Sen. Chris Murphy says he’d ‘settle’ for scaled-back gun control measures ‘because that will save lives’

Chris Murphy
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

  • Sen. Murphy during a CNN interview said that he could “settle” for scaled-back gun-control measures.
  • “I want universal background checks … but I will settle for something much less because that will save lives,” he said.
  • Murphy is one of the most prominent gun-control advocates in the Senate.

Sen. Chris Murphy, one of the most prominent gun-control advocates in the upper chamber, on Sunday said that he could “settle” for scaled-back measures days after four students were killed during a shooting at a Michigan high school.

During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” the Connecticut Democrat said that despite the party controlling the White House and Congress and overwhelmingly supporting measures like universal background checks, filibuster rules in the Senate are preventing the legislation from passing.

“I won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, right,” he said. “I want universal background checks, I want a ban on assault weapons, but I will settle for something much less because that will save lives.”

Murphy’s renewed push comes after an individual opened fire at Oxford High School, located in suburban Detroit.

The suspect, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, was arrested at the scene and has been charged as an adult. He faces 24 criminal counts, including first-degree murder and terrorism.

His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, on Saturday pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter — they were set to be arraigned the day before, but failed to appear in court, which led to a search from law enforcement officials.

Murphy has sought to enact comprehensive gun-control legislation since his tenure in the House, which took on greater urgency for him after the December 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., located within his then-congressional district.

When Murphy joined the Senate in 2013, he continued his work toward more expansive gun control.

While on CNN, Murphy said that he hoped to see some Republican “epiphanies” on the issue.

“I wish my Republican colleagues didn’t, sort of, have epiphanies on this issue only after mass school shootings,” he said. “But that tends to be what happens, and so my hope is that in the next couple of weeks we can get back to the table and see if we can, at the very least … maybe close the gun show loophole.”

“That alone would save a lot of lives,” he added.

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Mitch McConnell would eliminate the filibuster if he was in Democrats’ shoes, Jim Acosta says

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta speaks outside US District Court in Washington, DC, on November 16, 2018.
CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta speaks outside US District Court in Washington, DC, on November 16, 2018.

  • When he led the Senate, Mitch McConnell broke norms by blocking Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.
  • McConnell led the vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Court in 2020, reversing course.
  • CNN correspondent Jim Acosta said that Democrats should think like McConnell and end the filibuster.

CNN correspondent Jim Acosta said Saturday that Democrats have been out-maneuvered by US Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, an architect of a conservative-leaning Supreme Court that appears open to upholding a 15-week Mississippi abortion ban in a major case that would gut Roe v. Wade.

“If Mitch McConnell were in their shoes, what would he do?” Acosta said. “Given what we know, would we see him letting the filibuster stand? Is the filibuster more important than election rights and women’s rights? Is it more important than the lives of our teenagers, the safety of our schools?”

During the segment, Acosta outlined how the electoral college gave Trump the presidency, as well as the opportunity to nominate three Supreme Court justices during his term: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

He also recounted McConnell’s strategy to pack the court with conservative justices, including his obstruction of President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, who would have filled a vacancy on the Supreme Court after the death of former Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. While McConnell insisted that the vacancy could not be filled during an election year, four years later he would lead the vote to nominate Coney Barrett to the court days before the 2020 election.

“Even though Americans have largely chosen Democrats for the presidency over the last three decades, a new hard-right Supreme Court appears poised to turn back the clock to the 1970s,” Acosta said. “This has created the scenario where the minority views on a whole range of hot-button issues could carry the day for a generation.”

Acosta also cited Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who warned earlier this week that overturning Roe v. Wade would create a “stench in Washington.”

“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception, that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible,” Sotomayor said. “If people actually believe that it’s all political, how will we survive? How will the Court survive?”

The court will hand down a decision by next June on the Mississippi case concerning abortion rights. If the justices decide to overturn Roe v. Wade, at least 12 states will immediately impose near-total bans on abortion.

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Trump urged GOP senators to vote ‘no’ on raising the debt ceiling. 11 senators, including Mitch McConnell, ignored him and voted to pave the way for passage.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gives a thumbs up when asked whether a deal has been reached regarding the ongoing debate on the national debt reduction on July 31, 2011 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gives a thumbs up when asked whether a deal has been reached regarding the ongoing debate on the national debt reduction on July 31, 2011 in Washington, DC.

