Diplomats to Biden: Don’t give the plum Europe posts to donors and allies

“Most presidents in recent decades have given 30 percent of ambassadorships to political appointees, including major campaign donors. Trump increased that number to roughly 44 percent, which included posts in some countries that usually went to career diplomats, such as Thailand and Kenya. That’s why the pressure is on Biden to revert to a smaller number.
A White House official said Thursday the administration expects the percentage of political ambassadors to be lower than that of the previous administration and closer to the traditional amount.”

Joe Biden Says Trains Will Soon Be Almost as Fast as Planes. That’s Ridiculous.

“the fastest speed that a train has ever achieved—not while carrying passengers, mind you, but just as an experiment—is 357 mph. Over long distances, while carrying passengers and making stops at stations, the world’s speediest train is China’s Beijing to Nanjing line, which runs at slightly less than 200 mph.

Meanwhile, the average speed of a commercial jet in the United States is about 500 mph.

That’s not even close to being an apples-to-apples comparison. After all, planes carrying passengers used to routinely break the sound barrier (roughly 760 mph, though it varies based on atmospheric conditions), and experimental aircraft have gone far faster. Still, the world’s fastest train still finishes a distant second when matched up against an average, boring Boeing 737.”

How Biden Became the Dollar Sign President

“Certainly, the need for infrastructure spending over and beyond what the federal government, states and localities already spend is oversold.

Infrastructure is obviously important, and building or repairing it can be a good investment, depending on the particulars. But enormous catch-all Washington infrastructure bills aren’t well suited to discerning, nonpoliticized investment decisions, and the endlessly repeated cliche about our “crumbling” infrastructure doesn’t hold up.

A recent paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research noted, “Over the past generation, the condition of the interstate highway network improved consistently, its extent increased modestly, and traffic about doubled. Over about the same time period, the condition of bridges remained about the same, the number of bridges increased slowly, and bridge traffic increased modestly. The stock of public transit motor buses is younger than it was a generation ago and about 30% larger, although ridership has been about constant.”

Shooting money out of a bazooka is not self-evidently what the state of America’s infrastructure calls for. But when the only tool you have is huge reconciliation spending bills, everything looks like a crisis urgently requiring more profligacy.

The bills are also a substitute for passing significant nonspending policy changes, which is seemingly beyond Biden’s power. Unlike FDR, Biden has narrow and tenuous congressional majorities. He’s not getting HR1, gun control, a higher minimum wage, or immigration reform, and perhaps couldn’t even if Senate Democrats eliminated the filibuster.

What he can do, which FDR and LBJ never could, is reach for the word “trillion” as much as possible.”

Joe Biden is stretching Obamacare as far as it can go

“We are about to witness, for the first time, the power of a fully operational Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The American Rescue Plan made 3.7 million more people eligible for the ACA’s premium subsidies. The Biden administration had already opened up enrollment after taking office, and 200,000 Americans signed up in the first two weeks. Now the administration is extending enrollment until August 15, backed by millions of dollars in advertising.

Insurers are expanding into new markets, and some who abandoned it long ago in the law’s fraught early years are now reentering. The individual mandate is gone, but, as it turns out, it may not be as important to the law’s long-term viability as originally thought. The law had been weakened since its passage by the Supreme Court and Republican opposition. So this is a new beginning of sorts.

“The ACA is right now much closer to what its advocates hoped it would be from the start,” Larry Levitt, executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), told me. “This is a true test of how effective a juiced-up ACA can be at getting us closer to universal coverage.

Taken together, come Labor Day, the country should have the clearest idea yet of how the ACA functions at full strength — and where holes in the US health system remain.”

Voters back Joe Biden’s gun control plan. It’s not clear if the evidence does.

“The fundamental reality about the US gun problem is that it’s a function of how many guns Americans have. Heavily reducing that stockpile may be the only way to significantly reduce America’s out of control gun deaths”

“”Gun control policies that don’t confront the core issue — that America simply has too many guns — are doomed to merely nibble around the edges. Everywhere in the world, people get into arguments. Every country has residents who are dangerous to themselves or others because of mental illness. Every country has bigots and extremists. But here, it’s uniquely easy for a person to obtain a gun, letting otherwise tense but nonlethal conflicts escalate into deadly violence.””

“Roughly 39,000 Americans die from guns every year. Mass shootings draw attention to this problem, but everyday suicides and violent confrontations that unnecessarily escalate to homicide due to the easy availability of guns are the norm in the United States. If policymakers are serious about changing this, dramatically reducing the number of guns is the path forward.”

The Supreme Court’s coming war with Joe Biden, explained

“On February 9, 2016 — the last Tuesday of Scalia’s life — the Supreme Court handed down an unexpected order announcing a stay of the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon emissions rules for many power plants. The vote was 5-4, along party lines, with Scalia joining his fellow conservatives in the majority.

The environmental regulations blocked by this order were commonly known as the Clean Power Plan, and they were the Obama administration’s most ambitious effort to fight climate change. Had the Clean Power Plan taken effect, the EPA predicted that by 2030 it would have reduced overall carbon dioxide emissions from utility power plants 32 percent from where they were in 2005.

But the Clean Power Plan never took effect. Though the Supreme Court’s order halting the plan was temporary, Donald Trump’s 2016 victory all but ensured that it would not be revived. Even if the Trump administration hadn’t replaced this Obama-era policy with a significantly weaker rule, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s vacant seat signaled the Supreme Court would be highly likely to strike down the Clean Power Plan permanently if given the chance.

