Where things stand
Today’s political news cycle has been a whirlwind. Congress returned from recess and Senators Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin met with each other. Donald Trump has also sued the 6 January committee so he won’t have to turn over documents pertaining to the Capitol riot.
Other news items include:
- The FDA is set to allow a “mix and match” approach to vaccine booster shot distribution. This means that even if someone, for example, got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine originally, they could get the Pfizer or Moderna shots as a booster.
- The justice department is asking the supreme court to block a Texas law that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The state’s legislation is one of the most restrictive in the nation and has been in place since 1 September.
- Zalmay Khalilzad, the top US envoy to Afghanistan, is stepping down from his role today, almost two months after the US chaotic withdrawal from the country. Khalilzad worked as an envoy during the George W Bush administration and was tapped by Donald Trump in 2018 to help with peace negotiations with the Taliban.
- Joe Biden made a surprise appearance at a White House event honoring the 2020 and 2021 recipients of the national teacher of the year award. The event was hosted by Jill Biden. The president introduced himself as “Jill’s husband” and thanked teachers for their dedication to students.
- Colin Powell, former secretary of state, died from complications from Covid. The 84-year-old also had Parkinson’s and was receiving treatment for blood cancer. His passing elicited statements from former officials including Barack Obama and Mike Pence
That’s all from me here on the west coast, have a great evening.
The FDA plans to let Americans “mix and match” their booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine. This means that people aren’t required to get the booster from the same brand as your original inoculation, according to a New York Times report.
Researchers presented the findings of a study where they gave participants different brands of the booster vaccines to an expert committee that reports to the Food and Drug Administration. The research found that boosters, even when given to people who got a different brand originally led to an increase in antibody count.
The study’s leaders emphasized that the study did not conclude whether there is a combination of vaccines that is more effective than others.
The FDA is expected to authorize boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines by Wednesday evening. It is possible that “mix and match” approach could be approved by then.
Read the rest of the New York Time’s coverage here.
House lawmakers are giving Amazon an ultimatum: “Correct the record” and provide new evidence or face a criminal investigation, according to the Associated Press.
In a letter to Andy Jassy, Amazon’s CEO and president, a bipartisan group of congressional leaders is accusing the tech and retail conglomerate of giving misleading testimony about its business practices during antitrust hearings.
Congressmembers cite recent media reports detailing Amazon’s alleged practice of undercutting the businesses that sell on its platform by making “knock-offs,” or very similar products and boosting their presence on the site. This reporting contradicts what Amazon executives told the antitrust subcommittee under oath.
Amazon has until 1 November to provide new and additional materials to the subcommittee.
For more in-depth coverage read the AP’s story here.
The Department of Justice is asking the supreme court to block a Texas law that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The highly restrictive policy went into effect on 1 September and has faced immediate outcry from women’s health providers.
On Twitter Planned Parenthood the ACLU applauded the department’s decision to intervene.
Last week a federal appeals court ruled that the law can remain in place while legal challenges proceed. Samuel Dickman, a Texas doctor who provides abortions said that these state ban will impact the lower-income women of color he cares for disparately. In an op-ed for the Guardian he wrote:
Wealthy Texans will find the means to obtain safe abortion care, as they always have. But patients I care for…can’t afford enormous travel expenses to get medical care. They can’t afford to take multiple days off work, usually without pay.
Read the rest of Dickman’s piece here.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the top US envoy to Afghanistan, is stepping down from his role today, almost two months after the US chaotic withdrawal from the country. Khalilzad is originally from Afghanistan and served as an envoy in George W Bush’s White House. He was tapped by Donald Trump to pursue peace negotiations with the Taliban in 2018.
Khalilzad was expected to leave the White House after Joe Biden was elected but stayed on at the behest of Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state.
The now-former envoy has yet to comment on his resignation on his official Twitter page, but earlier today Khalilzad shared a tribute and photo of himself and Colin Powell.
Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against the 6 January select committee and the National Archives. His goal is to block the release of White House documents pertaining to the January riot. His lawyers are seeking a number of things:
- They want a federal judge to invalidate the select committee’s request for documents
- Attorneys also want to avoid turning over any documents that Trump declare to be covered by executive privilege
- And to allow Trump’s lawyers to review all documents selected by the National Archive before they turn them over to the 6 January select committee
This legal challenge comes as the select committee calls more individuals from the Trump White House to testify and provide documents related to the Capitol riot.
To read an in-depth piece on Trump’s latest lawsuit, check out Politico’s coverage here.
Hi readers, I’m Abené Clayton blogging from the west coast.
It’s a busy day in Washington as Congress returns from recess, Joe Biden paid an unexpected visit to an event honoring teachers and former and current share kind words about Colin Powell, who died today at the age of 84.
I’ll keep the blog updated with more out of the Capitol and other stories of the day.
Today so far
That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Abené Clayton, will take over the blog for the next few hours.
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- Former secretary of state Colin Powell died at 84 from complications of Covid-19. Powell was fully vaccinated against coronavirus, but he had previously been diagnosed with a type of blood cancer, likely putting him at increased risk of becoming severely ill from the virus.
- Joe Biden described Powell as “a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity”. The president has ordered flags at the White House and other federal government buildings to be flown at half-staff for the next few days, in honor of Powell’s life.
- Powell was remembered for his barrier-breaking career and for his involvement in the invasion of Iraq. The former general was the first Black man to serve as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and as secretary of state. But for many, Powell will be remembered for promoting incorrect claims about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction prior to the 2003 invasion. Barack Obama said of Powell, “Although he’d be the first to acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right, his actions reflected what he believed was best for America and the people he served.”
- Biden will have two meetings with House Democrats tomorrow to discuss the reconciliation package and the infrastructure bill. The meetings come as negotiations over the two bills have stalled, with moderates like senator Joe Manchin demanding a smaller reconciliation package while progressives continue to insist that $3.5tn is the bare minimum price tag they will accept.
Abené will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
Joe Biden took a few questions from reporters after delivering remarks at the White House event honoring teachers this afternoon.
Asked how he was going to get senator Joe Manchin to agree to passing the reconciliation package, Biden said, “That’s where I’m going now.”
The president is also expected to hold two meetings with House Democrats tomorrow to discuss the negotiations over the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation package.
Manchin has insisted upon a lower price tag for the reconciliation package, while progressives believe the current cost of $3.5tn is the bare minimum needed to address the climate crisis and improve access to affordable healthcare and childcare.
Joe Biden made a surprise appearance at a White House event honoring the 2020 and 2021 recipients of the National Teacher of the Year award.
The event was hosted by Dr Jill Biden, who is a teacher herself at a Virginia community college, and education secretary Miguel Cardona also attended.
The president kicked off his remarks with an oft-repeated line that always gets a laugh: “My name is Joe Biden, and I’m Jill Biden’s husband.”
He went on to thank the educators present for their dedication to their students, saying, “You make a gigantic difference.”
Joe Biden will travel to Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday to promote his economic agenda, as congressional Democrats remain at odds over the infrastructure bill and reconciliation package.
According to the official White House notice, Biden will visit Scranton “to continue rallying public support for his Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and Build Back Better Agenda”.
Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said this afternoon that he will also hold two meetings with House Democrats tomorrow to discuss the negotiations over the bills.
Colin Powell will be most remembered for the act he most regretted, his 2003 presentation to the UN security council laying out US evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to exist.
It did not directly lead to the Iraq invasion because George W Bush was going to invade anyway, and the presentation did not succeed in its goal of persuading the council to pass a second resolution backing military action against Iraq.
But Powell’s speech marked a decisive moment in undermining US credibility on the world stage – all the more because of the then secretary of state’s repeated insistence that his claims were based on hard intelligence.
Two years later, out of government, Powell described the speech as “a blot” on his career.
“I’m the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record,” Powell told ABC News. “It was painful. It’s painful now.”
Kamala Harris also addressed the death of Colin Powell while speaking to reporters aboard Air Force Two, as the vice-president arrived in Las Vegas for an event promoting Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.
