“Officer Hodges, you characterized the attack on the Capitol as a ‘white nationalist insurrection.’ Can you describe what you saw that led you to label the attack that way?” asked Rep. Pete Aguilar, a California Democrat, during the opening session of the select committee to investigate the January 6 siege.
Hodges, noting that the pro-Trump mob was made up of “overwhelmingly white males” and that they didn’t say anything “especially xenophobic” to him, said he was treated differently than his non-white fellow officers.
“Some of them would try to, try to recruit me,” he told the committee. “One of them came up to me and said, ‘Are you my brother?'”
He went on to note that there were many white supremacist-linked organizations at the Capitol on January 6th. “Three percenters, Oath Keepers, that kind of thing,” he said.
“People who associate with Donald Trump, I find more likely to subscribe to that kind of belief system,” he added.
Hodges and other officers’ testimony highlighted the overt racism of the insurrectionists. A fellow officer testifying before the committee, Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who is Black, testified that he and other officers of color faced a “torrent” of racist epithets and threats during the insurrection.
“My arms were pinned and effectively useless, trapped against either the shield on my left and the door frame on my right,” Hodges said. “With my posture granting me no functional strength or freedom of movement, I was effectively defenseless and gradually sustaining injury from the increasing pressure of the mob.”
“Directly in front of me, a man sees the opportunity of my vulnerability, grabbed the front of my gas mask and used it to beat my head against the door,” Hodges continued. “He switched to pulling it off my head, the straps stretching against my skull and straining my neck.”
Hodges added that the man ultimately succeeded in removing his gas mask, leaving the police officer exposed to chemical irritants sprayed by the rioters.
Another man then grabbed Hodges’ baton and “bashed me in the head and face with it, rupturing my lip and adding additional injury to my skull,” Hodges said.
Video footage and photos of the violent scene show Hodges stuck between the doorway with a bloody lip.
“At this point, I knew I couldn’t sustain much more damage and remain upright,” Hodges said. “At best, I would collapse and be a liability to my colleagues. At worst, be dragged out into the crowd and lynched.”
Hodges then said he resorted to do “the only thing that I could do and screamed for help.”
His yells were eventually heard by another police officer who was able to extricate him from the position. Hodges said he found water to decontaminate his face and “soon after” went back to the fight.
The DC police officer was one of four law enforcement officials on Capitol Hill on Tuesday who testified before a House select committee that is investigating the January 6 insurrection.
Hodges recounted other instances from that day when the rioters attacked him, including one man who “latched onto” his face and “got his thumb” in Hodges’ right eye, “attempting to gouge it out.”
“I cried out in pain and managed to shake him off before any permanent damage was done,” Hodges said.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s proposed defense policy bill mandates that women register for the Selective Service System, commonly known as the draft.
A summary of the Senate panel’s version of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act released Thursday calls for amending “the Military Selective Service Act to require the registration of women for Selective Service.”
The summary of the bill confirms earlier reporting from Politico that Senate Democrats are pushing for big changes to the military draft laws. The requirement for women to register is several steps from being a reality: the bill would have to pass the Senate and also the House, and be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Although there has not been a draft since Vietnam and the US military remains an all-volunteer force, current law requires all men to register for Selective Service when they turn 18 should a draft be required.
Past proposals to change the system have never made it through legislative negotiations to become law.
In 2017, rather than make changes, lawmakers compromised by creating an independent commission to study the draft law and its requirements.
Last year, the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, a congressionally-mandated commission, reported that expanding the Selective Service System “is a necessary and fair step, making it possible to draw on the talent of a unified Nation in a time of national emergency,” Politico reported at the time.
The existing draft law, which was first passed in 1917, has come under fire in multiple lawsuits questioning the constitutionality of this legislation.
Last month, the US Supreme Court declined to hear National Coalition for Men vs. Selective Service System, a case that debated whether an all-male draft is unconstitutional.
Congressional Democrats slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Wednesday for threatening to oppose an extension of the US’s ability to pay its bills, a step that could jeopardize the US’s economic recovery if Congress doesn’t act.
Sen. Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters that the national debt ballooned under President Donald Trump as a result of the pandemic and a 2017 Republican tax law that reduced the country’s tax revenue from large corporations. The debt grew $7 trillion under the Trump administration.