The problem for Democrats is that the legal defeat of the Clean Power Plan is likely not a one-off. This fight over the federal government’s power to address a slow-moving catastrophe is just one battle in a multi-front war over federal agencies’ power to regulate. As Stephen Bannon, then the White House’s chief strategist, told the Conservative Political Action Conference a month after Trump took office, one of the Trump administration’s primary goals would be “deconstruction of the administrative state.””

“It wasn’t always this way. In the late 1980s, Justice Scalia was one of the Court’s staunchest defenders of a strong administrative state. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush delivered three landslide victories in a row to Republicans, and the GOP was at the apex of its ability to gain power the old-fashioned way — by winning elections.
So conservatives benefited from court decisions that gave the Reagan and Bush administrations broad leeway to set federal policy. Both administrations could use this leeway to deregulate.

But the right’s approach to federal agencies shifted drastically during the Obama administration. With the GOP’s grip on the presidency waning at the very same time that they had a firm hold on the judiciary, conservatives had an obvious interest in increasing the judiciary’s power to strike down new rules pushed by federal agencies.”

“Congress is a slow-moving body, and federal laws are difficult to amend. If, in the 1970s, Congress had commanded power plants to use the best emissions reduction technology that existed at the time, it could have potentially locked these plants into using obsolete tech that is vastly inferior to the technology available now. At a minimum, Congress would have struggled to stay on top of new developments and to update this law as new methods of reducing emissions were invented.

For this reason, Congress may also regulate businesses in a second way. It can pass a law that lays out a broad federal policy but leave the details of how to implement that policy up to a federal agency. Often, such delegation means giving that agency a fair amount of authority to determine how businesses operate, so long as the agency uses this authority to advance the policy goal enacted by Congress.”

“Ideally, laws like the Clean Air Act make complex lawmaking possible without having to sacrifice democratic accountability. Regulation allows our laws to be both democratic and dynamic. Such laws are democratic because the goals of federal policy — goals such as ensuring that power plants use the best emission reduction technology available — are still set by the people’s elected representatives in Congress. But they are dynamic because it allows federal rules to be updated without requiring Congress to enact a new law every time a new innovation is developed.”

“the very idea that Congress should be free to delegate power in this way has many enemies within the conservative legal movement. In a 2016 opinion, for example, then-Judge Gorsuch wrote that two foundational Supreme Court decisions preserving agencies’ ability to regulate “permit executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design.””

“early American lawmakers — many of whom were the same people who drafted the Constitution — delegated tremendous power to executive branch officials.”

“As a practical matter, when the Supreme Court hands down a vague and open-ended legal standard like the one Gorsuch articulated in his Gundy opinion, the Court is shifting power to itself. What does it mean for a statute to be “sufficiently definite and precise” that the public can “ascertain whether Congress’s guidance has been followed”?

The answer is that the courts — and, ultimately, the Supreme Court — will decide for themselves what this vague language means. The courts will gain a broad new power to strike down federal regulations, on the grounds that they exceed Congress’s power to delegate authority.”

“If five justices get behind it, the nondelegation doctrine would give a Republican supermajority on the Supreme Court the ability to veto nearly any regulation handed down by a Democratic administration.”

How Many False Claims Did Biden Make In His First 100 Days Compared To Trump?

“Biden made 67 false and misleading statements in his first 100 days in office, according to a report Monday from The Washington Post’s fact checker. That compares to 511 such comments from his predecessor Donald Trump in his first 100 days.”

“Two of Biden’s falsehoods have earned the Post’s “Four Pinocchio” rating, designated for “whoppers.” He claimed several times that Georgia’s GOP-led election law will end voting hours early. It won’t. The other is Biden’s claim that federal government contracts awarded to foreign companies went up by 30% under Trump, when in fact it was likely much less.
The fact-checking analysts noted that when Biden made exaggerated claims, he would often amend his wording in subsequent addresses in apparent response to news coverage.

Trump’s tally grew at a dramatically faster rate as his presidency progressed. Toward the end of his term, he was making around twice as many false claims a month as he did in his entire first year in office. On Nov. 2, the day before the election, Trump made 504 false claims in a day, nearly the same amount he made in his first 100 days.”

Biden administration begins throwing out Medicaid work rules

“Biden health officials have quietly revoked the previous administration’s approval of Medicaid work rules in two states, as they move quickly to unwind one of former President Donald Trump’s signature health policies.

Federal Medicaid officials on Wednesday sent letters to Arkansas and New Hampshire officials, informing them that the administration had formally scrapped the federal government’s permission for the states to mandate that some enrollees work, volunteer or attend school as a condition of coverage.”

“The Trump administration in 2018 issued guidance letting states, for the first time, to implement work rules in the Medicaid program, contending it would incentivize healthy people to find employment. Democrats argued the work rules were designed to shrink the safety net health program’s rolls, and courts have blocked the rules where they have been challenged.

The Biden administration last month began the process of eliminating work rules in the roughly dozen states where they had been approved. The states, which are predominantly Republican-led, were given until last Friday to submit information to CMS defending the work rules. In some states, Democratic governors inherited work rules from their GOP predecessors but sought to avoid enforcing them.”

“The Supreme Court is still weighing whether to review lower court rulings against work rules in Arkansas and New Hampshire, and revoking the programs could make the case moot.”