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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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White House tells states to prevent evictions, as House Democrats press Biden administration to act

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The White House told state and local governments that they have the power to prevent evictions, following the end of the eviction moratorium.

The Biden administration said in a statement on Monday that while the federal government provided $46.5 billion to prevent renters from being evicted, some states and cities have been “too slow to act” by not providing the money to tenants.

There is “no excuse for any State or locality not to promptly deploy the resources that Congress appropriated to meet the critical need of so many Americans,” the statement continued. “This assistance provides the funding to pay landlords current and back rent so tenants can remain in their homes or apartments, not be evicted.”

The ban on evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic expired over the weekend, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was unable to extend it following the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 29 that said only Congress could do so through new legislation.

The Congressional Black Caucus has pressured the White House to take action on evictions, the Associated Press reported. Additionally, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.)  spoke with Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday at the Capitol, where Bush was camped out with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) over the weekend to protest the evictions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic House leadership said in a statement on Sunday that they were calling “upon the Treasury Department to indicate how the funds that it has already transferred to states and communities can be more effectively distributed to renters and landlords.”

The statement also noted that the Senate is unable to pass an extension of the eviction moratorium, so there was no point for the House to do so.

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Hunter Biden

White House says buyers of Hunter Biden’s paintings will remain anonymous

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The White House says presidential son Hunter Biden will remain unaware of the identities of buyers of his paintings, amid ongoing controversy over the top-dollar price tags at which many of his works of art are appraised.

The younger Biden’s paintings have been priced at high values ranging from $75,000 to $500,000. Critics have claimed that the sale of the paintings presents thorny ethical issues for the Biden administration. 

At a press conference Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that whoever the buyers of the paintings are, neither the White House nor Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, will be aware of their identities. 

“The selling of his art will all happen through … the gallerist, and the names and individuals will be kept confidential.” Psaki said. “We will not be aware of [the identities], neither will he be aware of [them].”

Hunter Biden has faced criticism about appearing to try to profit off the family name – particular over his high-paying job with Ukraine natural gas company Burisma Holding while his father was vice president. 

Further pressed on whether the identity of the buyers could become known, Psaki said Hunter Biden and the administration “will not know who purchases his art.”

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Border Crisis

[VIDEO] Farmers seek payment from WH for border crisis damage

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Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs weighs in amid increasing COVID-19 cases along the border and discusses the possibility of mask requirements for children in schools.

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