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Tag: biden nominees

Senate Republicans Attack Biden Nominee For Voting Rights Advocacy

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Senate Republicans on Wednesday came out against President Joe Biden's nominee for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, criticizing her support for voting rights and advocacy against the type of voter suppression tactics Republican lawmakers across the country have sought to implement.

The senators said during a Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Myrna Pérez that she would not be able to rule impartially on voting rights issues if she were seated on the court.

Pérez is currently on leave from her role as the director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Voting Rights and Elections Project, where she analyzed and criticized voter suppression laws that have been passed by GOP-controlled state legislatures in the wake of Donald Trump's loss of the 2020 presidential election.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took issue with Pérez's advocacy against voter suppression laws.

"You have waged litigation campaigns and opposed voter ID laws, you have opposed voter integrity laws, you have opposed prohibitions on ballot harvesting, you have advocated for felons being able to vote," Cruz said, calling her a "radical activist."

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said she didn't believe Pérez could be neutral, tweeting, "Myrna Pérez is too busy being an activist to concentrate on being a second circuit judge," Blackburn tweeted, sharing a video of her questioning of Pérez.

Pérez responded, "In the great genius of our Constitution, people play different roles," according to the Hill newspaper. "Advocates zealously argue on behalf of their clients in as many forms as they can. I have had the privilege and pleasure of doing that."

Democrats and voting rights groups responded to the Judiciary Committee Republicans as well.

"Sen. Ted Cruz claims that Myrna Pérez is a 'radical' activist because of her advocacy for the right to vote. Guaranteeing access to the polls is anything but radical, and we need judges with civil rights experience like Pérez on our courts," the Alliance for Justice tweeted, urging Pérez's confirmation.

The NAACP's Legal Defense Fund also tweeted support for Pérez, writing, "Federal judges play vital roles in preserving constitutional democracy. It's critical that judges have a demonstrated commitment to fairness and the rule of law. Myrna Pérez has dedicated her career to strengthening and protecting voting rights and our democracy."

Senate Democrats are taking advantage of their slim majority in the chamber to prioritize the confirmation of Biden's judicial nominees.

The pace at which they are confirming his court picks is faster than any president in the last 50 years, according to a report by CBS affiliate WUSA9 in Washington, D.C. To date, seven of Biden's judicial nominees have been confirmed, more than the two judges Trump had confirmed at this same point in his term.

Republicans have yet to block one of Biden's judicial nominees — who have been far more diverse than Trump's picks.

If Pérez is confirmed, she'll be the only Latina to serve on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, and the first since then-Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

What Manchin Knows — And What Progressives Could Learn

The 2010 Senate candidate was almost a caricature of the sort of Republican who drives Democrats crazy. He bragged about his endorsement by the National Rifle Association, criticized "Obamacare" and dramatized his support for coal by picking up a rifle and blasting away at a bill aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

But the guy who turned those themes into a victory was not a Republican. He was a Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. And he's somehow proven to be both the indispensable senator for President Joe Biden and a villain to many in his party.

You might think Democrats would be building shrines to the person who has kept them in control of the Senate. A Democrat has about as much business representing West Virginia — which Donald Trump won by a 39-point margin — as a vegan sandwich has on the Burger King menu.

Of course, Burger King does offer a vegan sandwich — the Impossible Burger. And it has succeeded much as Manchin has, by doing an excellent impersonation of something people like. Impossible Foods offers an appealing oxymoron — "meat made from plants," as it advertises.

Manchin does the same, compiling a center-right voting record from his desk on the liberal side of the chamber. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that during Trump's tenure, he sided with the administration 50.4 percent of the time. He scores low with both the American Conservative Union (27 percent) and the American Civil Liberties Union (23 percent). The website GovTrack grades Manchin as more conservative than two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

It's no wonder that liberals differ with him on many issues. But they have let his refusal to support reform of the filibuster or the Democratic election reform bill cloud their minds. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) called Manchin "the new Mitch McConnell." Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) accused him of complicity in "voter suppression."

