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Daily Political Briefing
Sept. 14, 2021Updated
Sept. 14, 2021, 8:46 a.m. ET
Sept. 14, 2021, 8:46 a.m. ETCredit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times
Senate Democrats on Tuesday will propose a pared-down voting rights bill that has the backing of both progressives and centrists in an effort to present a united front against deep Republican resistance to new legislation setting nationwide election standards.
The measure is the result of weeks of intraparty negotiations overseen by Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and majority leader, and was built on principles put forward by Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the lone Democratic holdout against an earlier, much more sweeping piece of legislation called the For The People Act. Still, like that measure, it faces steep odds in the Senate, where it is unlikely to persuade Republicans to drop their opposition to legislation they have argued is an egregious overreach and an existential threat to their party.
The new bill, called the Freedom to Vote Act, drops some contentious elements of that initial bill such as restructuring the Federal Election Commission. It focuses heavily on guaranteeing access to the ballot following new voting restrictions being enacted around the country by Republican legislatures since the 2020 elections. And it would set a national voter identification standard — something that many Democrats have vehemently opposed — but one that would be far less onerous than some states have attempted to impose, allowing voters to meet the requirement with a variety of identification cards and documents in paper and digital form.
The revised measure would also require that states allow at minimum 15 consecutive days of early voting, including two weekends; ensure that all voters can request to vote by mail; establish new automatic voter registration programs, and make Election Day a national holiday. The legislation would mandate that states to follow specific criteria when drawing new congressional districting lines and would force disclosure of donors to so-called dark money groups.
“Following the 2020 elections in which more Americans voted than ever before, we have seen unprecedented attacks on our democracy in states across the country,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat who leads the Rules Committee, which is responsible for election oversight. “These attacks demand an immediate federal response.”
Mr. Manchin had balked at the original legislation and offered elements of a voting bill he would back, prompting the negotiations between him, Ms. Klobuchar and fellow Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, Alex Padilla of California and Raphael Warnock of Georgia. Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, also participated.
While Democrats cheered the agreement, they also recognized that they were very unlikely to attract sufficient Republican support to break a filibuster against any voting bill, meaning that they would have to unite to force a change to Senate rules governing the filibuster if the legislation was to have any chance of passage. Republicans have already blocked debate on a voting rights measure twice before.
“We must be honest about the facts,” Mr. Schumer said Monday as he said he would try to break the impasse again next week. “The Republican-led war on democracy has only worsened in the last few weeks.”
Despite his support for the legislation, Mr. Manchin has reiterated multiple times his refusal to abolish the filibuster, though he has also indicated a willingness to entertain some changes. Mr. Schumer noted Monday that Mr. Manchin had been reaching out to Republicans to persuade them to back the new version of the voting rights bill.
Democrats hope continuing Republican opposition to a measure Mr. Manchin is now invested in as one of the chief authors will soften his opposition to weakening the filibuster, allowing his party to advance a measure they see as crucial to countering new voting restrictions in Republican-led states.
Mr. Manchin did not mention the filibuster in a statement strongly endorsing the new proposal.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and the Freedom to Vote Act is a step in the right direction towards protecting that right for every American,” Mr. Manchin said. “As elected officials, we also have an obligation to restore peoples’ faith in our democracy, and I believe that the common sense provisions in this bill — like flexible voter ID requirements — will do just that.”
Read moreCredit…Stop the Republican Recall of Governor Newsom Committee
One of the most expensive ads in the California recall election has a pithy summation of the race: “It’s a matter of life and death.”
That is the message from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s anti-recall operation, the Stop the Republican Recall of Governor Newsom Committee, which has been the largest spender in the recall race.
The committee’s money is largely drawn from the state Democratic Party, local labor unions and Reed Hastings, a founder of Netflix and a Democratic megadonor. More than half of the $58 million that has been spent on broadcast television advertising in the recall has come from that committee alone, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm.
The next closest political spender has been John Cox, a Republican candidate from Southern California who lost to Mr. Newsom in 2018 and is independently wealthy. Mr. Cox spent roughly $7 million on advertising, compared with $33 million by the Newsom-aligned group.
But to view the California recall election through the lens of the ad wars reveals not just two separate arguments over similar issues, but nearly two different races entirely.
From the Republican point of view, the ads cast Mr. Newsom as a failure at all levels. The pandemic barely warrants a mention in the ads, which focus instead on issues such as crime and taxes. For those supporting Mr. Newsom, the ads lean heavily into his stewardship of the country’s largest state during the coronavirus crisis and depict his leadership as crucial in keeping California residents safe.
