New momentum for policing bill?
Derek Chauvin will be going to prison, but in President Joe Biden's view, too many other cops have gotten away with committing unjust violence. In the aftermath of the guilty verdicts in the murder of George Floyd, Biden "believes the bar for convicting officers is too high" and "needs to be changed," press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
Biden will use his April 28 speech to a joint session of Congress "to elevate this issue and talk about the importance of putting police reform measures in place," Psaki said.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, once stalled on Capitol Hill, is now closer than ever to consensus, lawmakers of both parties told The Associated Press on Wednesday, a day after a Minneapolis jury found the white ex-officer guilty of murder and manslaughter in the Black man’s death. The House has passed one version, and behind the scenes, negotiations are narrowing on a compromise for a sweeping overhaul, though passage in the Senate remains uncertain. Black lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, are leading the effort.
At the Justice Department, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a broad investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis. The DOJ already was investigating whether Chauvin and the other officers involved in Floyd’s death violated his civil rights. "Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis," Garland said.
The review will examine the use of force by the city's police officers, including force used during protests, and whether that police department engages in discriminatory practices. It also will look into the department’s handling of misconduct allegations and its treatment of people with behavioral health issues and will assess the department’s current systems of accountability, Garland said.
Garland’s announcement was reminiscent of what occurred during the Obama administration, in which federal probes were launched after spasms of civil unrest over policing tactics, The Washington Post notes. Those included Justice Department investigations into police departments in Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri, after Black people were killed by officers or died in police custody.
Such investigations generally resulted in local police departments reaching a court-enforced agreement with the Justice Department over changes. Such efforts also have produced political blowback at times from police unions and local police chiefs.
Biden to set ambitious climate goal
Biden will pledge Thursday to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by 2030 as he convenes a virtual climate summit with 40 world leaders on Earth Day, The Associated Press reported.
A parallel challenge will be persuading other powers to make big changes of their own as the U.S. looks to reclaim leadership on climate change after four years of Donald Trump's hostility to international cooperation and denial of the issue, including his withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate accords.
Biden, who campaigned on promises for a high-employment, climate-saving technological transformation of the U.S. economy, is expected to pledge to halve the amount of coal and petroleum pollution the U.S. is pumping out by 2030. The nonbinding but symbolically important pledge is a key element of the two-day summit.
Another nudge for vaccine-hesitant
Biden on Wednesday announced new employer tax credits and other steps to encourage hesitant people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as his administration tries to overcome diminishing demand for the shots in the U.S., which hasn't reached herd immunity, The Associated Press reported.
The moves came as Biden celebrated reaching his latest goal of administering 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses during his first 100 days in office. With more than 50% of U.S. adults at least partially vaccinated and roughly 28 million doses being delivered each week, demand has fallen behind the expanded supply. The administration believes that slipping demand due to the hesitant will make it more difficult to sustain the current pace of about 3 million shots per day.
The tax credit would help small businesses provide paid leave for those employees getting vaccinated or needing time off to recover from potential side effects. Funded through the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief and stimulus package enacted last month, the tax change would provide a credit of up to $511 per day per employee for businesses with fewer than 500 workers — to ensure that those workers or businesses don’t suffer a penalty by getting vaccinated, Biden said.
"We’re calling on every employer, large and small, in every state, give employees the time off they need with pay to get vaccinated," Biden said.
Nassau shootings spur Schumer's gun law push
After Long Island's West Hempstead on Tuesday joined the growing list of municipalities with recent multiple-victim shootings, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to bring up gun safety legislation for a vote. But it could be several weeks before that happens, reports Newsday's Tom Brune.
Schumer on Tuesday called the Stop & Shop supermarket shooting in West Hempstead that left one dead and two injured "sad." He declared, "Make no mistake about it, the Senate will move forward with legislation to stop the epidemic of gun violence."
But Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the Democrats’ point person on gun legislation, has said he expects it won’t be until the end of spring or early summer before he can produce a workable bill in a bid to get the necessary 60 votes — 10 of them from Republicans — to break a filibuster in his chamber.
Democrats hope to expand background checks to most transfers of firearms, including between private individuals, as a first and foundational step as they eye more difficult goals, such as Biden’s expressed desire to restore an assault weapons ban.
Will Christie cross bridge to 2024 run?
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose presidential run bombed in the 2016 Republican primaries, is seriously considering running in 2024, Axios reports, citing three people familiar with his thinking. He also has told associates that his decision doesn't depend on whether Trump runs again.
Christie has had a hot and, while not cold, not-so-hot relationship with Trump. Christie was dumped right after the 2016 election as head of Trump's transition team. He helped Trump prep for his 2020 debates with Biden but denounced Trump's conduct as "absolutely incredible" for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.
Christie could run on a reputation for toughness that appeals to Trump's base minus the former president's recklessness, one source told Axios. Christie, who left office in January 2018, has been using his perch as an ABC News contributor to position himself as a top Republican attack dog against Biden.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments on Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Bart Jones and Matthew Chayes. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Vanita Gupta to be associate attorney general by a bare 51-49 majority after Alaska's GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined with Democrats to support her. Other Republicans alleged Gupta was a "radical" nominee based on past positions on drug legalization and police funding.
- The White House is weighing requests from Ukraine for additional weaponry, including Patriot surface-to-air missiles, as Kyiv faces the biggest military buildup of Russian forces on its border in nearly a decade, Politico reports. The Biden administration has been reluctant to provoke Moscow on the military front.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned the West against encroaching further on Russia's security interests, saying Moscow's response will be "quick and tough."
- Biden is facing calls to recognize the Armenian genocide committed more than a century ago by the Ottoman Empire, precursor to modern-day Turkey — something he pledged to do as a candidate. Psaki on Wednesday said the president would have more to say on Saturday, the annual Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which has been recognized by Congress. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned: "If the United States wants our relations to get worse, it’s up to them."
- Biden’s inaugural committee raised $61.8 million for the largely virtual event that marked the beginning of his administration, drawing donations from companies, labor unions and wealthy individuals, as well as voters giving small amounts, The Wall Street Journal reports.