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President Joe Biden on Sunday called on Congress to strengthen gun laws on the third anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“Today, as we mourn with the Parkland community, we mourn for all who have lost loved ones to gun violence,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

The president called for several provisions including background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and eliminating legal immunity for gun manufacturers.

“This Administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call. We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer,” Biden said. “We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change.”

Fourteen students and three staff members were killed in the Parkland shooting. The student survivors started the March for Our lives movement in support of gun control legislation.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement on Sunday that Congress would work with the Biden administration to enact two background check bills. The House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act and the Enhanced Background Checks Act during the last Congress.

“On this solemn remembrance, Democrats join the American people to renew our commitment to our unfinished work to ensure that no family or community is forced to endure the pain of gun violence,” Pelosi said. “We will not rest until all Americans, in schools, in the workplace, in places of worship and throughout our communities are safe, once and for all.”

Susan Rice, the head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Cedric Richmond, a senior advisor to Biden, hosted a virtual meeting last week with leaders of gun violence prevention advocacy groups to discuss how to reduce gun violence.


Immigration bill

Biden and congressional Democrats to unveil immigration bill




President Joe Biden’s administration is joining Democrats on Capitol Hill to unveil a major immigration overhaul that would offer an eight-year pathway to citizenship to the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status.

The legislation, to be released in detail Thursday morning, will reflect the broad priorities for immigration reform that Biden laid out on his first day in office, including an increase in visas, funding to process asylum applications and new technology at the southern border.

But while the plan offers one of the fastest pathways to citizenship of any proposed measure in recent years, it does so without offering any enhanced border security, which past immigration negotiations have used as a way to win Republican votes. Without enhanced security, it faces tough odds in a closely divided Congress.

The bill would immediately provide green cards to farm workers, those with temporary protected status and young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. For others living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, the plan establishes a five-year path to temporary legal status, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements. Then, after three years, they can pursue citizenship.

The plan would raise the current per-country caps for family and employment-based immigrant visas. It would eliminate the penalty barring those immigrants who live in the U.S. without authorization and who then leave the country from returning for three to 10 years. It also would provide resources for more judges, support staff and technology to address the backlog in processing asylum seekers.

The bill would expand transnational anti-drug task forces in Central America and enhances technology at the border. And it would try to reduce the burden at the border by setting up refugee processing in Central America, to try to prevent some of the immigrant caravans that have overwhelmed border security in recent years.

The plan includes $4 billion spread over four years to try to boost economic development and tackle corruption in Latin American countries, to try to address some of the root causes of migration to the U.S.

A dozen Democratic lawmakers, including lead sponsors California Rep. Linda Sanchez and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, are set to unveil the full text of the bill.

Comprehensive immigration reform has struggled to gain traction in Congress for decades.

Menendez was part of the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators who negotiated a 2013 immigration reform bill that ultimately collapsed. Prior to that, a bill backed by President George W. Bush failed in Congress as well, after multiple attempts at compromise.

While Biden is pushing a comprehensive bill, he suggested earlier this week he may be open to a more piecemeal approach. During a CNN town hall Tuesday night, Biden said that while a pathway to citizenship would be essential in any immigration bill, “there’s things I would deal by itself.” That could leave the door open to standalone bills focused on providing a pathway to citizenship for various populations.

Still, publicly the White House is emphasizing that its goal is a comprehensive plan.

The president feels that all of these requirements that are in the bill _ these components of the bill _ are what makes it comprehensive, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week. “They all need to be addressed. That’s why he proposed them together.”
(Ahram online)

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Capitol riot

‘A sad chapter’: Joe Biden stresses duty to defend ‘fragile’ democracy after Donald Trump’s acquittal




The Biden administration says it wants to open a new chapter in US politics and focus on its own policy program following the end of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

Mr Biden, who was at the Camp David presidential retreat when the Senate voted on Saturday to acquit Mr Trump, had acknowledged that Democrats needed to hold the former president responsible for the siege of the US Capitol but did not welcome the way it distracted from his agenda.

The trial ended with every Democrat and seven Republicans voting to convict Mr Trump, but the 57-43 vote was far from the two-third threshold required for conviction.

