Speaking from the White House, Joe Biden laid the blame for rising costs on two key factors: a “once-in-a-century pandemic” that shut down the global economy and snarled supply chains and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who invaded Ukraine and sent the cost of gas and food soaring.
“I want every American to know that I’m taking inflation very seriously and it’s my top domestic priority,” Biden said.
Republicans and some economists have accused the White House of being slow to recognize the urgency of inflation, which Biden once suggested would be temporary. But as costs continue to climb, Biden has re-oriented his agenda to address inflation, which he said was the nation’s “top economic challenge right now.”
Biden is now assailing Republicans for their economic agenda, which he said is making inflation worse. He blamed them for being “extreme” and more interested in protecting large corporations than working families.
“In this moment of peril, with the war overseas and inflation surging around the world, the last thing we should be thinking about is rewarding companies for exploiting the situation,” Biden said.
The president is now pulling from Scott’s aforementioned 11-point plan, warning that Republicans are a threat to beloved social-safety net programs like social security and Medicare.
Even if Republicans don’t ultimately want to end those programs, Biden said they would use the threat as a “hostage” to get their way on other issues.
- Joe Biden said inflation was his “top domestic priority” as he attempted to draw a contrast between his party and the “ultra Maga” Republicans who he warned would enact an extremist agenda that doesn’t address the economic challenges facing the nation. He also said he understood that voters were frustrated with the party in power, but insisted his economic agenda had “helped, not hurt” the economic recovery.
- Elon Musk said he would lift Twitter’s ban on Donald Trump, allowing the former president to use the platform more than a year after he was removed after the January 6 riot.
- Avril Haines, the national director of intelligence, testified that Vladimir Putin was prepared for a “prolonged conflict” in Ukraine, the Guardian’s Julian Borger reports.
- A New York appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit by state attorney general Letitia James against Amazon over its coronavirus safety protocols, and against a former employee who led the successful union organizing effort on Staten Island.
- Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, a possible 2024 presidential hopeful, has signed a law mandating the state’s students receive instruction about “the victims of communism”.
- Pennsylvania’s Democratic senator Bob Casey, one of the last self-described “pro life” Democrats, announced he would support legislation to codify Roe v Wade abortion protections. The measure still does not have enough support to overcome Republican opposition.
- Treasury secretary Janet Yellen said ending the constitutional right to an abortion would have “very damaging” effects on the economy and women’s earning potential, during testimony to the Senate banking committee.
At present, Biden is still meeting with House speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of a congressional delegation that visited Ukraine earlier this month to discuss their experience in the war-torn country. Later this evening, the House is expected to vote tonight on a nearly $40bn military and humanitarian aid package.
Meanwhile, voters in Nebraska and West Virginia are still casting ballots in a series of primary elections that will test Donald Trump’s enduring influence over his party.
In West Virginia, Trump waded into a contentious Republican primary between two sitting members of Congress, endorsing congressman Alex Mooney over congressman David McKinley, who infuriated the former president when he voted for the creation of a House committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the US Capitol. And in Nebraska, Trump endorsed Charles Herbster to be the Republican nominee for governor in a bitter, nine-way primary race to replace the sitting Republican governor, who is limited. Herbster is accused of groping multiple women, allegations he has denied.
During an Oval Office visit, Italian Premier Mario Draghi urged Biden and world leaders to work toward “the possibility of bringing a ceasefire” between Ukraine and Russia in the hope of restarting negotiations.
“In Italy and Europe now, people want to put an end to these massacres and this violence, this butchery,” he said.
Here’s a fuller analysis of the meeting from the Associated Press, which stated that the visit “provided a window into divergent approaches” to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Biden did not echo Draghi’s comments, and U.S. officials appear openly skeptical that there’s a way to restart talks at this point.
Avril Haines, Biden’s director of national intelligence, testified earlier Tuesday that both Ukraine and Russia believe they can make progress on the battlefield at this point, so “we do not see a viable negotiating path forward, at least in the short term.” …
The different tones over Ukraine reflect Italy’s geographic proximity to the war and deeper economic ties to Russia, which provides 40% of the country’s natural gas. There’s also growing skepticism in Italy about sending weapons to Ukraine.
In a floor speech on Tuesday, New York congressman Tom Reed announced that he was resigning with more than seven months left of his term.
Last year, Reed announced he would not seek re-election after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
In his speech, Reed denounced the “the focus on extremism”, according to Politico.
“I am leaving to continue that work and hope to have a greater impact on our country,” he added.
Reed was among the lawmakers in his state who called for the resignation of former New York governor Andrew Cuomo over sexual harassment allegations. And late last year, Reed said he was considering running for governor to challenge Cuomo, who later resigned amid the cascading scandal.
After the accusations against the congressman, Reed said in a statement apologizing for his behavior that he would not run for any office in 2022.
The Guardian’s David Smith looks at what the fight over abortion rights tells us about the divisions in America today.
This opening scenes encapsulates the current political climate well.
