1. President Joe Biden used executive power to tackle gun violence.
This may sound like a good thing. The president did something because Congress is incapable of doing much of anything.
The executive actions – which Biden repeatedly claimed did nothing to prevent the Second Amendment from carrying weapons – include efforts to restrict weapons known as “ghost weapons” that can be built using parts and instructions purchased online.
The movements are limited in scope and are not below the steps Biden has promised to pressure Congress to take. Still, they fulfilled his promise last month to take steps with “common sense”
But the bigger question is that Biden’s action is a symptom of Washington’s greater paralysis. It is not that there is no majority in the House or Senate to pass legislation supported by members of both parties. The problem is that under current Senate rules, majority support is meaningless because the minority party – right now, the Republicans – can insist on a super-strength of 60 votes to pass anything at all.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he would never support the end of the filibuster.
This could be the death knell for Biden’s infrastructure plan, along with any hope of action against immigration or the climate crisis.
What this means is that Democrats can not get the 50 votes they need to approve a change in Senate rules so a naked majority can pass laws – so the need to reach a super-majority is here to stay, in that at least until the next election.
Republicans are united behind the filibuster, and several Democrats, most notably Manchin – a centrist from increasingly red West Virginia – are nervous about shaking things up.
That may be true, but it is equally clear that as long as there is a filibuster to exploit, legislators will use it to stand in the way of gun laws, climate laws, voting rights laws, and immigration laws.
Manchin urges Republicans and Democrats to work together and ignores recent evidence that they are being rewarded for fighting and finding no common ground.
What shows that Manchin is wrong is that in the time since Democrats and Republicans ended filibusters for federal, justice, and Supreme Court candidates, the world is not over, and presidents have gotten most, but not all, of the nominees they have wanted. . The filibuster is not a law, it is a custom handed down from a time before senators were elected by voters.
3. Kentucky passed a two-vote law on voting rights
The third and perhaps most important thing that has happened in the last few days is that Kentucky – not a blue state, but a state with a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature – passed reforms by two votes.
This in itself is not dysfunctional. But the fact that it’s a surprise only underscores how polarized and paralyzed the rest of American politics is right now. The reality of a Democratic governor working with Republicans to expand voting rights places great emphasis on the greater trend of GOP-controlled swing states, making it harder for people to vote.
Kentucky opens access to the ballot does not put it on par with other states. In Georgia, where Republicans have moved to restrict access, voting is undoubtedly easier than in Kentucky, where the new law opens access to just three days of early voting.
It may also underline the need for more national standards. It is easier to vote in some places than in others, which means that different Americans have different access to the ballots.
Yet the idea that something bipartisan is happening in Washington at the moment seems so amazing in part because small minorities in the Senate have the power to block any legislation they want.
Stop calling them “vaccine passes”
I wrote here about the political controversy surrounding the verification of a vaccine in return for access to something – planes and cruise ships or concerts, says.
There were quite a few reader comments for this issue. Mark Hall, a senior fellow at Brookings, reached out with his research to argue that while the idea of ”vaccine passports” is divisive, it is not divisive in the normal biased way.
This is where the government can play a rolethey argued by setting up a system for documenting vaccine verification, while not in itself requiring a vaccine.
“Even if it is not in the driver’s seat, the government will have to help govern. Private actors need standards and boundaries, including clear directives that exclude the use of vaccine certification that constitutes unlawful discrimination,” they write.
‘Passport’ can be a divisive term. There was a similar vein in the conservative pollster Frank Luntz, who along with Brian Castrucci on CNBC that the issue of passports is a message. Just call it a vaccine verification, they argued.
“The concept of a vaccine pass pushes almost all biased political buttons to Republicans who already do not trust their political leaders and fear the government’s reach.”
After conducting a focus group, they argued: “If you want everyone to be vaccinated and life to go back to normal, it starts with using the right language. A vaccination” verification “is preferred over a passport of any subgroup – all. “
“While I recognize that most journalists use the term ‘vaccination passport’ in a generic sense – as a kind of shorthand – it is in fact inaccurate, inflammatory and distorts a critically important public debate. It plays into the hands of extremists. – at both ends of it political spectrum – which uses the term deliberately to reinforce the claim that any kind of digital health care system by definition will represent a violation of civil liberties and / or health equality, “he said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Stanford researcher David Studdert.