Jill Biden went back to work today, while her husband the president toured the flood-hit north-east.
The first lady spent months teaching writing and English remotely before Tuesday’s return to teaching in person at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has worked since 2009.
Biden, 70, is the first first lady to leave the White House to log hours at a full-time job.
“Teaching,” she has said, “isn’t just what I do. It’s who I am.”
Here’s more on the subject, from David Smith in Washington:
One New Jersey family told the president that they lost all their belongings after their home burned and exploded following the flooding from Hurricane Ida.
The couple were able to escape the home with their infant daughter, but they now must rebuild from scratch.
“Thank God you’re safe,” Biden told the family.
President Biden met with a NJ family whose home burned and exploded after the flooding. They escaped with their infant daughter but lost all their belongings. Watch short video clip of their visit. pic.twitter.com/hn0orAUwc6
September 7, 2021
Joe Biden toured one of the neighborhoods in Manville, New Jersey, that was severely impacted by flooding from Hurricane Ida last week.
The president was seen shaking hands and chatting with residents who had been forced to remove belongings from their homes because of flood damage.
President Biden tours Hurricane Ida damage in Manville, NJ.
Full video here: https://t.co/4Rs7mycXRT pic.twitter.com/a8xiS0I896
September 7, 2021
at 2.48pm EDT
Biden calls on Congress to approve $24bn in funds for disaster response after Ida
The Biden administration is calling on Congress to appropriate more funds for disaster response and Afghan refugee resettlement in its short-term continuing resolution.
In a new statement, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Shalanda Young, acknowledged that Congress likely have to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past the end of the month.
“At the same time, we are also calling on Congress to include additional funding in a CR to help address two other urgent needs: responding to recent and ongoing natural disasters, and meeting our commitments to our Afghan allies and partners,” Young said.
“Specifically, we urge Congress to appropriate over $14 billion as part of a CR to address the natural disasters that occurred prior to Hurricane Ida. We fully expect that Hurricane Ida will significantly increase the need for further disaster response funding, by at least $10 billion.”
Young also requested $6.4bn in funds to “meet our commitments to Afghan allies and partners,” as the US government seeks to resettle tens of thousands of Afghan refugees.
If approved, the funds would support refugee processing centers overseas and cover transportation costs as approved Afghans make their way to the US.
Young’s statement comes as Joe Biden tours neighborhoods in New Jersey and New York that were severely impacted by flooding caused by Hurricane Ida.
The restrictive new Texas voting law is not the only piece of Lone Star legislation attracting condemnation today.
United Nations human rights monitors have strongly condemned the state for its new anti-abortion law, which they say violates international law by denying women control over their own bodies and endangering their lives.
In damning remarks to the Guardian, Melissa Upreti, the chair of the UN working group on discrimination against women and girls, criticized the new Texas law, SB8, as “structural sex and gender-based discrimination at its worst”.
She warned that the legislation, which bans abortions at about six weeks, could force abortion providers underground and drive women to seek unsafe procedures that could prove fatal.
“This new law will make abortion unsafe and deadly, and create a whole new set of risks for women and girls. It is profoundly discriminatory and violates a number of rights guaranteed under international law,” the human rights lawyer from Nepal said.
Upreti, one of five independent experts charged by the UN human rights council in Geneva to push for elimination of discrimination against women and girls around the world, was also sharply critical of the US supreme court.
Last week the court’s rightwing majority decided by a 5-4 vote to allow the Texas law to go ahead, despite its blatant disregard of the court’s own 1973 ruling legalizing abortion in the US, Roe v Wade.
“The law and the way it came about – through the refusal of the US supreme court to block it based on existing legal precedent – has not only taken Texas backward, but in the eyes of the international community, it has taken the entire country backward,” Upreti said.
at 2.00pm EDT
Biden in Jersey: ‘Climate change was here’
A long way from Texas in New Jersey, of course, Joe Biden is still touring areas hit by flooding unleashed by the remnants of Hurricane Ida last week.
Here’s a taste of what the president said just now in New Jersey: “For decades, scientists have warned of extreme weather … and climate change was here. And we’re living through it now. We don’t have any more time … We’re at one of those inflection points where we either act, or we’re gonna be in real, real trouble.”