“You put your babies in the womb, you will be held accountable!” yelled Steve Corson, tall, bearded and jabbing a finger at women who chanted back: “My body, my choice!”
Corson took a deep breath and blew into a shofar. Then Nathan Darnell, wearing a “Jesus Christ is king” cap and holding aloft a cross, grabbed a megaphone.
“You guys are demon-possessed!” declared the 19-year-old from Haymarket, Virginia. “You guys are controlled by demons, all of you. Every child has a right to life.”
Suddenly Darnell was surrounded by abortion rights protesters brandishing placards. He kept talking.
“You guys are evil. The downfall of America is because of every one of you.”
The national day of prayer last Thursday was anything but a solemn occasion outside the supreme court in Washington, where hours earlier an unscalable black fence had been erected, reminiscent of the one that surrounded the US Capitol after the January 6 insurrection.
Whether Democrats support the pro-choice protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices has become a hot topic in Washington as passions intensify ahead of a ruling poised to strip millions of Americans of access to abortion.
During a press conference today, Schumer was asked whether he was comfortable with the protests. He said he was as long as they remained peaceful.
The president blessed a plan to unhitch Ukraine assistance and coronavirus funding. But now there’s no clear path forward on passing pandemic funding for tests, vaccines and therapeutics.
“Should Americans start preparing for shortages?” a reporter asked.
“We don’t want to sugarcoat it: we need more money,” Psaki said. “We don’t have a plan B here.”
She was asked if the president would be OK with holding a vote on Title 42, a pandemic-era public health order that is being used to control immigration at the border. The administration has said it plans to lift the order, but Republicans and some Democrats oppose the decision, which is tied up in court proceedings. Now Republicans want Democrats to allow a vote on keeping Title 42 in place before they will support Biden’s request for pandemic funding.
Psaki said it was a hypothetical and she wouldn’t speculate on what the legislative path forward would be.
In response to a question on whether Biden would support businesses leaving states that impose abortion bans should Roe fall, Psaki said she hadn’t spoken to the president about this yet. Biden previously supported efforts by companies and sports teams to leverage their clout to pressure conservative states to back off restrictive voting legislation.
The first question is about inflation, specifically, whether Biden thinks the size of his coronavirus relief bill contributed to rising costs. Earlier today, the president said he believed his policies had “helped, not hurt” the economy.
Psaki said many economists agree that the pandemic is a major cause of inflation, and that his domestic agenda has helped combat the virus, which is necessary for bringing down costs. She also pointed to the war in Ukraine as another factor, which Biden will continue to highlight on his travels outside of Washington.
A reporter also asked who came up with the term “ultra-MAGA”, which the president unveiled as a new epithet for Trump-friendly Republicans.
“It’s the president’s phrase,” Psaki said, explaining that Biden has been “struck” by how “extreme some of the policies and proposals” that certain Republicans support are. “Adding a little ultra to it gives it a little extra pop.”
Another reporter pressed her on why Biden said a “majority” of Republicans supported Scott’s 11-point plan when many have sought to distance themselves from it, Psaki rattled off a list of quotes from Republicans who had praised the agenda.
She has been asked multiple questions about the protests outside the justices’ homes after the leaked supreme court draft that showed the court was poised to overturn Roe. Psaki said she understood passions were high and that the president and the White House strongly supported the right to peaceful protest, and stressed that the protests have so far remained peaceful at the justices’ homes. She also said there was “hypocrisy” on the part of Republicans who are upset over these protests and yet remained silent when their supporters intimidated school board members and election officials.
The decision to let Trump back on Twitter was one for the private sector to make, she said, responding to an interview in which Musk said he would reverse the ban against the former president. But Psaki said the White House’s goal was to protect freedom of speech while ensuring social media platforms don’t become a “forum for disinformation.”
Jen Psaki, the outgoing White House press secretary, is now briefing reporters on Biden’s Wednesday trip to Illinois, where he will visit a family farm to highlight “Putin’s price hike” and the impact on food prices.
She also announced that he will host Pelosi and other congressional members this afternoon in the Situation Room to hear more about their trip to Ukraine.
A New York appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit by state attorney general Letitia James against Amazon over its coronavirus safety protocols, and against a former employee who led the successful union organizing effort on Staten Island, the Associated Press reports.
The suit had claimed that Amazon potentially exposed workers to Covid-19 at two facilities in New York city, and that the company illegally retaliated against workers who spoke up about poor safety conditions in its warehouses.
They included Chris Smalls, the fired Amazon worker who heads the Amazon labor union, and Derrick Palmer, the group’s vice president of organizing.
The appellate court’s ruling Tuesday said federal labor law preempted state labor law, and the national labor relations board “should serve as the forum” for disputes, not the states.
Palmer, who was given a final written warning in the early days of the pandemic, is still employed at Amazon.
The court’s ruling is a win for Amazon, which had sought to have the case thrown out. Neither Amazon, nor James’ office immediately responded to the AP’s request for comment.
