Here’s what’s happening in politics Jan. 27, 2021. Check back often for updates.
The White House doesn’t intend to give any public attention to Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who made headlines for incendiary remarks and conspiracy theories as a candidate and has continued to be controversial since entering Congress this month.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked Wednesday about CNN’s report that Greene’s past social media posts indicated support for executing Democratic politicians.
Does the White House have an opinion on whether Greene should face discipline?
“We don’t,” Psaki said. “And I’m not going to speak further about her in this briefing room.”
A former White House occupant, however, did weigh in.
“This woman should be on a watch list. Not in Congress,” tweeted Hillary Clinton, who was one of the Democrats targeted in Greene’s Facebook comments.
In a tweet, Greene dismissed CNN’s report as “yet another hit piece on me.”
— Maureen Groppe and Courtney Subramanian
The Department of Homeland Security Wednesday warned of a continuing threat posed by domestic extremists, cautioning that a “heightened threat environment” across the country would likely persist through the spring.
The bulletin, issued by acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske, said there was no current evidence of a specific plot, yet authorities “remain concerned that individuals frustrated with the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition … could continue to mobilize a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors to incite or commit violence.”
Three weeks after the Capitol attack, Pekoske’s national advisory stated that extremists harboring a volatile mix of grievances “may be emboldened” by the Jan. 6 attack to target elected officials and government property.
The bulletin recalled the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, in which the attacker told police that he had targeted Mexicans as emblematic of “racial and ethnic tension, including opposition to immigration,” that has driven violent attacks by domestic extremists.
“Threats of violence against critical infrastructure, including the electric, telecommunications and healthcare sectors, increased in 2020 with violent extremists citing misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 for their actions,” the bulletin stated.
— Kevin Johnson
Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is set to preside over former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, returned to the Senate Wednesday after a brief hospital visit.
Leahy presided as the Senate reconvened Wednesday morning. He was taken to the hospital Tuesday evening “out of an abundance of caution” after “not feeling well,” his spokesperson David Carle said.
He was discharged later Tuesday evening after getting test results back and receiving a “thorough examination,” Carle said.
Leahy, the most senior Democrat in the Senate who serves as the president pro tempore, is set to preside over Trump’s trial when it begins the week of Feb. 8. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts typically presides over impeachment trials for any president, but the Constitution calls for the chief justice to preside only over trials of sitting presidents. Roberts presided over Trump’s first impeachment trial over dealings with Ukraine.
Leahy told reporters at the Capitol he went to the hospital for muscle spasms, but he didn’t specify where they were spasming. “They didn’t stop,” Leahy said. His doctor said rather than take a chance with “so much going on,” they examined him and then sent him home with his wife, a registered nurse.
“They sent me home with a nurse,” Leahy said.
He told reporters he was healthy enough to preside over the impeachment trial of the former president. He hasn’t yet decided whether to seek reelection in 2022, a decision he expects to make by December.
– Christal Hayes and Bart Jansen
Vice President Kamala Harris received her second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday is set to issue another raft of executive actions tied to combatting climate change, prioritizing science and evidence-based policy across federal agencies and pausing oil drilling on public lands. It’s the latest move to unwind the environmental policies of Trump, who challenged the basis of climate change and had former energy industry lobbyists running key environmental agencies.
Biden has pledged to be the most aggressive president on climate change, which he has called “an existential threat.” His goal is to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035 on the way to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The U.S. emits the second largest amount of carbon dioxide in the world after China.
The actions he’ll sign Wednesday afternoon will also elevate climate change as a national security concern, commit to the goal of conserving at least 30% of all federal land and water by 2030, which stands at 12% today, and build on his economic policy agenda to direct federal agencies to “procure carbon pollution-free electricity and clean, zero-emission vehicles to create good-paying, union jobs and stimulate clean energy industries.”
Part of that order will be ensuring the federal purchases are line with Biden’s “Buy American” initiative aimed at boosting the federal government’s purchases of U.S.-manufactured goods.
Republicans who say Biden’s climate policies are cost-prohibitive, will hurt American businesses and eliminate oil and gas jobs.
The movefollows Biden’s decisions last week to suspend for 60 days new drilling permits on federal lands and waters, halt construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The latest orders won’t stop energy firms from acting on existing oil and gas leases in the western U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico, some of which were issued in the final weeks of the Trump administration.
The action will also created a National Climate Task Force, which will feature leaders from across 21 federal agencies and departments and formally announce a climate summit of world leaders on Earth Day, April 22.
The League of Conservation Voters applauded the plan, describing it as a “whole of government approach that puts bold climate action, clean energy, and environmental justice at the heart of their domestic and foreign policy agenda.”
“Congress must complement these executive actions with bold legislation that puts our economy on a path to recovery by making transformative investments in healthy, equitable, safe communities powered by clean energy,” the organization said in a statement.
—Courtney Subramanian and Ledyard King
White House COVID Response Team to host first news conference
The White House announced the first of what will be regular coronavirus response briefings starting Wednesday at 11 a.m.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Andy Slavitt, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and Jeff Zients will participate. Missing will be recently retired Dr. Deborah Birx, former coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, who became nationally known for her role in press conferences in the Trump administration.
During a recent interview on CBS “Face the Nation” Birx said she “always considered” resigning from the White House coronavirus task force, and that someone had been delivering a “parallel set of data” to Trump.
The coronavirus task force press briefings had been a daily occurrence at the beginning of the pandemic, but then became increasingly sparse as Trump dismissed them just a few weeks in.
Biden announced Tuesday the U.S. has reached an agreement to purchase an additional 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses, a boost that means the U.S. will have enough supply to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of summer or beginning of fall.
In ceremonial swearing in, Harris congratulates Blinken as secretary of State
Vice President Kamala Harris conducted a ceremonial swearing in for Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the White House on Wednesday.
Blinken won bipartisan support for his confirmation on Tuesday, when the Senate approved his nomination 78-22, a vote that included support from several top Republicans.
“The world is watching us intently right now,” Blinken told a group of employees at the State Department on Wednesday morning, as he arrived for his first full day as America’s chief diplomat.
“They want to know if we can heal our nation. They want to see … if we will put a premium on diplomacy with our allies and partners to meet the great challenges of our time,” he said, citing the pandemic, climate change, and threats to democracy, among other simmering issues.
Blinken was officially sworn in Tuesday afternoon at the State Department.
Tuesday night, Blinken spoke with several foreign ministers, including those from Mexico, Canada, and South Korea.
— Deirdre Shesgreen
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