  • Former President Donald Trump has been vocal about disagreeing with raising the debt ceiling.
  • But 11 GOP senators helped Democrats clear a procedural vote that paved the way for final passage.
  • Trump’s sway is more limited in the Senate compared to the House.

Former President Donald Trump urged Senate Republicans to oppose raising the debt ceiling only minutes before the vote began. But 11 GOP senators – including the upper chamber’s top Republican – ignored his comments anyway and helped Democrats clear a procedural hurdle in the deadlocked Senate allowing the bill to pass in the end.

“Republican Senators, do not vote for this terrible deal being pushed by folding Mitch McConnell. Stand strong for our Country. The American people are with you!” the former president advised.

Eleven GOP senators helped Democrats clear an initial procedural vote to cut off debate and break the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster. That allowed the measure to advance to final passage with only Democratic votes.

Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Shelley Moore-Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, John Cornyn of Texas, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Richard Shelby of Alabama, and John Thune of South Dakota helped Democrats break the filibuster. The cloture vote was 61-38; the final vote on the bill was 50-48 along party lines.

Trump’s influence is more limited in the Senate compared to the House, where he holds outsized sway among Republican lawmakers. In the summer, 19 Republican senators supported President Joe Biden’s $550 billion infrastructure bill, despite his demands that they tank it. Still, that doesn’t mean he wields no influence in the Senate.

“I think Donald Trump always influences people’s votes whether he says something or doesn’t,” Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told reporters.

Senate Republicans were largely upset with McConnell’s maneuver on Thursday, and they struggled to dig up 10 votes in their ranks to clear the first procedural vote, known as cloture. Raising the debt ceiling would avoid a government default. An agreement made Thursday allows for a $480 billion increase until December 3.

The debt ceiling is the statutory cap on how much the government can borrow to repay its bills. Suspending the limit gives the US more time to pay its bills for pandemic stimulus and other key aid programs from the last two years. If Congress fails to raise the limit, the government can default on its debt and plunge the US into a new economic crisis.

“We’ve averted the fiscal cliff – at least for now,” Murkowski told reporters after the vote.

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Biden says it’s ‘a real possibility’ that Democrats could blow a one-time hole in filibuster to prevent disastrous debt default

Biden
President Joe Biden waves as he walks on the Ellipse after stepping off Marine One on May 17, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • On Tuesday evening Biden opened the door to blowing up part of the filibuster to avoid default.
  • He said Democrats were considering it and it was “a real possibility.”
  • Manchin and Sinema have opposed changing the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold, making it a longshot.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden opened the door on Tuesday evening to blowing a one-time hole in the filibuster to pass a debt-limit hike, saying it was “a real possibility” among Democrats as they sorted through options in the face of Republican opposition to prevent a potentially devastating default within two weeks.

Earlier in the day, Biden said “there’s not much time left to do it by reconciliation,” referring to a legislative maneuver that Democrats are employing to approve their social spending plan by relying only on Democratic votes and bypassing fierce GOP opposition.

Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are blocking efforts to renew the US’s ability to pay its bills. They argue Democrats must unilaterally pass a debt-limit hike in reconciliation, betting that it will expose them to politically uncomfortable votes and provide fodder for campaign ads in next year’s midterms.

Democrats argue both parties have a responsibility to repay the debt they racked up in recent years, particularly under the Trump administration. “If Republicans could just get out of the damn way, we could get this done,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday.

Senate Democrats are balking at reconciliation, a perilous maneuver to undergo with only a few weeks left ahead of a critical deadline. Many Democratic senators are starting to lean in favor of a one-time filibuster exception if it meant averting default.

“You could create a one-time exception to save the economy from catastrophe,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland told Insider on Tuesday.

Yet some Democrats, including Biden, have long balked at invoking the so-called “nuclear option” to change the Senate’s filibuster rules in a bid to approve priorities on immigration reform, gun control, and voting rights with a simple majority vote. Most bills must clear a 60-vote threshold first on their path to becoming law, an uphill battle for Democrats in a 50-50 Senate.

Senate Republicans have successfully blocked Biden from enacting most of his plans using the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold. Despite the GOP blockade, some centrist Democrats, like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, insist the filibuster serves as a mechanism to foster compromise with Republicans. Senate Democrats would need the pair’s votes to carve out a temporary exception and pass a debt limit hike unilaterally, rendering the maneuver a longshot.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Manchin would be swayed by the threat of global economic catastrophe to abandon his attachment to the filibuster. “Forget the filibuster,” he told reporters on Monday.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned if Congress fails to act by October 18, the US could fail to make all its debt payments. If the US defaults, seniors could face delays receiving Social Security checks, and federal unemployment benefits along with government health insurance programs for low-income earners could be cut.

