The US State Department will now recognize the citizenship of babies born through in vitro fertilization or surrogacy, a win for same-sex couples.
The State Department on Tuesday announced that babies born abroad to married couples where one parent is a US citizen will automatically be granted citizenship in the US.
Existing law required babies born abroad needed to have a blood relationship with the parent who was a US citizen. The new policy announced Tuesday requires the baby to be genetically related to one of the married parents.
The move is a victory for gay couples and married couples who have children through in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, or other assisted reproductive technology.
“This updated interpretation and application of the INA takes into account the realities of modern families and advances in ART from when the Act was enacted in 1952,” the state department said in a press release announcing the policy change.
The House on Tuesday passed a bill that addresses the rise in violence and discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lower chamber approved the legislation, called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, in a 364-62 vote.
The bill directs the Department of Justice to expedite the review of coronavirus-related hate crimes, provide guidance to state and local governments to improve public reporting on hate crimes, and raise awareness about hate crimes during the public health crisis.
Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who championed the bill, said it makes clear that hate against Asian Americans is “unacceptable” and “will not be tolerated.” The legislation also demonstrates that “Congress has the Asian American community’s back,” she added.
“An attack on the Asian American community is an attack on all of us,” Meng said during a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
The bill’s passage comes after the Senate overwhelmingly approved it 94-1 last month in a rare bipartisan effort. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri was the lone “no” vote, arguing it was “too broad.”
The federal government has been under pressure to respond to the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic. The nonprofit group, Stop AAPI Hate, has reported 6,603 incidents of physical assault, shunning, verbal and online harassment, and civil-rights violations against AAPI communities in the US from March 2020 to March 2021.
Meng and fellow Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii introduced the legislation in March in the wake of a mass shooting at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The deadly attack sparked national outrage over the uptick in anti-Asian violence coinciding with the spread of COVID-19 across the country and former President Donald Trump elevating terms such as “Chinese virus” and “kung flu.”
“Those of Asian descent have been blamed and scapegoated for the outbreak of COVID-19 and as a result Asian Americans have been beaten, slashed, spat on, and even set on fire and killed,” Meng said on Tuesday. “We are here today to say that Congress is taking action.”
Eleven children in Gaza who were taking part in a program to recover from past trauma have been killed by Israeli airstrikes while sheltering in their homes, the Norwegian Refugee Council said Tuesday.
“They are now gone, killed with their families, buried with their dreams and the nightmares that haunted them,” NRC Secretary-General Jan Egeland said in a statement.
The children, ages 5 to 15, had been taking part in the group’s Better Learning Programme, designed to help youth “exposed to war and conflict in Palestine.”
One set of Israeli airstrikes in central Gaza City killed eight of the students, according to NRC, including two siblings and their father, Dr. Ayman Abu al-Auf, who was head of internal medicine at a nearby hospital.
Ten-year-old Rafeef Murshed Abu Dayer was killed by shrapnel, a week before his birthday, while having lunch in a garden outside his family’s home, the group said.
“As an urgent measure, we appeal to all parties for an immediate ceasefire,” Egeland said. “But the truth is that there can be no peace or security as long as there are systemic injustices,” he added, calling for an end to the years-long Israeli blockade of Gaza, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas.
NRC is a humanitarian organization that employs 15,000 people in 30 countries, providing displaced persons and others shelter, food, and others forms of assistance.
At least 212 people in Gaza, including 61 children, have been killed since Israel launched its air campaign last week against the Palestinian territory, responding to indiscriminate rocket fire from Hamas militants. Roughly 3,000 rockets have been fired at Israel by Hamas, the majority of which have been intercepted by Israel’s defense system the Iron Dome. A dozen Israelis have been killed, including two children.
The Israeli government says it takes steps to minimize the loss of civilian life. But human rights groups have said it has repeatedly bombed civilian homes without warning. On Monday, Amnesty International said that the Israeli attacks on residential build “may amount to war crimes.”
President Joe Biden has refused to explicitly criticize Israel as it’s pummeled Gaza with airstrikes over the past week – killing dozens of Palestinian civilians in the process – and rights groups and some Democrats in Congress say it undermines his pledge to have a foreign policy centered on human rights.
