resume got only more sterling. He spent a year teaching history at a Georgia prep school before landing at Harvard Law. He received a commission in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, where he served at Guantanamo Bay (“not as a detainee, as an officer,” he has quipped) and in Iraq. For two years, he worked as a federal prosecutor before winning a congressional seat near Jacksonville in 2012. His 2011 book, “Dreams From Our Founding Fathers,” which laid out a stridently conservative ideology, made him popular among Florida Tea Party Republicans. Two years earlier, he had married Casey Black, a local television anchor he met on a driving range. Casey DeSantis would become one of her husband’s closest advisers and biggest political assets, with an office at the state Capitol. They have three children under the age of 5; the youngest was born in March 2020. DeSantis said he was not in the delivery room so as to avoid using up precious personal protective equipment. The most memorable part of DeSantis’ six years in Congress might be the platform they gave him to heighten his profile on Fox News, where he frequently represented the hard-line Freedom Caucus. Later, he would staunchly defend Trump over the Russia investigation. “He was a policy wonk with an ability to really identify a few areas within his committees, responsibilities which he knew would give him the political opportunity to get on television,” said Scott Parkinson, who was DeSantis’ chief of staff in 2018. DeSantis was appearing on cable TV multiple times a day, Parkinson recalled. DeSantis often slept in his office and walked the Capitol halls wearing headphones, avoiding unwanted interactions. He made few friends and struck other lawmakers as aloof. A brief Senate run in 2016 proved critical: It exposed him to a national network of wealthy donors he would later tap in his long shot bid for governor. DeSantis barely defeated Andrew Gillum, at the time considered one of the Democrats’ brightest stars, after a bruising campaign laced with accusations of racism. Determined to show his independence in his first months in office, he appointed a chief science officer and pledged billions for the Everglades. He pardoned four wrongfully accused Black men. He lifted a ban on medical marijuana in smokable form. He was hardly a moderate: DeSantis also gutted a voter-approved measure meant to restore felons’ right to vote. He allowed some teachers to carry guns in schools. He banned so-called sanctuary cities in a state where there were none. But the mix pleased voters, and his approval ratings surged. Might the man who had shown his diaper-age daughter building a wall in a campaign ad actually be a pragmatist? Then came the pandemic. Defiant Leadership In a state where political consultants often become synonymous with their clients over time, DeSantis has cycled quickly through advisers. A close friend and transition deputy was Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is now embroiled in a scandalous federal investigation. DeSantis centralized power in his office early in the pandemic, ceding little of the spotlight to public health officials. The state Department of Health’s weekly COVID-19 recaps are titled “Updates on Florida’s Vaccination Efforts Under Governor DeSantis’ Leadership.” DeSantis’ slowness in locking down the state last year hurt his approval ratings. So did a deadly summer surge of the virus. But then, far earlier than most other governors, he pledged that schools would open in the fall and life would start returning to normal. “His policies were contrarian, and he was defiant,” said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster who has tracked DeSantis’ popularity and saw it rebound beginning last summer. “The more he stands his ground, the more he speaks his mind, the more the affinity grows for him.” His critics see the governor as stubborn and unwilling to hear dissent. “The governor we have today is the governor we anticipated after the election,” said Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner and the only Democrat elected statewide, who looks likely to run against DeSantis. “He surprised everybody in 2019,” she added, “but obviously that is not truly who he is.” In some ways, DeSantis has filled the void left by Trump, minus the tweets. He remains a Fox News regular. He counts among his scientific advisers Dr. Scott Atlas, the former Trump adviser who has promoted dubious theories. DeSantis’ office said he had received a vaccine last week but not in public, reminiscent of Trump, who was given the shot behind closed doors. And the governor’s favorite foes are the “corporate media,” against whom he has scored political points. His recent tangle with “60 Minutes” centered on the extent to which political connections have helped white, wealthy Floridians get vaccinated. Local news outlets have chronicled how vaccine access has been slower for Black, Latino and poorer communities. Some pop-up vaccination sites were opened in neighborhoods that had many older residents — and that also had ties to DeSantis campaign donors. But “60 Minutes” focused on how Publix supermarket pharmacies received doses and left out relevant details, including an extended response from the governor at a news conference. On Wednesday, in DeSantis’ words, he “hit them back right between the eyes,” accusing “60 Minutes” of pursuing a malicious narrative. He left without taking questions. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
“There’s no ‘both sides of the debate’ when it comes to active voter suppression.”
“Companies that do this ooze contempt for their own customers and employees who are not in the leftmost quarter of opinion.”
“The truth is that Fortune 500 companies were never taking moral stances from the goodness of their corporate hearts.”
“The truth is, the companies hold the cards…If companies stick to their guns, Georgia is likely to back down as well.”
“When a company folds to the unfounded outrage of a few misinformed nuts, they are forever at the mob’s beck-and-call.”