Kimberly Leonard contributed reporting.

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White House confirms Biden’s opposition to changing Senate filibuster rules in order to raise debt ceiling

joe biden
U.S. President Joe Biden.

  • Democrats are running out of time and options to address the impending debt ceiling deadline.
  • The White House on Tuesday, confirmed Biden is opposed to changing the filibuster to increase the limit.
  • Changing the Senate procedural rule would require all 50 Democrats and Kamala Harris’ support.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Not even the threat of an impending US recession can change President Joe Biden’s mind when it comes to the filibuster.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Tuesday that the president has not altered his stance on the oft-debated Senate procedure. Biden still opposes changing the rules, even to pass a bill that raises or suspends the debt ceiling.

The president’s renewed opposition comes as Democrats face their toughest week in Congress since Biden’s inauguration. The party is running out of time and options to address the approaching deadline on the country’s debt ceiling and stopgap funding, while Republicans actively torpedo their attempts.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday warned that her agency could run out of money by mid-October, sending the US economy into chaos and triggering a default on the government’s debt.

Democrats’ attempts to deal with the limit thus far have all been blocked by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s GOP. He has repeatedly said that Democrats should raise the ceiling alone, without his party’s help, all the while, voting against their efforts to do so.

Last week, the House passed a bill aimed at funding the government past September 30, which included a provision that would increase the limit on how much the US can borrow to pay its bills, but the measure failed in the Senate on Monday, when the bill failed to clear the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold to end debate.

Then, on Tuesday, Democrats tried to pass a debt ceiling increase by a simple majority vote through unanimous consent, but McConnell blocked their attempt to do so, yet again, further pushing the country toward default.

Bills that raise or suspend the debt ceiling are currently subject to filibuster rules in the Senate, but a remaining option for desperate Democrats could be to change the rules of the procedure so that a relevant bill would no longer be beholden to the 60-vote threshold. Lawmakers throughout history have made similar adjustments to confirm judicial nominees and cabinet officials.

But doing so would require all 50 Senate Democrats’ support, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris’ seal of approval, meaning Biden’s reaffirmed opposition to doing so almost certainly renders the possibility a non-option.

According to Politico, Biden has conferred with Democratic leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer regarding the party’s approach to the approaching deadline, but is publicly deferring to Congress on how to avoid the crisis.

The outlet reported that on Monday, Pelosi, Schumer, and Biden discussed possibly raising the debt limit through budget reconciliation, which White House officials had been hoping to avoid.

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Sen. Alex Padilla says Democrats will have ‘no choice’ but to ‘revisit’ filibuster reform if the GOP blocks a voting-rights compromise bill

Alex Padilla
Sen. Alex Padilla of California.

  • Sen. Alex Padilla said that continued GOP obstruction of voting rights will force Democrats to “revisit” legislative rules.
  • On MSNBC, Padilla took aim at the filibuster, which he has sought to eliminate in the Senate.
  • Democrats have been unable to persuade 10 Republicans to advance voting-rights legislation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Alex Padilla on Sunday said that if Republicans block the voting-rights compromise legislation being drafted by Democratic lawmakers, then the party will have “no choice” but to look to filibuster reform.

During an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Mehdi Hasan Show,” the California Democrat, who last December was tapped to join the upper chamber to fill the remaining term of now-Vice President Kamala Harris, said that if Democrats fail to muster 10 GOP votes to overcome an filibuster, then the party would have to reexamine how to pass the legislation.

Padilla said that a working group that consists of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, along with himself and others, sought to work diligently in order to craft a bill that could garner the support of all 50 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

“We’ve taken some during this August recess to appeal to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” he said. “I know Sen. Manchin keeps reminding everybody how the preference is always to work in a bipartisan fashion. When we can, that’s great. But our fundamental voting rights are so important and so critical.”

He emphasized: “I think if we’re not successful in getting 10 Republicans to do the right thing, then we have no choice but to revisit the rules of the Senate … some outdated rules of the Senate. Whether it’s abolishing the filibuster as a whole or somehow creating a carve-out or exemption to allow these measures to go forward for the sake of our democracy. It’s too important.”