Elon Musk, the Tesla chief executive and world’s richest person who recently agreed a deal to buy Twitter for $44bn, says he will reverse the social media platform’s permanent ban on former president Donald Trump.
The decision to ban Trump from Twitter did not silence his voice, but rather amplified his views among people on the political right, Musk said, during remarks on Tuesday at the Financial Times future of the car conference.
Calling the ban “morally wrong and flat-out stupid”, Musk said:
Permanent bans should be extremely rare and really reserved for accounts that are bots, or scam, spam accounts.
I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump. I think that was a mistake, because it alienated a large part of the country and did not ultimately result in Donald Trump not having a voice.
Trump was banned permanently two days after inciting the deadly 6 January Capitol attack for breaching Twitter rules. The platform’s owners cited “the risk of further incitement of violence” for its decision.
Musk, who has called himself a “free speech absolutist,” said he would reverse the ban, but noted:
I don’t own Twitter yet. So this is not like a thing that will definitely happen, because what if I don’t own Twitter?
Trump, meanwhile, says he wants no further part of a platform where he once enjoyed a following of more than 85m. He told Fox News last month he was going to stay instead on Truth Social, the failing anti-Twitter rival he rarely uses.
Here’s where we are halfway through a busy Tuesday:
- Joe Biden insisted that soaring inflation was his ‘top domestic priority’ as he delivered remarks on the economy at the White House. The president said his policies had “helped not hurt” the nation’s economic outlook but acknowledged voters were “frustrated” as November’s midterms loom.
- Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, a possible 2024 presidential hopeful, has signed a law mandating the state’s students receive instruction about “the victims of communism”.
- Pennsylvania’s Democratic senator Bob Casey, one of the last self-described “pro life” Democrats, announced he would support legislation to codify Roe v Wade abortion protections.
- Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said ending the constitutional right to an abortion would have “very damaging” effects on the economy and women’s earning potential, during testimony to the Senate banking committee.
- Lawmakers were set to begin debating a nearly $40bn aid package for Ukraine, a sum that exceeds the $33bn Biden requested of Congress. An agreement was reached among Congressional leaders to swiftly send the aid to Biden’s desk, after Democrats untangled the package from a separate request for coronavirus funding.
Avril Haines, the national director of intelligence, testified that Putin was preparing for “prolonged conflict” in Ukraine, the Guardian’s Julian Borger reports.
Vladimir Putin could view the prospect of defeat in Ukraine as an existential threat to his regime, potentially triggering his resort to using a nuclear weapon, the top US intelligence official has warned.
The warning on Tuesday came in an assessment from intelligence chiefs briefing the Senate on worldwide threats. The prediction for Ukraine was a long, gruelling war of attrition, which could lead to increasingly volatile acts of escalation from Putin, including full mobilisation, the imposition of martial law, and – if the Russian leader felt the war was going against him, endangering his position in Moscow – even the use of a nuclear warhead.
… Haines told the Senate armed services committee that Putin would continue to brandish Russia’s nuclear arsenal in an attempt to deter the US and its allies from further support for Ukraine. The shift of focus to the east and the south are most likely a temporary tactic rather than a permanent scaling back of war aims, she said.
The Russian leader would not use a nuclear weapon until he saw an existential threat to Russia or his regime, Haines argued. But she added that he could view the prospect of defeat in Ukraine as constituting such a threat.
The Guardian’s resident Miami correspondent and part-time politics blogger sends this dispatch on an effort by a Florida school to hide activism by its students against the state’s controversial “don’t say gay” law.
A Florida high school is covering up yearbook photographs of students who took part in protest against the state’s so-called don’t say gay law, in a move its editors are calling blatant censorship, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Administrators at Lyman high school in Seminole county delayed distribution of the book on Monday, the newspaper says, until they can black out photographs of students holding rainbow flags and a “love is love” sign, taken during a walkout protest in March against the law that prohibits discussion in certain Florida classrooms of gender identity and sexual orientation.
The Sentinel quotes student Skye Tiedemann, one of the yearbook’s editors-in-chief: “This really shouldn’t be happening because all we did as journalists was document what was happening at our school on our campus.
“To have that covered up isn’t right. This is censorship.”
The school’s principal, Michael Hunter, told parents in a recorded message that the photographs “did not meet school board policy”, but gave no further details.
“Rather than reprinting the yearbook at substantial cost and delay, we have elected to cover the material that is out of compliance… so that yearbooks can be distributed as soon as possible,” he added, according to the Sentinel.
Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis received massive blowback for the controversial “don’t say gay” law, which prompted a squabble with Disney, the state’s largest private employer, and drew a lawsuit from LBGTQ groups.
Students at several Florida high schools walked out of classes in protest as the bill passed through the state’s Republican-dominated legislature in March.
For more on Florida schools, here’s Richard’s story from earlier today on a new law that would require students in the state to receive “at least 45 minutes’ instruction every November about the ‘victims of communism.’”