“He was the epitome of what it means to be strong, but at the same time, so modest in terms of everything that he did and said, in a way that it was never about him and it’s about the country, and it was about the people who served with him,” the vice-president said of Powell.
Harris credited Powell with helping to “elevate our nation in so many ways” through his accomplishments and conduct as a representative of the US on the global stage.
The vice-president added, “He as the first Black person, Black man to be … chairman of the joint chiefs, to be national security advisor, to be secretary of state — every step of the way, when he filled those roles, he was by everything that he did and the way he did it, inspiring so many people.”
Kamala Harris released her own statement on Colin Powell, celebrating the former secretary of state as “an independent thinker and a barrier breaker who inspired leaders in our military and throughout our nation”.
“Secretary Powell served our nation with courage, unwavering in his belief in its principles and its promise,” the vice-president said.
Harris noted she late spoke with Powell during a July dinner at the White House honoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“I was reminded then how he always showed the world the best of who we are. He upheld the highest standards, representing our nation with dignity, grace, and strength,” Harris said.
“The legacy that he leaves behind – on America’s national security and on the leaders he mentored – can be seen every day across our nation and the world.”
Obama praises Powell as ‘an exemplary patriot’
Barack Obama described Colin Powell as “an exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot” in his statement on the former secretary of state’s passing.
“Everyone who worked with General Powell appreciated his clarity of thought, insistence on seeing all sides, and ability to execute,” the former president said.
“And although he’d be the first to acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right, his actions reflected what he believed was best for America and the people he served.”
Honoring Powell’s barrier-breaking career as the first Black chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and secretary of state, Obama said the general “helped pave the way for so many who would follow”.
Obama also expressed his appreciation for Powell’s endorsement in the 2008 presidential race. In his endorsement, Powell specifically pushed back against false claims that Obama was a Muslim while simultaneously criticizing those who suggested any candidate should be disqualified because of their faith.
“That’s who Colin Powell was. He understood what was best in this country, and tried to bring his own life, career, and public statements in line with that ideal,” Obama said.
“It’s why, for all the battles he fought and problems he solved, Michelle and I will always look to General Powell as an example of what America – and Americans – can and should be if we wish to remain the last, best hope of earth.”
One reporter asked the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, to respond to concerns about the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines, given that Colin Powell was fully vaccinated and still died of complications from Covid-19.
Psaki noted that those who are older or facing other illnesses, as Powell was because he was previously diagnosed with a type of blood cancer, are generally at greater risk of becoming severely sick from coronavirus.
But she once again emphasized the overall effectiveness of the vaccines, saying that unvaccinated individuals have a ten times greater risk of dying from coronavirus compared to vaccinated people.
“So there’s no question that vaccination, that taking precautions can save lives,” Psaki said. “And it is still true, and this raised that certainly with the death of Colin Powell, that underlying health issues, fighting other diseases is something that can lead to greater risk.”
Biden to host two meetings with House Democrats tomorrow
Joe Biden will host two meetings with House Democrats tomorrow to discuss his economic agenda, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said at her daily briefing.
One of the president’s meetings will be with moderate House Democrats, and the other will include progressive members. Biden also met with Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, this morning.
“We are encouraged by the accelerated pace of talks and are eager to get this done to meet the urgent needs of families,” Psaki said.
Biden’s meetings come as congressional Democrats remain at odds over the size and scope of their reconciliation package, which is expected to include major investments in healthcare, childcare and climate initiatives.
Moderates like Senator Joe Manchin are pushing for a smaller bill, while progressives insist the current price tag of $3.5tn is the bare minimum needed to adequately address the crises facing the country.
At the White House, flags have already been lowered to half-staff to mark the death of former secretary of state Colin Powell.
Flags at federal government buildings will remain at half-staff until sunset on Friday.
Joe Biden has also ordered flags be flown at half-staff for the next few days, in honor of the life of former secretary of state Colin Powell.
“Colin Powell was a good man who I was proud to call my friend, and he will be remembered in history as one of our great Americans,” the president said in a new proclamation recognizing Powell’s death.
“As a mark of respect for General Powell and his life of service to our Nation, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on October 22, 2021.”