Here is a summary of the top 5 political issues making headlines this week.
1. Biden’s Secretary of Defense Nominee Draws Concern
On Tuesday President-Elect Joe Biden announced that he will be nominating retired General Lloyd Austin to be the secretary of defense in his coming administration. Austin is widely respected amongst the top brass of the U.S. military as well as with major decision makers due to his lengthy career in the armed forces. President-Elect Biden was quick to note that Austin’s career in the military and personal values are what made him the strongest candidate.
“Gen. Austin shares my profound belief that our nation is at its strongest when we lead not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” Biden said in a statement.
While the nomination drew strong praise from some due to the fact that Austin would be the first African American secretary of defense, there was a strong backlash against his nomination due to legal reasons. The question over General Austin’s nomination is not one regarding his character or experience but over a law that prevents recent military leaders from joining the civilian government without waiting seven years. General Austin only retired from the armed forces in 2016.
In order to circumvent this law, both chambers of Congress would need to authorize a waiver for General Austin. This is not without precedent as President Trump’s first Secretary of Defense James Mattis was awarded a waiver which allowed him to serve in the cabinet.
The issue for President-Elect Biden is that many Democrats, including progressive hero Senator Elizabeth Warren, are lining up against the needed waiver on ethical grounds. The argument from these Democrats is that there should be a strong separation between the military and civilian government and that any waiver would diminish that strong firewall.
Whether or not General Austin is confirmed is yet to be seen but it is no doubt troubling for the presidential transition that members of President-Elect Biden’s own party are lining up to sink a vital cabinet post.
2. They Finally Agree on Something: Democrats and Republicans Both Hate Biden’s OMB Nominee
Outside of lighting striking twice or winning the lottery, there isn’t much that is more unlikely than Democrats and Republicans coming together to agree on something. However, after President-Elect Biden announced Neera Tanden to lead his Office of Management and Budget a bipartisan consensus emerged that she is not fit for the role.
If confirmed, Tanden will be responsible for producing the budgets of the Biden White House and ensuring that appropriations legislation is consistent with the policy goals of the administration. However, in order to do that Tanden will first need to convince a significant amount of Republicans and Democrats to confirm her nomination.
Due to the fact that in recent years Tanden has led the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington D.C. her nomination was a non starter with many Republicans.
“This is a woman who wants Congress to hold up coronavirus relief for the American people so we can give checks to illegal immigrants. There is no chance Neera Tanden will be confirmed. She might as well step aside, or, Joe Biden might as well withdraw her and go back to the drawing board.” Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas said.
A liberal nominee getting a swift rebuke from Republican senators was probably not a shock to the Biden transition, what was shocking however was the amount of progressive Democrats that want to sink the nomination as well.
What has progressives (many of whom Bernie Sanders loyalists) irked, is that Tanden was nakedly promoting Secretary Hillary Clinton at the Center for American Progress over Senator Sanders during the 2016 Democratic Primary. In a series of leaked emails, Tanden appeared to belittle Sanders’ chances of winning a general election and some of his policy goals as well. For progressives, this is a perfect opportunity for revenge over someone who once attacked Senator Sanders.
While the presidential transition has doubled down on Tanden’s nomination, it is clear she has a difficult confirmation ahead.
c. Bernieworld seethes over Tanden as OMB nominee – Politico
3. The Never Ending Story: Trump to Formerly Kick Off 2024 Race on Biden’s First Day
As I wrote last week, it is highly unlikely that Donald Trump will admit defeat and quietly return to his hotel empire when his term expires next month. What is more likely is that his frivolous claims of election fraud are not a genuine effort to overturn the election results of November 3rd but solidify credibility with his base to set up another run for the presidency in 2024.
The thinking goes that since Trump has such an ironclad hold over the Republican electorate, it is easier to feed his voting base conspiracies over a stolen election than to accept the loss if he wants to be the Republican nominee again.
As a result, there are reports indicating that Trump will announce his campaign for 2024 next week when the Electoral College confirms Biden’s victory. In addition, it is now expected that Trump will hold the kickoff event for his presidential campaign on January 20th, the same day Biden is sworn into office.
According to White House insiders, Trump will not attend Biden’s inauguration and instead fly to a campaign event in Florida. When asked if Trump would be attending his inauguration Biden claimed he did not know if his soon to be predecessor would or not.
“It is totally his decision,” Biden said Thursday. “It is of no personal consequence to me, but I think it is to the country.”
a. Reports: Trump considering 2024 campaign kickoff on Inauguration Day – News Center Maine
b. Trump ‘planning opposing rally’ on Biden’s inauguration day – The Independent
4. California Court Slams Strict Lockdown Orders on Restaurants
Just when small business owners in California’s restaurant industry were getting their heads above water a new series of state and local dining shutdown orders were issued, virtually crippling their businesses.
There has been much debate since the pandemic started over the extent of which businesses should close down in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 but no state has been as strict as California.
However, on Tuesday a California Judge condemned local shut down orders claiming that they were harsher than they needed to be.
In a case brought against Los Angeles County public health officials by the California Restaurant Association over recent “indefinite” outdoor dining bans Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant stated that the case for outdoor dining closure was tenuous.
“The Restaurant Closure Order is an abuse of the Department’s emergency powers, is not grounded in science, evidence, or logic, and should be adjudicated to be unenforceable as a matter of law.” Judge Chalfant stated.
The order to block the dining ban is of little consequence currently in Los Angeles as the area is under a “stay at home” order. However, this pushback against state and local authorities in America’s most populous county may give hope to restaurant owners around the country while forced closures increase.
5. America is Facing a Massive Eviction Disaster
Just when President Biden will be moving into the White House, millions of Americans could potentially be getting thrown out of their house. This of course is not Mr. Biden’s fault, however it is another massive problem that he will be inheriting when he takes office next month.
At the start of the pandemic, with millions of American’s out of work and unable to pay their rent or mortgage, many state and local governments enacted “eviction moratoriums” to ensure that people were not thrown out of their homes during the crisis. However, as the year comes to a close many of those moratoriums are set to expire.
In addition, according to a Census Bureau survey conducted last month roughly 9 million Americans are unable to meet their rent or mortgage obligations in the near future. While many are hoping that the federal government’s pending COVID-19 relief package could help ease some of the burden, many economists are noting that the pending package is not enough.
If these moratoriums expire right around when Mr. Biden is set to take office, it could mean he will have to immediately deal with an eviction crisis not seen since the Great Recession.
a. ‘It’s Just Staggering’: Thousands Could Be Impacted With Eviction Moratorium Ending – NBC Connecticut