Biden’s approach to the renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas over the past week has not marked a major departure from how past US presidents responded to flare ups in the Middle East conflict. The president has repeatedly touted Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas attacks, while ripping into the Palestinian militant group for firing rockets toward civilian areas in Israel. Twelve people in Israel, including two children, have been killed by the rocket attacks, per CBS News.
But Biden hasn’t publicly criticized Israel over its tactics in the fighting or the mounting number of civilian deaths in Gaza amid the offensive, which has included at least 61 children, according to Gaza Health Ministry. The death toll in Gaza has risen to at least 212 people.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International on Monday said Israel’s strikes exhibit “shocking disregard” for Palestinian civilians and “may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.”
Biden has also refrained from addressing the central, underlying causes of the violence – Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories, the economy-crippling blockade on Gaza, and efforts to push Palestinians out of East Jerusalem. Top rights groups have characterized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as a form of apartheid.
As Biden maintains the status quo, the conversation on Israel in Washington has changed. Democratic lawmakers are increasingly calling for a more nuanced approach to US-Israel relations. And critics are pushing Biden break from the tradition of unwavering support and call out Israel when it oversteps.
“That’s what’s missing in the statements coming from President Biden: You don’t hear the words ‘Palestinians deserve human rights, that Palestinians deserve to exist, that Palestinians deserve to live freely, that children need to be safe and secure,'” Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib said during an MSNBC interview on Monday.
“It’s shocking, the hypocrisy of us saying that we need to be stewards of human rights, except for Palestinians,” Tlaib went on to say. “I hope that my president, our president, speaks up and speaks truth about what exactly is happening, because I know they know.”
Tlaib accused Biden of “taking orders” from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stating that the president’s “passive language” is “enabling” Israel’s government. She urged Biden to “speak out against this violence in a very aggressive way that holds Netanyahu and his leadership accountable.”
After an Israeli airstrike on Saturday leveled a Gaza building that housed offices for media outlets like Associated Press and Al Jazeera, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unloaded on Biden. The New York Democrat excoriated the Biden administration for delaying the push a ceasefire and blocking the UN Security Council from releasing a statement that would condemn Israel over the Gaza offensive.
“This is happening with the support of the United States. I don’t care how any spokesperson tries to spin this. The US vetoed the UN call for ceasefire,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet. “If the Biden admin can’t stand up to an ally, who can it stand up to? How can they credibly claim to stand for human rights?”
Louis Charbonneau, the UN representative for Human Rights Watch, told Foreign Policy that the Biden administration “undermines its credibility” by not holding Israel to “the same international standard as everyone else.”
“U.S. credibility depends on an even-handed application of human rights rules and international law for everyone, allies and enemies alike,” Charbonneau said.
Human rights groups are also raising concerns about Biden’s uncritical approach, particularly due to the fact the US gives Israel roughly $3.8 billion in military aid per year.
“Hard for the Biden administration to claim a foreign policy grounded in human rights if it makes no effort to monitor how Israeli security forces are using US weapons and assistance,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a tweet last week.
Democratic lawmakers and rights groups have also raised alarm about the Biden administration’s plans to move forward with a $735 million sale of smart bombs (precision-guided weapons) to Israel.
“Biden’s approval of a $735 million offensive arms sale to Israel in the midst of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law perpetrated by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups directly undermines his commitment to upholding human rights around the world,” Philippe Nassif, the advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. “By supplying weapons that could be used to commit war crimes, the U.S. government is taking the risk of further fueling attacks against civilians and seeing more people killed or injured by U.S.-made weapons.”
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota in a statement on Monday said it would be “appalling” for Biden to move ahead with the sale. “We should be standing unequivocally and consistently on the side of human rights,” Omar said.
Bipartisanship is the theme of President Joe Biden’s agenda these days, with him dedicating the majority of his May in persuading both sides of the aisle to get on board with his $4 trillion infrastructure plan.
But House Democrats are worried that these negotiations, while well-intentioned, could narrow down legislation that Americans urgently need, and they want Biden to go bigger – in line with his campaign promises.
Led by Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Jimmy Panetta of California, 59 House Democrats sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday, urging them to take the opportunity to go big on infrastructure investments. They outlined three priorities regarding the size, scope, and speed of Biden’s American Jobs Plan, and they urged the congressional leaders to not get bogged down by Republican counter-offers. The letter was first reported on by ABC News.