The attacks bring to mind what Biden recalls his own father saying: "Don't compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative." It doesn't seem to occur to Bowman that if not for Manchin, the Senate would be under the control of the real Mitch McConnell, who would use a GOP majority to block Biden on almost every front. For Manchin to align himself with Ocasio-Cortez would produce a different type of voter suppression — of West Virginians willing to cast their ballots for him.

It's easy for politicians like these to fault Manchin for being insufficiently progressive, because they don't have to run for office in West Virginia. Bowman's district went for Biden by a 52-point margin; Ocasio-Cortez's by 45 points. They can lurch as far left as they want without fearing defeat at the polls.

A Democratic politician in West Virginia, however, has to carefully balance party priorities with political survival. That Manchin has been able to win statewide over and over is not an achievement; it's a miracle. He's been able to do it largely by consistently staying arms-length from the prevailing ideology of his party.

In that endeavor, his recent vilification by progressives is more likely to help him at home than to hurt him. It reinforces Manchin's priceless reputation as a different kind of Democrat.

But they have reason to be grateful to him. One reason is that he's not entirely averse to taking political risks on behalf of his party's agenda. The website FiveThirtyEight found he has voted with Biden 100 percent of the time so far.

Without Manchin, Biden would be unable to get many of his judicial nominees confirmed. Republicans would chair all Senate committees and determine the legislative calendar. The president would face a stone wall of GOP opposition. Today's Democratic frustration would give way to outright despair.

What the party needs is not fewer people like Manchin but more. The Democratic approach works well in presidential elections, but it has yet to produce lasting majorities in Congress — and it has been a dismal failure in state elections.

Manchin has demonstrated that it's possible for a Democrat to win in the reddest of states by selectively straying from liberal orthodoxy. If many others would follow his example, Democrats would have a stronger hand, which would make Manchin less of an impediment to their agenda.

Progressives who think they are at odds with him are really at odds with political reality. Manchin never forgets that, as Shakespeare wrote, there is no virtue like necessity.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Smearing An Eminently Qualified Black Woman Is Business As Usual

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

She has been endorsed by many law enforcement groups, including the National Association of Police Organizations, yet she was accused of being anti-police. Baseless innuendo thrown her way has been refuted by support from the National Council of Jewish Women, the Anti-Defamation League, and dozens of other local, state, and national Jewish organizations. She's been tagged as "extreme," which only makes sense if being an advocate for an equitable society qualifies.

The nomination of Kristen Clarke, President Joe Biden's choice to serve as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, barely made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Panelists split 11-11 along party lines, and then on Tuesday, the full Senate voted 50-48 to discharge the nomination from the committee, setting up a final floor vote.

Is anyone surprised at the roadblocks this nomination has faced?

Clarke, a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School, is a Black woman and president and executive director (now on leave) of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law — and that may be the problem. The fight for "civil rights" for all, or even truthfully teaching about the struggle that made the fight necessary, has become controversial in some quarters, especially the Republican congressional caucuses.

Women of color have had a particularly tough time before the Senate Judiciary Committee with those who won't let the facts get in the way of partisan pushback. Vanita Gupta, despite her experience and endorsements, was attacked at her hearing before her eventual confirmation as associate attorney general. And then it was Clarke's turn.

The Usual Suspects

Some of it was comical, as when Sen. John Cornyn, took Clarke's satirical college writings criticizing the racism of The Bell Curve as literal. Some of it was just bullying, the well-trod territory of Cornyn's Texas partner, Sen. Ted Cruz, who insisted that a Newsweek column, in which Clarke agreed with Biden's call for more police funding, said the opposite.

Usually, presidents get the benefit of the doubt when choosing their teams. President Donald Trump certainly did, despite questionable qualifications for a host of them. His education secretary, Betsy DeVos, not only had no education experience, she also barely hid her contempt for the public schools neither she nor any of her children attended. But the majority of Republicans approved of her, and her prioritizing of Christian and charter schools.

Fellow Texan and former governor of the state Rick Perry got Cruz's vote for secretary of energy, the department he forgot he wanted to eliminate during his infamous "oops" moment at a presidential debate in 2011. Perry also admitted he had to play catch-up on what the department actually did.

You can't make this stuff up.