“With Delta surging, Gavin Newsom is protecting California, requiring vaccination for health workers and school employees,” one ad says. As the ad pivots to Mr. Newsom’s opponents, a picture of former President Donald J. Trump and Larry Elder, the leading Republican candidate, appears on the screen. “The top Republican candidate? He peddled dangerous conspiracy theories, and would eliminate vaccine mandates on Day 1.”
Yet ads from Mr. Cox and Mr. Elder make the case that the state’s crisis extends well beyond the pandemic. Numerous ads tick through a laundry list of perceived shortcomings of Mr. Newsom’s leadership, including homelessness and crime, while also attacking his spending policies. One ad from Mr. Elder, in which the candidate speaks directly to the camera at a rapid clip, focuses on Mr. Newsom’s record aside from the pandemic.
“The reason to recall Newsom is more than his gas-tax hike — it’s his incompetence,” Mr. Elder says in just under four seconds. But in closing, he recasts a line from another successful candidate in California — President Biden. “I’m Larry Elder, and this is a fight for the soul of California,” he says in the ad.
Notably, one of the biggest spenders in the election is not a partisan entity at all. It is the California secretary of state’s office.
The office has spent more than $7 million on a host of ads that began running last month and explain the state’s vote-by-mail process. Every active and eligible voter in California was mailed a ballot as part of the relatively new policy.
The ads from the secretary of state’s office also seek to combat the growing disinformation about the recall election. Conservative outlets and leading Republican candidates like Mr. Elder have made false claims about widespread voter fraud. “Vote-by-mail ballots: simple, safe, secure, counted,” the ad says in closing.
While nearly every ad from both sides has closely followed national political trends, some have hewed local and, in at least one ad, quite personal.
In an ad from the Elder campaign, a middle-age man is shown speaking directly to the camera. “You remind me of the guy in high school who took my girlfriend, then went on to the next girl,” the man says, presumably about Mr. Newsom, clearly exasperated. “You still think you’re better than everyone else.”
Read moreCredit…Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The run-up in consumer prices cooled slightly in August, a sign that although inflation is higher than normal, the White House and Federal Reserve may be beginning to see the slowdown in price gains they have been hoping for.
Policymakers have consistently argued that this year’s burst of inflation has been tied to pandemic-related quirks and should prove temporary, and most economists agree that prices will climb more slowly as businesses adjust and supply chains return to normal. The major question hanging over the economy’s future has been how much and how quickly the inflationary burst will fade.
The Consumer Price Index rose 5.3 percent in August, from the prior year, data released by the Labor Department on Tuesday showed. That’s a slightly slower annual pace than the 5.4 percent increase in July. On a monthly basis, price gains moderated to a 0.3 percent increase between July and August, down from 0.5 percent the prior month and a bigger slowdown than economists in a Bloomberg survey had expected.
The news on core inflation, which strips out volatile food and fuel prices to try to get a cleaner read of underlying price trends, was even more encouraging for policymakers hoping to see signs of fading pressures. That index picked up by 0.1 percent on the month, and 4 percent over the past year — down from 0.3 percent and 4.3 percent in the July report.
Inflation has been running hot this year as the economy reopens from the pandemic, causing airline fares and hotel room rates to bounce back from depressed levels. At the same time, supply chain snarls have pushed shipping costs higher, feeding into prices for all sorts of products, from lumber to toys. Labor costs have climbed for some companies, pushing inflation higher around the edges, and rent prices are rising again as workers return to cities after fleeing during 2020.
But policymakers are betting that annual price gains will settle down toward the Fed’s 2 percent average target over time. Officials define their target using a different index than what was released on Tuesday, a measure known as the Personal Consumption Expenditures index. That gauge has also picked up this year, but by less, climbing by 4.2 percent in the year through July.
“The rapid reopening of the economy has brought a sharp run-up in inflation,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, acknowledged in a speech last month. But “the baseline outlook is for continued progress toward maximum employment, with inflation returning to levels consistent with our goal of inflation averaging 2 percent over time.”
Central bankers are hoping that quick inflation will dissipate before consumers learn to expect steadily higher prices — which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as shoppers accept loftier price tags and workers demand higher pay. A closely watched tracker of household inflation outlooks released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Monday showed that expectations rocketed up to 5.2 percent in the short term and 4 percent in the medium term.
That data point is disquieting, but market-based inflation expectations have been relatively stable after moving up earlier this year, and real-world prices may begin to ease in important categories in the months ahead.
Price indexes for airline fares, used cars, and car insurance all declined in August, the Labor Department report showed.
Read moreCredit…Tom Brenner for The New York Times
Citing “concerning online chatter,” Capitol Police officials on Monday urged anyone considering violence to stay home instead of attending a Saturday rally in support of defendants arrested in connection with the deadly storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“We are here to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in a statement. “I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.”