“We appreciate the White House’s interest in reaching across the aisle to seek Republican support for overwhelmingly popular infrastructure priorities to invest in caregiving, workforce development, the environment, housing, and education, and to make the very wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes to reduce inequality,” they wrote in the letter. “While bipartisan support is welcome, the pursuit of Republican votes cannot come at the expense of limiting the scope of popular investments.”
A group of Senate Republicans, led by Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, introduced a $568 billion counter-proposal to Biden’s infrastructure plan. They have a Tuesday deadline to bring the president a new offer to negotiate, but Democrats don’t want this to be the focus of Biden’s agenda.
Here are the three main priorities the Democrats outlined to Schumer and Pelosi:
The lawmakers want Biden to prioritize his campaign promise of a $7 trillion infrastructure investment, including a four-year, $2 trillion investment on climate-focused infrastructure. Currently, Biden’s American Jobs Plan proposes $2.3 trillion over eight years, but Democrats want Biden to “maintain an ambitious infrastructure size” and go even bigger.
After Republicans introduced their $568 billion infrastructure plan, Democrats called it “a joke” and “a slap in the face” given how small it was compared to Biden’s. In the letter, the Democrats cited Republicans’ “widespread climate denial,” among other things, as reasons to see past bipartisan negotiations and not succumb to a deal that doesn’t meet the needs of the economy and the climate.
Given the fierce Republican opposition to Biden’s infrastructure plan as he proposed it, the Democratic group said “that robust legislation comprising the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan must be enacted as rapidly as possible, preferably as a single, ambitious package combining physical and social investments hand in hand.”
Republican lawmakers said that Biden’s plan focuses on too many things beyond physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges, but Democrats remained firm in their messaging that care-economy measures, like universal pre-K and affordable housing, belong in infrastructure.
Biden and Republican lawmakers have expressed the desire to strike a bipartisan deal by Memorial Day, and Pelosi aims to get a bill to the House floor by July 4. Democratic leaders, including Pelosi and Schumer, have remained optimistic on reaching a bipartisan agreement.
“The president has his vision,” Pelosi told reporters last week. “The Congress will work its will. In any event, I felt optimistic about our ability to pass such a bill, and more optimistic now about being able to do so in a bipartisan way.”
Federal unemployment benefits doled out for more than a year are on the verge of lapsing for millions of Americans, but the reason why isn’t new.
As soon as April’s disappointing jobs report was released, critics – largely in the Republican Party – began blaming the boosted support measure for disincentivizing Americans from seeking work.
This disincentive theory dates back decades, and largely comes from a Reagan-era book that argued government-support programs were the reason the US economy was falling behind.
In his 1984 book “Losing Ground,” political scientist Charles Murray posited that social welfare leaves society worse off, as it leads participants to rely on handouts instead of encouraging them to climb the socioeconomic ladder.
That thesis has informed Republicans’ economic policy for nearly half a century and is rearing its head once again as GOP governors prematurely terminate federal unemployment benefits for millions. But analysis of Murray’s book shows such policy rests on morally suspect arguments and possibly does the US more harm than good.
But while the circumstances of the coronavirus recession and the 2021 reopening of the American economy are unique, the argument that the social safety net provides a “disincentive” to work is an old idea.
The viewpoint originated in 1976 when, during his first presidential campaign, President Ronald Reagan highlighted “welfare queens” as a new kind of fraudster plaguing the country. Reagan claimed that by slashing spending on programs like food stamps and welfare, he could run the government more efficiently and put poorer Americans to work.
“Losing Ground” was published the same month Reagan was elected to a second term in a landslide 1984 victory. America clearly liked Reaganomics and wanted more. It didn’t take long for Murray’s book to power even stricter anti-welfare policies.
The political scientist was, indirectly, at the helm of a new economic-policy framework. The New York Times soon deemed Murray’s work a “budget-cutters’ bible” that was used as a “philosophical base” throughout government agencies. Reductions to housing assistance, education, and programs like the Jobs Corps reflected Murray’s push to eradicate welfare spending.
The uneven reopening of the American economy shows the book’s ideas are paraded just as loudly today.