“Now Mitch McConnell wants to skip out on paying the bills, we are not going to let him do it. He’s not going to be able to hold the economy hostage,” Wyden said. “We are going to move this quick.”
Wyden said Democrats didn’t make political demands in exchange for supporting raising the debt ceiling while Trump was in office. He described McConnell’s move as “stallball.”
“Mitch McConnell is playing Russian roulette with this economy,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranked Democrat in the upper chamber, told reporters.
The Kentucky Republican said in an interview published on Punchbowl News on Monday that Republicans wouldn’t strike a deal with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, the statutory limit that the federal government can borrow to pay its bills.
McConnell said Democrats would have to do it alone through reconciliation, a legislative track that only requires a majority vote and would therefore be feasible to pass without Republican support.
Wyden declined to answer Insider when asked if it would be difficult to get all 50 Senate Democrats onboard. Still, there were signs that the Biden administration had no intention of striking a deal with the GOP.
“We expect Congress to act in a timely manner to raise or suspend the debt ceiling, as they did three times on a broad bipartisan basis during the last administration,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. Still, Democrats have not decided how to raise the debt ceiling only nine days before it expires.
“They have to decide what the strategy is, but I do think it’s going to be easy to get Democrats onboard,” Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, told Insider on Wednesday.
The US is scheduled to hit the debt ceiling limit on July 30, two years after it was last extended. But the Treasury Department has the ability to to pay off the US’s debt on its own for a limited time and head off a default with potentially catastrophic consequences for the economy.
Other Democrats simply shrugged off McConnell’s threat.
“‘Meh’ is my official response,” Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, a Democrat sponsoring a bill to abolish the debt ceiling, said in an interview. “Doesn’t matter, we’ll handle our business. This is something the Hill freaks out about every year or so. We will not negotiate over it, we will not concede anything and we won’t fail to do our job.
Rep. Liz Cheney on Wednesday blasted House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy over his “disingenuous” comments about the select committee to investigate the January 6 Capitol insurrection.
“The rhetoric that we have heard from the minority leader is disingenuous,” Cheney told reporters at the Capitol, adding that the riot was “an attack on our Constitution.”
“At every opportunity, the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened to block this investigation,” she continued. “The idea that anybody would be playing politics with an attack on the United States Capitol is despicable and disgraceful.”
The Wyoming Republican further criticized McCarthy by suggesting that he should not be considered for the House speakership if the GOP wins back the House in the 2022 midterm elections.
“Any person who would be third in line to the presidency must demonstrate a commitment to the Constitution and a commitment to the rule of law, and minority leader McCarthy has not done that,” she said.
It’s unclear what exactly the House GOP investigation will focus on, but McCarthy broadly pointed to the law enforcement failures on the day of the riot.
“Why was the Capitol so ill-prepared for that day … and what have we done to make sure that never happens again?” McCarthy said Wednesday.
McCarthy went on to criticize Pelosi’s efforts to investigate the insurrection, calling the committee a “sham process” and overly partisan.
The top GOP lawmaker originally recommended five House Republicans to join Pelosi’s select committee, including Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio, two Congress members who objected to the 2020 election certification on January 6.
But McCarthy pulled all of his recommendations and threatened to launch his own investigation in response to Pelosi rejecting his picks, Banks and Jordan, from serving on the committee. Pelosi agreed to McCarthy’s three other GOP appointments, Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Troy Nehls of Texas.
“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision,” she added.
Cheney backed Pelosi’s move on Wednesday, telling reporters that the top Democrat is dedicated to carrying out a serious investigation, whereas McCarthy is not.
“The American people deserve to know what happened. People who did this must be held accountable,” Cheney said Wednesday. “There must be an investigation that is nonpartisan, that is sober, that is serious, that gets to the facts wherever they may lead.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he doesn’t envision any Congressional Republicans voting alongside Democrats to renew the federal government’s authority to pay its bills.
That raises the prospects of derailing the economic recovery if the debt limit isn’t raised quickly enough.
“I can’t imagine a single Republican in this environment that we’re in now – this free-for-all for taxes and spending – to vote to raise the debt limit,” McConnell told Punchbowl News, adding Democrats would have to raise it alone in a party-line bill that’s taking shape.
The Kentucky Republican’s remarks represents a major warning to Democrats as they begin assembling a $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan that’s poised to clear Congress without GOP votes. That’s the legislative pathway for certain bills to be approved with only a majority vote.