The warning came as the Capitol Police Board voted Monday to reinstall a fence around the complex ahead of the “Justice for J6” rally scheduled for Sept. 18, because of concerns that hundreds might attend, including members of some extremist groups. The rally is organized by Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign operative, and his organization, Look Ahead America, which has demanded that the Justice Department drop charges against what the group calls “nonviolent protesters” facing charges stemming from the Jan. 6 riot.
The Capitol Police Board also issued an emergency declaration, which will allow the department to deputize outside law enforcement officers as United States Capitol Police special officers. Officials also plan to use recently installed camera technology for expanded coverage of the campus.
Mr. Braynard said in an interview that his group would be peaceful and that the rally would last a little longer than an hour.
“My first instruction to attendees is to be respectful and kind to law enforcement officers,” he said. “We’re not there to cause anybody any trouble.”
He added that on Tuesday he would be announcing the names of some “very significant speakers” who would appear at the Saturday event at the Capitol.
Of the decision to reinstall the fence, he said, “This is a political decision by the House leadership to intimidate people from attending.”
The steps taken to secure the Capitol mark a starkly different stance from the one security officials took before the Jan. 6 riot, when hundreds of Trump supporters overwhelmed an unprepared Capitol Police force.
As a mob stormed the Capitol that day, about 140 police officers were injured, including 15 who were hospitalized, and several people died in connection with the riot, including officers who took their own lives in the days and months after responding to the assault.
Mr. Braynard has argued that the brutal attacks on police officers during the assault were the work of a “few bad apples” and accused the Biden administration of targeting the “peaceful Trump supporters who entered the Capitol with selective prosecutions based on their political beliefs.”
“There were some folks who did engage in violence and they also deserve a fair trial,” he said, but he added that his “emphasis” was on supporting the “nonviolent” protesters arrested in connection with the riot.
Chief Manger briefed congressional leaders on Monday about the Capitol’s security precautions.
“They seemed very, very well prepared,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, told reporters afterward. “Much better prepared than before Jan. 6. I think they’re ready for whatever might happen.”
The precautions came as the Capitol Police announced Monday the arrest of a California man who had a bayonet and a machete in his truck near the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
The truck had a picture of an American flag where its license plate should have been, and a swastika and other white supremacist symbols were painted on the vehicle.
Capitol Police officials said it was not immediately clear if the man was planning to attend any upcoming demonstrations.
Read moreCredit…Kris Connor/WireImage, via Getty Images
When Twitter decided briefly last fall to block users from posting links to an article about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter, it prompted a conservative outcry that Big Tech was improperly aiding Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign.
“So terrible,” President Donald J. Trump said of the move to limit the visibility of a New York Post article. Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, said Twitter and Facebook were censoring “core political speech.” The Republican National Committee filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing Twitter of “using its corporate resources” to benefit the Biden campaign.
Now the commission, which oversees election laws, has dismissed those allegations, according to a document obtained by The New York Times, ruling in Twitter’s favor in a decision that is likely to set a precedent for future cases involving social media sites and federal campaigns.
The election commission determined that Twitter’s actions regarding the Hunter Biden article had been undertaken for a valid commercial reason, not a political purpose, and were thus allowable.
And in a second case involving a social media platform, the commission used the same reasoning to side with Snapchat and reject a complaint from the Trump campaign. The campaign had argued that the company provided an improper gift to Mr. Biden by rejecting Mr. Trump from its Discover platform in the summer of 2020, according to another commission document.
The election commission’s twin rulings, which were made last month behind closed doors and are set to become public soon, protect the flexibility of social media and tech giants like Twitter, Facebook, Google and Snapchat to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.
Republicans have increasingly been at odds with the nation’s biggest technology and social media companies, accusing them of giving Democrats an undue advantage on their platforms. Mr. Trump, who was ousted from Twitter and Facebook early this year, has been among the loudest critics of the two companies and even announced a lawsuit against them and Google.
The suppression of the article about Hunter Biden — at the height of the presidential race last year — was a particular flashpoint for Republicans and Big Tech. But there were other episodes, including Snapchat’s decision to stop featuring Mr. Trump on one of its platforms.
The Federal Election Commission said in both cases that the companies had acted in their own commercial interests, according to the “factual and legal analysis” provided to the parties involved. The commission also said that Twitter had followed existing policies related to hacked materials.
Twitter and Snapchat declined to comment.
Emma Vaughn, an R.N.C. spokeswoman, said the committee was “weighing its options for appealing this disappointing decision from the F.E.C.” A representative for Mr. Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.