For months, the party’s marquee voting-rights measures – the For the People Act (H.R. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Advancement Act (H.R. 4) – have stalled in Congress.

The previous version of the For the People Act included provisions to ban partisan gerrymandering, expand early and absentee voting, establish national standards for voter registration, and curb voter purges, among other measures. The bill would also mandate that states offer mail-in ballots and same-day voter registration, policies which are anathema to conservatives.

The House passed the previous version of the bill, but it has languished in the Senate – Democrats need 60 votes to advance the legislation and Republicans have so far refused to sign on to H.R. 1 and filibustered the bill in June. For months, Manchin and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have dismissed calls to nix the filibuster, saying that such an action would only inflame partisan divisions.

Even if the compromise bill receives 50 votes, Democrats still need 10 crossover votes. Republicans, who have passed of wave of restrictive voting laws across the country, have accused their colleagues across the aisle of seeking to “federalize” what they feel are election matters that should be within the purview of states.

Democrats contend that the GOP-led voting laws have imperiled the voting rights of everyday Americans, while conservatives argue that the bills are designed to shield the voting process from nefarious activity – despite the low rates of significant voter fraud.

Since joining the Senate, Padilla, who previously oversaw California’s elections as secretary of state, has called for the elimination of the filibuster.

When asked by Hasan whether he agreed with his Golden State Senate colleague, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who said in June that she didn’t view democracy as “being in jeopardy right now,” Padilla took a different view.

“Democracy is clearly in jeopardy,” he said. “What I can say is that a lot of my colleagues that may have been reticent earlier in the year to modify or abolish the filibuster continue to see the obstruction by not just Mitch McConnell but our Republican colleagues across the board.”

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‘Old battles have become new again’: Thousands march in Washington, DC, and across the US in push for voting-rights legislation

Washington march voting rights
With the Washington Monument in the background, the Rev. Al Sharpton, center, holds a banner with Martin Luther King, III, and Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green of Texas, during the march to call for sweeping protections against a further erosion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 28, 2021.

  • Thousands came to Washington and other US cities to push for passage of voting-rights legislation.
  • House Democrats have passed voting legislation, only to see it stymied by the Senate filibuster.
  • Advocates are pushing to counter restrictive voting bills that are being enacted in many states.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Thousands of people on Saturday marched in the nation’s capital to commemorate the 58th anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963 – seeking to push Congress to pass federal voting-rights legislation to counter the raft of restrictive voting bills being implemented in states across the country.

Organizers for the March On for Voting Rights, which in addition to Washington, DC, is taking place in Atlanta, Houston, Miami, and Phoenix, are using the event to call out voter suppression and push for fair elections.

On the way to the National Mall, marchers advocated for lawmakers to pass voting-rights measures that have stalled in Congress – the For the People Act (H.R. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Advancement Act (H.R. 4).

The For the People Act, the Democratic Party’s marquee voting-rights bill, would end partisan gerrymandering, expand early and absentee voting, establish national standards for voter registration, and blunt voter purges, among other things. The bill would also mandate that states offer mail-in ballots and same-day voter registration, which conservatives have long resisted in many states.

The House has passed the sweeping bill, but it has stalled in the Senate – Democrats need 60 votes to advance the legislation and Republicans have refused to sign on to H.R. 1, even filibustering the bill in June – fueled by opposition from former President Donald Trump, who has long propagated unsubstantiated claims of voting fraud.

Read more: The ultimate White House org chart to 600+ members of Biden’s staff and who makes six figures

The John Lewis Voting Act, named after the civil-rights icon and longtime Congressman who passed away last year, would notably restore federal pre-clearance requirements from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were weakened in the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder. For decades, states and jurisdictions with histories of discrimination were required to obtain permission from the federal government before making voting changes or new legislative maps.

The legislation, which passed the House in a 219-212 party-line vote on Tuesday, faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama, who represents the cradle of the civil-rights movement, is the sponsor of H.R. 4 and invoked the legacy of Lewis in calling for passage of the bill.

“Here we are, marching to do our own work. As long as a Supreme Court is hellbent on rolling back voter rights, Selma is now,” she said. “As long as we have a Senate that is so entrenched with having a procedural vote called a filibuster and not restoring our voting rights, Selma is now.”

She added: “Old battles have become new again. Modern day suppression is alive and well, and we have to do our part to roll it back.”