He’ll find receptive audiences for such rhetoric in Jersey and across the Hudson River in New York, where he’s due to speak later today. State and local leaders have been very clear about what such extreme weather events mean about the new normal.
Here’s our southern bureau chief, Oliver Laughland, reporting on the fallout from Hurricane Ida further south, in Louisiana:
Statements are coming in from opponents of the new Texas voting law. Here are some edited versions of some of them:
- Derrick Johnson, president, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: “Black votes were suppressed today. Texas governor Greg Abbott has intentionally signed away democracy for so many. We are disgusted. This voter suppression bill is undemocratic, unAmerican and even violates core conservative principles. While Greg Abbott and many other governors have confirmed over and over how far they are willing to go to attack Black voters, we will continue to fight twice as hard to defend the right to vote.”
- Nina Perales, vice-president of litigation, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund: “SB1 will reduce voter participation and discriminate on the basis of race, and for those reasons it should be struck down in court. In addition to making voting more difficult for all voters, SB1 is aimed directly at Latinos and Asian Americans with specific provisions that cut back on assistance to limited English-proficient voters.”
- Former Texas congressman and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke: “Governor Abbott is restricting the freedom to vote for millions of Texans. Instead of working on issues that actually matter, like protecting school kids from Covid or fixing our failing electrical grid, Abbott is focused on rigging our elections and implementing extreme, right-wing policies. Abbott’s agenda of criminalising abortion, permit-less carry, anti-mask mandates and voter suppression is killing Texans and limiting their voting rights to elect more responsible leaders.
- Claudia Yoli Ferla, executive director, MOVE Texas Action Fund: “History will remember this period as one of democracy in distress; as an era during which our sacred freedom to vote endured unrelenting assault.”
Today so far
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- Republican governor Greg Abbott signed a highly controversial voting bill in Texas. The law will prohibit 24-hour and drive-thru voting, making it even harder to access the ballot box in a state that already has some of the most burdensome voting requirements in the country. The signing of the bill ends a weeks-long standoff between Democratic and Republican state legislators over the proposal.
- Joe Biden arrived in New Jersey to tour neighborhoods impacted by Hurricane Ida, which caused widespread flooding in the Northeast last week. The president is now receiving a briefing from local leaders on hurricane response efforts, and he will later deliver a speech in Queens, New York, on how his administration is working to better prepare for extreme weather, which has become more common because of the climate crisis.
- House speaker Nancy Pelosi said she disagreed with Democratic senator Joe Manchin’s call for a “strategic pause” in negotiations over the $3.5tn spending package. “Well, obviously I don’t agree,” Pelosi said on Capitol Hill. “I’m pretty excited about where we are. Everybody’s working very hard. The committees are doing their work. We’re on a good timetable.” Manchin penned an op-ed last week expressing concern about the price tag of the budget bill, raising concerns that it will not pass the evenly divided Senate.
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
The Guardian’s Sam Levine has more details on the Texas voting law:
The signing of the bill marks the end of a weeks-long standoff between Democrats and Republicans over the legislation.
In late May, Democrats walked out of the legislature, denying Republicans the necessary quorum to pass the initial version of the bill, which would have made it easier for judges to overturn elections and restricted early voting on Sundays, a day traditionally used by African American churches to encourage people to vote.
Republicans subsequently cut both provisions from the bill. But before a new version could be considered in a July special session, Democrats in the state house left the state and flew to Washington DC, again denying Republicans a quorum to proceed with legislation.
While the Democrats in Washington lobbied federal lawmakers to pass federal voting restrictions, state senator Carol Alvarado undertook a 15-hour filibuster on the senate floor to try and block the measure.
Earlier this month, after Abbott called a second special session to consider the measure, the house speaker, Dade Phelan, signed civil arrest warrants for the Democrats who refused to show up at the capitol (no one was ultimately arrested). But slowly, a trickle of Democrats began to return to the capitol, giving Republicans a majority, and enraging Democrats who wanted to continue to stay away.
The Guardian’s Sam Levine reports:
The voting restrictions will only add to those already in place in Texas, which has some of the most burdensome voting requirements in the US and was among the states with the lowest voter turnout in 2020.