In a statement, Mr Biden referenced those GOP votes in favour of convicting the former president – and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s own indictment of Mr Trump’s actions – as evidence that “the substance of the charge,” that Mr Trump was responsible for inciting violence at the Capitol, is “not in dispute”.

But he quickly moved on to the work ahead, sounding a note of unity and declaring that “this sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile” and that “each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans, and especially as leaders, to defend the truth and to defeat the lies”.

“It’s a task we must undertake together. As the United States of America,” Mr Biden said.

White House aides had worried that a lengthy proceeding could bog down the Senate and slow the passage of Mr Biden’s massive COVID-19 relief bill. That $1.9 trillion proposal is just the first part of a sweeping legislative agenda Mr Biden hopes to pass as he battles the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 480,000 Americans and rattled the nation’s economy.

The end of the impeachment trial frees the party to focus on less divisive and more broadly popular issues and policies, like the coronavirus relief package, which polls show has significant support among Americans.

White House legislative affairs staffers were poised to work with House committees on crafting details of the COVID-19 relief bill, which Democrats hope to vote on next month.

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Donald Trump

Biden’s slew of reviews give ‘appearance of action’ as he punts on major promises




The Biden White House keeps adding to a long list of often-plodding policy reviews that cover everything from China to Afghanistan to environmental regulation, adding one that revives the Obama administration’s goal of closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

From a president who frequently cites his long experience in government and foreign affairs, the result is concern among allies that he is dithering in his early weeks in office while critics see him pandering to the Left.

Reviews can be used to manufacture a sense of action where there is none, said Danielle Pletka, a senior fellow at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, adding: “But it also gets your constituency off your back. It is an appearance of action without doing anything — and it takes the pressure off to be able to be either to go slow or ultimately to change things.”

The long slate of internal studies meant to set the administration’s major policy stances raises questions after the 46th president repeatedly boasted during the transition between his election and inauguration about his nearly five decades of Washington experience and that of his nominees and appointees.

On Friday, the White House National Security Council announced the latest review.

“We are undertaking an NSC process to assess the current state of play that the Biden administration has inherited from the previous administration, in line with our broader goal of closing Guantanamo,” said spokeswoman Emily Horne.

Some 40 prisoners are still detained without charge at the facility. Then-President Barack Obama never made good on a promise to close the 9/11-era prison, as congressional opposition and questions about where to transfer prisoners thwarted his campaign promise.

“Guantanamo is one of these issues where it sounds simple to be black-and-white, but as soon as you start to govern, the difficulties become readily apparent,” said James Carafano, of the Heritage Foundation. “If Guantanamo had been easy to close, Obama would have closed it.”

Instead, he added, it looked like a sop to the radical elements of the Biden coalition who are clamoring for action.

“It comes off as another thing for the leftist punch list,” he said. “If we can’t do something, let’s just pretend we’re doing something.”

During the campaign, Biden condemned then-President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and said he would ditch his predecessor’s tariffs — those questions are now under review by his administration. This week, the new commander in chief also unveiled a Pentagon task force to examine its stance toward China.

The White House is also reviewing a U.S. deal with the Taliban while it considers troop numbers in Afghanistan. Relations with Russia, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia? That’s right: all are being revisited.

On top of all that, Biden has tasked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with leading a “global posture review” of American armed forces.

Officials say it is early days and that work has been done building a position of strength at home, the better to project American power abroad.

Though Biden made fast work of rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization, anyone hoping for a blanket reversal of decisions taken in the Trump years will be disappointed.

Writing in an op-ed, international affairs commentator Fareed Zakaria said Biden’s foreign policy had struck a “diffident” note and blamed the perennial fear of Democratic presidents that they will be seen as soft on foreign policy.

“Nothing has been reversed. Again, it’s all under ‘review,'” he wrote. “One would have thought Biden and his advisers had already spent the past four years carefully reviewing Trump’s policies, since they publicly declared them to be disastrous.”

The reviews are cited frequently during White House briefings. On Thursday, a journalist asked press secretary Jen Psaki whether Biden was preparing action against Russia for the detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“Of course, the president reserves the right to respond in any manner and any timeline of his choosing,” replied Psaki. “But that review is ongoing and has not concluded yet.”
(Washington Examiner)

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