The federal government’s borrowing authority is set to end on July 30.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged lawmakers to raise it as she testified before a panel last month, raising alarm about an “absolutely catastrophic” hit to the economic recovery if the government’s borrowing authority isn’t renewed. Raising the debt limit doesn’t mean federal spending will increase.
If the federal government defaults, Yellen said it could trigger a chain reaction of cash shortages starting with US bond holders that include individuals, businesses, and foreign governments.
The Treasury Department can tap into emergency powers to keep payments flowing until a certain date. But Yellen told Congress it’s tough to predict when those will be exhausted this summer given the economic uncertainty stemming from the pandemic.
Republicans voted to suspend the borrowing limit in July 2019 for two years under President Donald Trump. Experts say Democrats could raise the ceiling in a reconciliation package sometime this fall. But that would require them to list a numerical figure because of the process’s strict budgetary rules, opening the door for GOP political attacks on Democrats as big spenders while the national debt tops $28.5 trillion.
On Wednesday, Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina is set to hold a press conference about Democrats’ “reckless tax and spending spree.”
House minority whip Steve Scalise, the second-highest ranking House Republican, revealed that he got his first COVID-19 vaccine dose on Sunday amid growing concern over the rapidly-spreading Delta variant.
For months, Scalise told reporters he would get vaccinated “soon,” but said he thought he had some immunity to the coronavirus because he had antibodies from what he believed was a mild infection.
This week, Scalise struck a different tone, calling the COVID-19 vaccines “safe and effective.”
“Especially with the Delta variant becoming a lot more aggressive and seeing another spike, it was a good time to do it,” he told Nola.com, according to a report that was published on Tuesday. “When you talk to people who run hospitals, in New Orleans or other states, 90% of people in hospital with delta variant have not been vaccinated. That’s another signal the vaccine works.”
The Delta variant, which is significantly more contagious and dangerous than other strains of the virus, currently accounts for about 83% of all new COVID-19 cases in the US, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told a Senate committee on Tuesday.
“This is a dramatic increase” from early July, she said.
Unvaccinated people infected with the Delta variant are twice as likely to be hospitalized than those infected with the Alpha variant, another dominant strain. Experts say vaccinated people are largely protected against Delta. The Pfizer vaccine is 88 percent effective in protecting against the Delta variant, research has shown.
Scalise, for his part, said that he supported the US Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorizations for the COVID-19 vaccines.
“It was heavily tested on thousands of people before the FDA gave its approval,” he told Nola.com. “Some people believe that it might have been rushed. That’s not the case. I’ve been vocal about that for months. I know their process has high standards. The FDA approval process is probably the most respected in the world.”
But, he argued, Americans shouldn’t feel “shamed” into being vaccinated.
Republican lawmakers have faced pressure to urge Americans to get vaccinated as cases spike in unvaccinated communities.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has recently stepped up his vaccination advocacy, warning that “we’re going to be back in a situation in the fall … that we were in last year” if more Americans aren’t vaccinated as soon as possible. He also urged people to “ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”
“There’s no good reason not to get vaccinated. We need to finish the job,” McConnell said earlier this month. “I know there’s some skepticism out there, but let me put it his way: It may not guarantee you don’t get it but it almost guarantees you don’t die from it if you get it.”
Among those testify is Michael Fanone, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC.
Fanone, according to prosecutors, was shot with a stun gun, dragged down steps at the US Capitol, and beaten with a flagpole. He suffered a heart attack during the attack, which he said has left him with post-traumatic stress disorder.
At least 140 police officers were injured during the riot. At least two died during or following the attack: one from a stroke suffered after being hit with bear spray, which a medical examiner said may have been a contributing factor, and another from suicide.
Earlier this month, federal agents arrested a Pennsylvania man after a video appeared to show him charging at police with a stun gun and assaulting a photographer who captured the footage.
In June, the House passed legislation creating a select committee to investigate the January 6 attack after Republicans defeated a Democratic proposal for an independent commission.
The bill would take aim at land units and geographic features, like forests, streams, and wilderness areas, with racist or bigoted names. It would create a process to review and rename places with inoffensive names. According to the statement from the lawmakers, questionable names have been identified for 1,441 federally recognized places.
