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President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda has hit a major roadblock in the 50-50 Senate, as moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have emerged as unequivocal opponents of eliminating the legislative filibuster.

“The filibuster is a critical tool to protecting” the voice of small and rural states “and our democratic form of government,” Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, wrote in an April 7 Washington Post op-ed. “That is why I have said it before and will say it again to remove any shred of doubt: There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster. The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.”

Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, has taken a similar approach to preserving the legislative-minority-friendly tool. 

“When you have a place that’s broken and not working, and many would say that’s the Senate today, I don’t think the solution is to erode the rules,” Sinema told the Wall Street Journal. “I think the solution is for senators to change their behavior and begin to work together, which is what the country wants us to do.”

A 60-vote threshold is needed to overcome a legislative filibuster. In the past, both Senate Democrats and Republicans have used the filibuster as the minority party to block legislation supported by the majority party. 

Leaving the filibuster in place in a 50-50 Senate would make it virtually impossible for Biden to move key parts of his agenda through Congress. The filibuster, however, would likely not stop Biden’s $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, given the Senate parliamentarian’s recent ruling that the massive infrastructure package may be considered under budget reconciliation rules, which permit the passage of legislation with a simple majority vote.

Biden has proposed a comprehensive immigration overhaul that would offer a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants living illegally in the U.S. He also supports the sweeping election reform bill called the For the People Act, which the Democratic-led House passed recently.

Biden has called on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban as part of his gun control agenda. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she would like to see a government-run public option added to Obamacare, which is a proposal that Biden made part of his 2020 presidential campaign.

The House is voting on statehood for Washington D.C. during the week of April 19. It faces an uphill climb in the Democratic-led Senate due to the filibuster. 

Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have said the use of budget reconciliation is on the table if Republicans in Congress do not join Democrats to pass Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which includes significant federal spending on improving the nation’s infrastructure. Democrats haven’t drafted the formal legislative language of Biden’s plan yet.

Biden has said he plans to release a separate proposal, the American Family Plan, to follow the American Jobs Plan. Details have not been disclosed publicly. Pelosi was asked Thursday if she thinks the family plan and jobs plan will be rolled into one bill. She said there would likely be two pieces of legislation and she hopes the legislative process on infrastructure in the House will be completed by July 4. She said Democrats want to finish the “whole package” by August.

“I think we will have two bills,” Pelosi said. “We have this bill that we hope we can do, especially, the infrastructure bill. It has always been bipartisan. We will do so in a bipartisan way. If we have to go to reconciliation, that is a lever, but I hope it is not something we need to do.” 

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Biden administration, House Democrats reach deal on ex-Trump lawyer McGahn testimony on Russia probe

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House Democrats and the Biden administration have reached a deal that would allow former President Trump attorney Donald McGahn to testify before Congress on allegations Trump tried to obstruct the 2019 Russia collusion investigation.

The sides reached the deal late Tuesday, after months of negotiating, according to The New York Times.

McGahn has been in a legal battle against a House subpoena to compel him to testify regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the 2016 Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the election.

An appeals court was set to hear arguments next week, but lawyers from the Justice Department sent a letter asking the case to be dismissed due to the recent deal.

However, whether McGhan will testify following the deal, which did not involve Trump, remains unclear.

The Biden administration has been wary about attempting to force a former White House lawyer to testify in front of Congress. Currently, the president has the constitutional power to keep secret conversations with a lawyer.

Officials worry the move could be used to force them to testify should Republicans regain the White House and Congress.

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President Biden says people can’t decline ‘suitable’ job offer and keep getting unemployment benefit

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President Biden on Monday said that his administration will make clear that anyone receiving unemployment will forfeit the benefit if they decline an offer for a “suitable” job position.

“We’re gonna make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits,” he said, noting that there are some coronavirus-related exceptions so that individuals do not face a choice “between their basic safety and a paycheck. But otherwise, that’s the law,” he said.

His comments come after a jobs report last week that failed to live up to what many had anticipated and as some argue that individuals are being incentivized not to work as a consequence of supplemental unemployment benefits. 

“I think the people who claim Americans won’t work even if they find a good and fair opportunity underestimate the American people. So we’ll insist that the law is followed with respect to benefits. But we’re not going to turn our backs on our fellow Americans,” Biden said.

A White House release says that “the Secretary of Labor will issue a letter to states to reaffirm that individuals receiving UI may not continue to receive benefits if they turn down a suitable job due to a general, non-specific concern about COVID-19. In addition, the President is directing the Secretary of Labor to work with states to reinstate work search requirements for UI recipients, if health and safety conditions allow.”

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Biden issues National Day of Prayer Proclamation that does not include the word ‘God’

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President Biden has issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation in which the word “God” does not appear once.

“I invite the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I join all people of faith in prayers for spiritual guidance, mercy, and protection,” Biden says in the proclamation.

The lone use of the word “Lord” appears only once at the conclusion of the declaration as it pertains to the date: The word appears within the boilerplate phrase “in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one.”

President Biden has issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation in which the word “God” does not appear once.

“I invite the citizens of our Nation to give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings, and I join all people of faith in prayers for spiritual guidance, mercy, and protection,” Biden says in the proclamation.

The lone use of the word “Lord” appears only once at the conclusion of the declaration as it pertains to the date: The word appears within the boilerplate phrase “in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one.” 

The phrase “the divine” comes up in a quote that is attributed to the late Rep. John Lewis: “Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet.”

In contrast, former President Donald Trump mentioned God about a dozen times in his final National Prayer Day proclamation last year.

David Brody, host of The Water Cooler inquired, “How do you release a proclamation about prayer and not mention God at all?” 

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