The Texas house of representatives gave its approval to a final form of the measure on Tuesday, 80-41. The senate quickly followed with an 18-13 vote Tuesday afternoon.
The bill, nearly identical to a measure that passed the legislature last week, would prohibit 24-hour and drive-thru voting – two things officials in Harris county, home of Houston, used for the first time in 2020.
It would also prohibit election officials from sending out unsolicited applications to vote by mail, give poll watchers more power in the polling place and provide new regulations on those who assist voters.
Here is the Guardian’s report from last week:
at 12.45pm EDT
Abbott signs highly controversial voting bill in Texas
Republican governor Greg Abbott as just signed a highly controversial bill to place new restrictions on voting access in Texas.
“Election integrity is now law in the state of Texas,” Abbott said after signing the bill, which voting right advocates have said unfairly targets people of color.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) signs restrictive voting bill SB1 into law, despite House Democrats fleeing state in attempts to stop its passage:
“Election integrity is now law in the state of Texas.” pic.twitter.com/iViAQZZ6SB
September 7, 2021
The Texas legislature gave its final approval to the bill last Tuesday, after Democrats delayed the passage of the proposal for weeks by fleeing the state.
The law will prohibit 24-hour and drive-thru voting and place new restrictions on who can assist people as they seek to cast their ballots, making Texas one of the hardest places to vote in the country.
at 12.35pm EDT
Jason Miller, a former senior adviser to Donald Trump, has released a statement in response to reports that he was detained by authorities in Brazil.
“This afternoon my traveling party was questioned for three hours at the airport in Brasilia, after having attended this weekend’s CPAC Brasil Conference. We were not accused of any wrongdoing, and told only that they ‘wanted to talk,’” said Miller.
“We informed them that we had nothing to say and were eventually released to fly back to the United States. Our goal of sharing free speech around the world continues!”
Miller previously served as Trump’s spokesperson, but he now runs the company Gettr, a social media platform designed for conservatives.
According to earlier reports, Miller was detained by Brazilian authorities to answer questions over his alleged anti-democratic activities in the country.
Biden arrives in New Jersey to receive briefing and tour Ida-affected neighborhoods
Joe Biden has arrived at Central Jersey Regional Airport in Hillsborough Township for a briefing and a tour of neighborhoods impacted by Hurricane Ida.
The president was greeted by New Jersey governor Phil Murphy and his wife, Tammy Murphy, as well as three Democratic House members from the state — Tom Malinowski, Frank Pallone and Bonnie Watson Coleman.
Joe Biden is greeted by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and others as he arrives for briefing about the impact of Hurricane Ida. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP
Biden will soon receive a briefing on hurricane response at the Somerset County Emergency Management Training Center before touring a neighborhood in Manville, New Jersey.
The president will then travel on to Queens, New York, to deliver remarks on his administration’s efforts to better prepare for and respond to hurricanes, which have become more frequent and more intense due to the climate crisis.
Joe Manchin wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week calling for a “strategic pause” in advancing the spending package.
“While some have suggested this reconciliation legislation must be passed now, I believe that making budgetary decisions under artificial political deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions,” Manchin said in the op-ed.
“I, for one, won’t support a $3.5tn bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs.”
Rebuilding our crumbling physical infrastructure – roads, bridges, water systems – is important. Rebuilding our crumbling human infrastructure – health care, education, climate change – is more important. No infrastructure bill without the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
September 2, 2021
Bernie Sanders, the leftwing chairman of the Senate budget committee, responded to Manchin’s warning in kind, threatening to torpedo the bipartisan infrastructure bill if the spending package is not approved.
“Rebuilding our crumbling physical infrastructure – roads, bridges, water systems – is important,” Sanders said on Twitter. “Rebuilding our crumbling human infrastructure – healthcare, education, climate change – is more important. No infrastructure bill without the $3.5tn reconciliation bill.”
As Congress prepares to return from its August recess, Democratic leaders are scrambling to figure out how to advance both bills, which encompass much of Joe Biden’s economic agenda. If centrists and progressives don’t reach an agreement, both proposals may fail.