More than 600 places have the word “n—-,” a slur for Black people, in their name, according to a database from the US Geological Survey. In Oklahoma there is Dead N—- Spring, so-named because a deceased Black person was found there, according to the USGS.
In New Mexico, there is a reservoir called W—— Tank, named with a slur for Mexican people living in the US. Nearly 800 results are returned by the USGS database when searching for the term “s—-,” an offensive word for Native American women.
“These terms are harmful relics from the era of invidious yet lawful discrimination that must be removed from public property,” Congressman Green said. “Racism, even in geography, cannot be tolerated in a country that strives for liberty and justice for all.”
The bill would establish an advisory board of civil rights experts and tribal organizations and solicit comment from the public on name change proposals. The board would then make renaming recommendations to the proper government body, such as Congress in the case of federal land units.
On July 20, President Joe Biden will have been in office for six months.
Since their January inauguration, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have been met with a host of challenges, most notably the coronavirus pandemic, which, since last year, has upended life as we know it.
However, on a range of issues, from steering a largely-reopened economy and facing immigration challenges at the US-Mexico border to reshaping the country’s standing on the world stage and putting an imprint on the federal judiciary, Biden has made a clear pivot from the administration of former President Donald Trump.
Biden, who represented Delaware in the US Senate for 36 years before serving as vice president for eight years, is certainly not new to Washington, DC. But that familiarity has so far helped Biden navigate a city that he’s intimately familiar with, despite being a place that has also become much more partisan in recent decades.
Here are five key figures that currently defining the trajectory of Biden’s young presidency:
In April 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the US unemployment rate sat at 14.8%, a dizzying number that reflected the economic pain caused by businesses forced to shut down because of the deadly virus.
The unemployment rate rose by 0.1% from May to June, but it was a reflection of an expanding job workforce.
Earlier in the spring, there were some concerns about job growth and the effectiveness of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package championed by Biden and congressional Democrats.
However, as COVID-related restrictions eased and vaccination rates increased since the beginning of the year, the economy has clearly benefited.
After nearly six months in office, FiveThirtyEight’s polling average has Biden’s overall approval rating at 52.4%, with 42.5% disapproving of his performance, reflective of his relatively stable numbers over the past few months.
While many people were fighting to find appointments earlier this year, many sites offer now walk-in appointments as vaccination rates lag in many parts of the country.
Vaccine hesitancy is a real thing, and Biden, who pledged to prioritize fighting the virus during his presidential campaign last year, is trying to find new ways to encourage people to get their shots, especially as the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus takes hold across the country.
The administration missed its goal of 70% of the population having received at least one vaccine shot by July 4, but Biden recently outlined a strategy of a door-to-door effort to help protect the unvaccinated against the virus, along with getting vaccines to primary-care physicians and physicians.
Earlier this year, Democrats were thrilled to win back control of the Senate after sweeping the dual Georgia runoff elections, which gave them 50 Senate seats. However, with Republicans also possessing 50 seats, Democratic control is only a reality due to Harris’s ability to break ties in the evenly-divided chamber.
While Democrats have been able to get virtually all of their major Cabinet and administration nominees through the Senate, along with their ability to push through judicial nominees, they still have to contend with the legislative filibuster, which can be used when major legislation fails to meet the 60-vote threshold to cut off debate.
Party leaders desperately want to pass their marquee For the People Act, or S.1, the sweeping voting-rights bill that would end partisan gerrymandering, expand early and absentee voting, and establish national standards for voter registration, among other measures.
However, moderate Sens. Joe Manchin of Arizona and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have not relented from their longstanding pledges to keep the filibuster intact, which will continue to limit how much the administration can actually sign into law.
Senate Democrats last Wednesday reached a deal on a $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill that would feature infrastructure priorities focused on childcare, clean energy, and education. This legislation would be separate from the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure framework crafted by a small group of senators and the White House.
However, the bill will have to be passed through reconciliation, which Republicans have already rejected on the grounds of its cost and its reach into areas that they deem as unrelated to infrastructure.
By using the budget reconciliation process, Democrats can pass the bill with a simple majority and avoid a filibuster.
Democrats are determined to pass a larger party-line package, though, and with the filibuster still intact, now will likely be the party’s best chance to enact such a massive piece of legislation before the 2022 midterm elections.