March On Washington voting rights
Activists listen to a religious service during the March On for Washington on August 28, 2021.

‘You’re not going to filibuster away our voting protections’

Democrats control the Senate in the 50-50 chamber by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote, but the party has been unable to meet the 60-vote threshold to overcome legislative filibusters on its voting-rights bills.

Progressive lawmakers have urged moderate Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to weaken or eliminate the filibuster in order to pass voting-rights legislation, but they have steadfastly chosen to keep the practice in place, pointing to a need to preserve bipartisanship.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the organizers of the march, gave a rousing speech in support of voting rights – arguing that the filibuster could not stand in the way of progress.

“We will not sit by and allow you to filibuster our right to vote,” he said. “We paid too high a price. People died to give us the right to vote. People spent nights in jail to give us the right to vote. People lost their lives to give us to give us the right to vote.”

He added: “There is no filibuster that can stand in the way of a people determined to get their rights. That’s why in the blistering heat, we came to Washington to say, ‘You’re not going to filibuster away our voting protections.'”

Despite the legislative setbacks, civil rights and labor leaders have called voting rights an extension of the ideals espoused by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

On Saturday, King’s son, Martin Luther King III, spoke out forcefully for federal voting-rights legislation.

“We are a force of nature,” he said. “This is a battlefield of morals and you are armed with the truth and the truth is a flame, you cannot extinguish. People have done it before, and we’ll do it again. We will demand federal voting rights until we have them. So don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t give out. You are the dream, and this is our moment to make it true.”

Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York, a first-term lawmaker who has called for the abolition of the filibuster and an expansion of the Supreme Court, warned the crowd of GOP rule if voting-rights legislation falls by the wayside.

“If we fail to act in this moment, we are on a path by which democracy dies in darkness,” he said. “Allow me to paint a future of that dark future for you. Thanks to partisan gerrymandering, the party of Donald Trump will take back control of the House next year, even as Democrats continue to win more votes nationwide.”

He added: “The party of Donald Trump would also take back the United States Senate through voter suppression in states like Georgia, and we gotta make sure that Raphael Warnock comes back to the Senate.”

Organizers of the march also hoped to point to issues such as reparations for descendants of slavery, a $15 minimum wage, student loan debt cancelation, statehood for Washington, DC, and criminal justice reform, among other issues.

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These 5 key numbers are currently defining the Biden presidency from unemployment to vaccinations

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden delivers a speech on voting rights at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on July 13, 2021.

  • President Joe Biden will mark six months in office on July 20.
  • Biden enjoys unified control of government, but the Senate still has its complications.
  • The administration has focused on battling COVID-19 and is strategizing how to continue the fight.
  • Sign up for the 10 Things in Politics daily newsletter.

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:

5.9%

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 June unemployment rate was 5.9%, with the economy adding 850,000 jobs last month, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The economy added 583,000 jobs in May and 269,000 jobs in April, respectively, so June’s numbers are a welcome sign in the long recovery in a post-COVID world.

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.

60.3%

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.

However, when it comes to Biden’s handling of the coronavirus, the FiveThirtyEight polling average has Biden at 60.3% approval, with 31.6% disapproving. Trump after his first six months in office held an 39% approval rating, with 55% disapproving, making him the most unpopular president at the 6-month mark, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Biden has consistently had higher numbers for his handling of COVID-19 relative to his overall approval rating, even among Independents and Republicans.

161.2 million

As of July 18, 161,232,483 Americans have been fully vaccinated, representing 48.6% of the total population, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Fully-vaccinated individuals have received two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or one shot of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

However, 186,038,501 Americans have received at least one dose, which equates to 56% of the total population.

seattle covid vaccine
Byron Saunders holds his wife Joyce’s hand as she gets the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a community vaccination site in Seattle, Washington on March 13, 2021.

Read more: Joe Biden just fired a top Trump holdover at the Social Security Administration, but these 7 other Trump-era officials are still holding high-level government positions

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.

50

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.

Joe Biden with bipartisan group of senators.
President Joe Biden with a bipartisan group of senators.

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.

$3.5 trillion

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.

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GOP lawmakers caught on video telling activists to thank Manchin and Sinema for not blowing up the filibuster: ‘Without that we would be dead meat’

andy biggs
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), votes no on the first article of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2019.