Hypocrisy is not exactly new to Washington. Recently, Republican lawmakers were falling all over themselves to speechify the honoring of law enforcement during National Police Week. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, in a floor speech, recognized officers "willing to risk their own lives to protect others" and warned that "demonization of law enforcement will have lasting consequences, and it will ultimately make all of us less safe." This, as members of his GOP are resisting calls to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol and downplaying injuries suffered by officers protecting those lawmakers' hides.

A Familiar Refrain

Most every Black person gets a certain bit of oft-repeated parental advice: "You have to work twice as hard to get half as far." It's resulted in a lot of overworking achievers (too close for comfort right here), and a lot of stuffed résumés. But even if you follow it to the letter, as Clarke did when she earned a scholarship to an elite prep school that took her far from her Brooklyn home and on to positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations, you might get smeared when you dare to be excellent while Black, and use that excellence to make life better for all Americans.

Many Black female leaders, allies and organizations have supported Clarke, who would be the first Black woman to hold the post, and she would certainly be a needed change from the previous administration. Business leaders, perhaps less timid after finding their voice on other issues, have signaled their approval. The Biden Justice Department, under new leadership, has tried to rebuild its mission after the Trump team seemed bound and determined to make a mockery of its name.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, who did pass muster this time at his Senate confirmation after then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider his Supreme Court nomination by President Barack Obama, is settling in with a full agenda. Garland has announced that the DOJ is reinstating consent decrees to reign in rogue police departments and going after white supremacists that Trump's own FBI director deemed the No. 1 domestic terror threat.

It's a big job that the likes of Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, not only ignored but subverted. In Clarke, the department would get a professional who has seen unequal treatment in her work and up close.

As Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and another Black woman who is about the country's unfinished business, told theGrio: "Those who oppose her confirmation are actually opposed to the confirmation of a real civil rights advocate to run the Civil Right Division. They don't really oppose Kristen — they oppose robust civil rights enforcement."

In her own remarks before the Judiciary Committee, Clarke made her mission clear by quoting the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, under whose leadership the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund was founded: "'Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.' I've tried to do just that at every step of my career."

If only her opponents could say the same.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Biden Nominees Poised To Take Control Of Postal Service, Oust DeJoy

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A Senate committee voted in favor of President Joe Biden's three nominees for governing board overseeing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

According to the Associated Press, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved the president's three nominees: "Ron Stroman, a former deputy postmaster general; Amber McReynolds, who leads the nonprofit National Vote at Home Institute; and Anton Hajjar, the former general counsel of the American Postal Workers Union."

The vote comes as lawmakers train their focus on restoring public confidence and trust in the U.S. Postal Service. Since last year, the postal service has undergone a number of drastic changes under the leadership of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a known supporter of President Donald Trump and a major donor for the Republican Party.

In a matter of months, DeJoy implemented a number of overhauls that subsequently led to weeks-long delays in mail processing and transit. If Biden's nominees are approved, they would give Democrats a majority on the board. Amid the announcement of Biden's nominees, Democratic lawmakers are pushing back against the ten-year strategy introduced last month by DeJoy and board Chairman Ron Bloom.

While DeJoy and Bloom insist their plan would save the postal service from substantial losses of approximately $160 billion loss over course of the next decade, Democrats strongly disagree.

The sweeping plan would relax the current first-class letter delivery standard of one to three days to a benchmark of one to five days for mail going to the farthest reaches of the postal network. Postal leaders have said 70% of mail would still be delivered within three days. The plan also includes investments in a new fleet of delivery vehicles and a proposal to consolidate underused post offices and hints at a potential postage rate increase.

The controversial strategy has led to renewed calls for DeJoy's resignation. Last summer, those calls began when DeJoy's drastic policy changes led to slowed mail in the midst of the election. As a staggering number of American voters across the country prepared to vote by mail, there were widespread concerns about ballots being received and processed in a timely fashion.

Once Biden's nominees are confirmed by the full Senate, they can officially take their positions.

Biden Taps First Transgender Woman For Senate-Confirmed Post

President Joe Biden nominated Dr. Rachel Levine, a transgender Pennsylvania Health Secretary, to be his assistant secretary of health yesterday, according to several news outlets. If approved Levine will become the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate.