Following this month’s jobs report for April, Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa said the payments were “discouraging people from returning to work,” while Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming said that “incentivizing people not to work is just plain un-American.” Gov. Brad Little of Idaho said cutting the benefit was “based on a fundamental conservative principle.”
And in 36 states, policymakers are bulking up work-search requirements for UI recipients. President Joe Biden even implicitly accepted some of Murray’s ideology in comments following the jobs report, saying Americans receiving unemployment benefits “must take the job” if offered one.
Yet Murray’s argument – and its decades-long influence – rest in part on shaky and ethically questionable foundations.
Murray used Black men as a proxy for all poor Americans
Some of Murray’s observations hold water. The number of Americans below the poverty line has gradually increased since the late 1960s, and, around the 1980s, poor Americans were starting to drop out of the workforce.
Other arguments from Murray are less compelling. Murray noted that, as spending on social services ramped up in the 1970s, poor Americans stopped working as a result of the support programs. This, he said, is why the federal safety net should be abolished.
Murray’s argument leans heavily on the “latent poverty” statistic – individuals who are only above the poverty line due to government benefits – but ignores one of its critical drivers, according to a 1984 article in the Yale Law and Policy Review.
Additionally, the political scientist focused only on Black men aged 16 to 24 to gauge poor Americans’ attachment to employment over time. Murray ignores labor force participation among Black women, and also fails to address the structural forces that hinder economic development for racial minorities.
Using young Black men as a proxy for all poor Americans likely skewed rates of labor-force dropouts for reasons not acknowledged in Murray’s book, author and Yale Law School graduate Edward Mattison said.
To be sure, neither Murray nor Mattison could have predicted the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. Both would likely be shocked to discover Congress allocated some $5 trillion to fiscal stimulus, much of it passed on a bipartisan basis, while the Federal Reserve embarked on an unprecedented level of monetary easing.
As a post-pandemic economy emerges, Democrats have proposed overhauling UI programs to match the new attitude toward stimulus, with a larger benefit and minimum 26-week payment period. Such proposals would mark a major shift in the government’s welfare policy and a huge step away from Reaganomics.
Republicans, meanwhile, seem to want to revert to the stripped-down UI programs seen in 2019. It’s a sign that Murray and Reagan’s ideas still hold significant sway, even with roughly 10 million Americans still jobless. The old debate is set to continue for some time still.
President Joe Biden’s administration is readying a $735 million sale of precision-guided weapons sale to Israel, a move that was prepared a week before the country became embroiled in deadly conflict with Gaza, multiple reports said.
The White House notified Congress of the plan on May 5, five days before the Gaza militant group Hamas started firing rockets toward Israel, and Israel retaliated with airstrikes, sources familiar with the plans told The Washington Post and CNN.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki told a Monday press briefing that the administration was making use of “intensive, quiet diplomacy behind the scenes.”
The proposed weapons sale is largely of kits that convert unguided rockets into precision missiles, according to The Post. Lawmakers have 15 days – until May 20 – to object, but a resolution of disapproval would be nonbinding, The Post reported.
Such moves have generally gone without objection in Congress, but in the shadow of the current conflict, the Israeli arms sale is now being questioned by a small number of progressive Democratic voices.
‘We’re lucky to catch this weapons sale’
Rep. Ilhan Omar said in a statement Monday that it would be “appalling” if the sale went ahead unconditionally.
“We should be standing unequivocally and consistently on the side of human rights – holding all state and non-state actors accountable for their crimes and using every tool at our disposal to end the violence and bring about peace,” she said.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee met Monday night to discuss the sale, and decided to ask for it to be delayed, Politico reported.
“We’re lucky to catch this weapons sale,” an unnamed Democratic aide told The Post.
Regardless, The Post noted that it would be “highly unlikely” that Congress can block the arms sale by pushing through a disapproval resolution in time.
The resistance comes amid a broader questioning of the Biden administration’s stance toward the Israel-Gaza conflict.
Twenty-nine Democratic senators, led by Sen. Jon Ossoff, called for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict on Sunday night in an implicit rebuke to Biden’s hesitation at the time to do so.
Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, collectively earned $1,695,225 last year, newly released tax returns show.
Most of the second couple’s 2020 income came from Emhoff’s work as partner at law firm DLA Piper, according to Bloomberg.