  • GOP congressmen were caught on tape telling activists to thank Manchin and Sinema for holding firm on the filibuster.
  • “Without that we would be dead meat and this thing would be done,” a GOP congressman said.
  • The filibuster has emerged as a barrier to a major chunk of Biden’s agenda.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Several Republican lawmakers were secretly filmed imploring conservative activists to flood a pair of centrist Democrats with messages of gratitude for holding firm on the filibuster, a 60-vote threshold that most bills need to clear the Senate.

It’s the latest video posted by Democratic activist Lauren Windsor, only days after posting another one showing a GOP congressman calling for “18 months of chaos” to jam Democrats. Both sets of remarks were made at a June 29 Patriot Voices event attended by a large group of conservatives.

In the newest video, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona said Democrats were “pushing as hard as they can” to enact President Joe Biden’s agenda.

“Fortunately for us, the filibuster’s still in effect in the Senate. Without that we would be dead meat and this thing would be done,” he said in the video. “Then we’d be having a little more frantic discussion than we’d be having today.”

He went on: “But thank goodness for Sinema and Joe Manchin,” referring to Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of whom have resisted a mounting chorus of Democratic calls to abolish the filibuster.

Then Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida urged activists in attendance to call the pair of centrist Democrats and thank them for refusing to blow up the filibuster.

“All of you in this room, people at home on Zoom, let me tell you right now, if you want to do one thing to keep the republic afloat, call Joe Manchin’s office, call Kyrsten Sinema’s office,” he said.

Donald’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Biggs’s office declined to comment on the record.

The filibuster has emerged as a barrier to a substantial chunk of Biden’s agenda on the economy, voting rights, policing reform, and immigration. Given Democrats’ 50-50 majority that relies on a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris, many in the party are calling to get rid of it so they can pass legislation without Republicans.

But Manchin and Sinema have dug in on preserving it. “There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” Manchin wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in April.

Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator and 2016 GOP primary candidate, also attended the event. He acknowledged the difficulty Republicans face rolling back social programs once they’re in place – a possible reference to their failed attempt to scrap the Affordable Care Act under President Donald Trump in 2017, and others proposing cuts to safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security.

“It’s a lot easier to pass giveaways than to take them away. And everybody thinks, ‘Oh, well you know, we’ll just take them away,'” he said in the video. “No we won’t! No we won’t.”

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema slammed ‘false pressure’ to reach a filibuster-proof 60 votes in newly unearthed 2010 video

Kyrsten Sinema
Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

  • Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, criticized the “false pressure” to reach a 60-vote supermajority to pass legislation in 2010.
  • Sinema, then a state representative, suggested that the filibuster forced Democrats to “kowtow” to moderate lawmakers.
  • Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin are the only two Democrats who’ve vocalized staunch opposition to eliminating the filibuster.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, criticized the “false pressure” to reach a 60-vote supermajority to pass legislation in comments to supporters 11 years ago, according to a 2010 video newly unearthed by the progressive media organization More Perfect Union.

Then an Arizona state representative, Sinema told the audience that she supported Democrats using reconciliation to pass major legislation, including healthcare reform, with just 51 votes. She also criticized then-Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who caucused with the Democratic Party, and then-Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, for being too moderate.

“In the Senate, we no longer have 60 votes,” Sinema told the audience. “Some would argue we never had 60 because one of those was Joseph Lieberman.”

She added that without 60 Democratic-voting lawmakers in the Senate, “there’s none of this pressure, this false pressure, to get to 60.”

She went on, “So what this means is that the Democrats can stop kowtowing to Joe Lieberman and, instead, seek other avenues to move forward with health reform.”

A spokesperson for Sinema didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

As one of the most moderate Democrats in the Senate, and one of the only who vocally opposes eliminating the filibuster, Sinema plays somewhat of a similar role in the chamber as Lieberman did in 2010.

Sinema now argues that the filibuster is essential in protecting American democracy, and she recently argued in a Washington Post op-ed that the 60-vote rule “compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy poles.”

She’s faced significant blowback from fellow Democrats and progressive activists who want to get rid of the 60-vote rule in order to pass much of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

The senator argued that her position on the filibuster has been consistent during her tenure in Washington.

“I held the same view during three terms in the U.S. House, and said the same after I was elected to the Senate in 2018,” she said. “If anyone expected me to reverse my position because my party now controls the Senate, they should know that my approach to legislating in Congress is the same whether in the minority or majority.”

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