"A deeply experienced public servant and public health expert, she is poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate," announced a tweet from the official White House Twitter account.



"Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond," Biden said in a statement. "She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration's health efforts.

The nomination is a huge step forward for LGBTQ+ rights in America and a continuation of the promise President Biden made to have a diverse Cabinet. Levine will join Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg, who became the first openly gay nominee for a Senate-confirmed position, as the firsts in the LGBTQ+ community to be nominated for Senate-confirmed postions. She will also become the fourth Tulane alumnus nominated for a position within the Biden-Harris administration.




Levine, who "has emerged as the public face of the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic," according to AP , will assume her role as the U.S. has already surpassed 400,000 Covid-19 deaths.

"Rachel Levine's nomination represents a long sought-after leap in political representation for the embattled trans community," read a Pink News article. "And a tremendous turning point in a country that has witnessed the Trump's administration years-long attacks against LGBT+ rights as well as surging rates of transphobic violence."

Kyle Knight, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, pointed out an article by InterAct a group that advocates for intersex youth.

Cruz Threatens To Hold Up Biden Nominees Until Trump Concedes

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) plans to obstruct every one of President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet confirmations unless Donald Trump concedes.

Trump, of course, has vowed never to do so.

"As long as there's litigation ongoing, and the election result is disputed, I do not think you will see the Senate act to confirm any nominee," Cruz said in an Axios interview on Wednesday.

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Who Benefits From The Diversity Obsession? Not Biden Nominees

The days right after an election are an ideal time for political parties to work on fixing bad habits. For Democrats, that would mean kicking the increasingly dated custom of declaring race, ethnicity and gender factors in filling leadership positions. Demands on President-elect Joe Biden to put these considerations front and center show a failure to understand how politically poisonous identity politics have become.

Happily, Biden is choosing people who are highly qualified for the job. But unhappily, and no small irony, focusing on their identity only subtracts attention from their impressive careers.

Biden's pick to head the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a world-renowned economist. She's already been chair of the Federal Reserve, for heaven's sake. And so, why open news stories with a proclamation that, if confirmed, Yellen will become "the first female Treasury secretary"? Is she now a diversity hire?

No one elected the identity professionals now pressuring Biden. And it's unclear whether members of the groups they profess to represent want their services. For example, a Washington Post/Ipsos poll asked African Americans early this year whether a white presidential candidate's pick of a black vice president would excite them. Some 73 percent responded little or not at all.

Yet Rep. Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is now calling on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat with a black woman. Bass says she's available, by the way.

Note that her demand comes one month after voters in the very Democratic state of California rejected a plan to restore affirmative action in public hiring.

A problem with succumbing to the pressure is it's never enough. Much fuss was made over Biden's naming what The Washington Post described as the "first Hispanic American" to head the Department of Homeland Security. That would be the very capable Alejandro Mayorkas.

"Latino advocates," Bloomberg News says, were then pushing Biden to name New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as health and human services secretary. Though angry when those efforts seemed to fail, the activists now seem pleased that Biden has named another Latino, Xavier Becerra, to that prominent post.

You have to feel for Becerra. A graduate of Stanford Law School and California attorney general, he could have competed for the job with anyone. Now many think he was named to lead HHS because of his coloration.

Barack Obama becoming the first black president was a big deal. Nothing against Cori Bush, but how big a deal is her becoming the first black Missouri congresswoman, as many media felt obliged to put in their leads?

The New York Times had a twofer — actually, two of them — when Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones, both from New York, were elected as the "1st Gay Black Members of Congress." Torres also considers himself Latino, so that makes three identities.

Lest we forget, an openly gay man named Barney Frank spent 32 years representing a demographically mixed district in Massachusetts. A gay man in Congress is not really news. That Torres was a highly effective member of the New York City Council should have been reason enough to support him.

Biden has pledged to name the first black woman to the Supreme Court, if and when he can fill a vacancy. I have no problem with a qualified black female Supreme Court justice. The problem is the pledge.

Biden told CNN that he understands it's the advocacy groups' "job to push me." The Democratic Party would do itself a big favor by pushing back on the diversity fixation. It's good for neither the party nor the talented people it burdens with unnecessary labels.


Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.