Harris contributed her salary as a US Senator and $293,902 from sales of her 2019 book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.”
Their income was substantially down on 2019, when they earned $3,018,127. The drop was mostly due to Emhoff stepping back from his law firm. In August 2020, Emhoff took a leave of absence from the company following Harris’ nomination to vice president, and left the firm after the election in November.
Harris and Emhoff paid $621,893 in federal income tax in 2020, a rate of 36.7%, according to their joint tax filing shared Monday.
Their income in 2020 was much higher than the Bidens’. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden earned a collective $607,336 in 2020, and paid $157,414 in federal income tax, a rate of 25.9%, according to their joint return.
This is a substantial drop from 2019, when the first couple earned $944,737. The president stopped taking paid speaking engagements during his election campaign.
Harris and Emhoff have collective assets between $3.1 million and $7 million, Bloomberg reported.
If Giuliani prevails over Zeldin in the GOP primary – where a Trump endorsement could prove highly consequential given the former president’s standing among Upstate and Long Island Republicans, which has dropped since the January 6 insurrection – he would face steep odds against Cuomo or any other Democrat.
Democratic Rep. Val Demings of Florida, a former Orlando police chief who rose to national prominence as an impeachment manager in former President Donald Trump’s first Senate trial, plans to challenge GOP Sen. Marco Rubio in 2022, according to Politico.
The entry of Demings into the race would provide Democrats with a top-tier candidate in the nation’s premier swing state, albeit one that has had a slight Republican tinge over the past few election cycles.
Demings, who was on President Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice presidential running mates last year, mulled over running for Senate or jumping into the 2022 governor’s race against GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis.
However, Demings felt that she could be most effective by taking on Rubio, according to several Democrats who spoke with Politico.
“I have received calls and texts and messages from people all over the state asking me to run because they feel that they are not represented and their voices are not heard,” she said. “I want to go to the position where I can do the most good. My home state of Florida deserves that.”
Demings is expected to finalize her decision in the coming weeks, according to Politico.
A national Democrat with knowledge of the party’s strategy to compete for the Senate seat praised Demings’ candidacy, telling Politico: “Val is an impressive and formidable candidate whose potential entrance would make the race against Rubio highly competitive.”
In what could be a preview of a campaign message to working-class voters, a Demings advisor compared the congresswoman’s biography to that of Rubio.
“She’s the daughter of a maid and a janitor who became the first Black woman police chief in Orlando,” the advisor told Politico. “He’s the son of a maid and a bartender who’s a career politician.”
The advisor also said that Demings was dismayed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his current “obstruction” under Biden.
“If I had to point to one thing, I think it’s the Covid bill and the way Republicans voted against it for no good reason,” the advisor told Politico. “That really helped push her over the edge.”
Democrats have been angling to find a candidate to take on Rubio, a two-term senator who was first elected in 2010 and ran for president in 2016. The party is anxious to defeat the ambitious senator, but after his easier-than-expected re-election in 2016, along with Democratic statewide losses in 2018 and Trump’s win over Biden in the state last year, Republicans have been politically ascendant in Florida.
However, with Demings as a candidate, she can compellingly speak on issues of policing and criminal justice reform, and could also blunt GOP attacks regarding the “defund the police” movement, which some in the party blame for electoral losses last year.
Demings was first elected to the House in 2016, where she represents the 10th Congressional district, anchored in Orlando. She sits on the powerful Judiciary, Intelligence, and Homeland Security committees.
Demings was a law enforcement officer with the Orlando Police Department for 27 years, serving as its chief of police from 2007 to 2011. Her husband, Jerry Demings, also served as chief of Orlando’s police, and is currently the Mayor of Orange County, one of the fastest-growing localities in Central Florida.
After Trump was impeached by the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over the Ukraine scandal, Demings was a highly-visible impeachment manager in his Senate trial, where she argued for his conviction.
The Senate voted to acquit Trump, but Demings told NPR that the decision to make a case against Trump was “worth it.”
“The House managers were the defenders of the Constitution,” she said. “And just like when I was a law enforcement officer, when I saw someone breaking the law, I did not stop and think about, well, my goodness, what will the judge do? What will the jury do down the road? I did my job to stop that threat and then go to court and plead my case.”