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January 14th, 2022: Biden Demands Passage On Voting Rights Bills and Escalating Tensions with Russia

This week, White House Correspondent Paul Brandus shares his insights into Biden's recent statements around voting rights and the filibuster, economic and COVID-19 news, and the mounting tensions between the U.S. and Russia. Special guest: Russia expert David Satter.

An angry President Biden demands passage of key voting rights bills. Republicans fire back.

Looks like inflation may be around for a while — this as the pandemic rolls on.

And tensions rise between the U.S. and Russia

I’m Paul Brandus — you’re listening to West Wing Reports from Washington — it’s Friday, January 14.

In the last eight presidential elections, Republicans have won the popular vote in just one of them. And demographics - namely the shriveling percentage of whites - does NOT suggest future success. This helps explain Republican efforts to make voting more difficult around the country.

What, exactly, are those efforts? Here are just four examples:

-eliminating no-excuse absentee voting for voters under age 65

-tighter limits on early in-person voting

-removing secure ballot dropboxes

-forcing folks to stand in long lines - but making it illegal to give them food & water -- that’s what Georgia’s doing.

That’s where President Biden went to talk about his anger over these Republican efforts:

Biden wants two pieces of legislation passed — the Freedom to Vote Act

John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. He can get these through the House, but the Senate? That’s another story. So he said senators have to decide how they want to be remembered — and challenged them in a way that even some DEMOCRATS say was too much:

The binary choice here — vote my way or you’re as bad as the president of the Confederacy in the Civil War, or the bigoted 1960s police chief of Birmingham who attacked blacks with German Shepards and fire hoses.

That’s the part that infuriated Republicans. Even some regarded as more reasonable, like Utah’s Mitt Romney:

The president says getting these voter protection bills passed is so important that he now favors changing a key Senate rule — it’s called the filibuster — to make it easier to pass them. But some Democratic Senators oppose getting rid of the filibuster. There’s a good reason for this — Democrats could be the minority again — and that’s when the filibuster could help them — just as it helps Republicans now.

There’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s the basic construct. Anyway the bottom line here: Biden is going to have a lot of trouble getting rid of the filibuster — which means he’s going to have a lot of trouble getting these voting bills passed. Just like he’s having trouble getting his “Bound Back Better” plan passed. And time is running out — if Republicans take the House and Senate this Fall — which appears increasingly likely based on current trends — than this legislation won’t go anywhere.

Speaking of voting, one Republican Senator did something that seems newsworthy: He said the 2020 election was won fair and square by President Biden. That Senator was South Dakota’s Mike Rounds. Here’s what he told ABC:

Rounds was immediately attacked by former President Trump, who called Rounds a “jerk.” But Rounds doubled down — calling on other Republicans to speak up and tell the truth. He says quote — “If we want to keep the trust and gain the trust of more individuals — we have to probably say it a little bit louder and in more places that many of us normally either aren’t invited to talk or have chosen not to get into the fray.”

Again — that’s South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds — a Republican.

We’re not with Trump yet — he did something rare this week too: He appeared on National Public Radio. A guy on their morning show — Steve Inskeep — said they’ve been trying to get Trump since 2015 — when he first announced he was running for president. They sparred for about seven minutes mostly about the pandemic and the 2020 election — with Trump doing most of the talking — it ended like this:

Well, that went pretty much as expected. You know that old Clint Eastwood western — the good the bad and the ugly? That’s what this phone call was. Trump praised vaccines — said people should get vaccinated — that’s good. But he hung up in the middle of the call — that’s bad, rude, really — but worst of all he keeps pushing the big lie about the election — the election he lost by seven million votes. That’s ugly.

Speaking of vaccines — the Supreme Court dealt the White House a setback Thursday — shooting down a plan to require that employees at large businesses get a vaccine — or test regularly and wear a mask on the job.

But the court DID give the White House a partial win — by allowing vaccine mandate for most health care workers. The two decisions coming in the middle of this current Om-ra-con variant — that’s filling hospitals to the brim. About 18-hundred Americans are dying daily right now — the total U-S death toll as the pandemic approaches year three: about 845-thousand.

Another number going up — inflation — seven-percent per the last 12 months, the Labor Department says. But — it slowed a bit in December, we’ll see if that continues. Meantime — there’ve been stories from around the world this week on inflation at its highest levels in decades in — I’ll give you just a few examples — Canada, Britain, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Russia and Japan — the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on supply chains and lift inflation around the globe.

Troubling news on the law enforcement front — 73 officers were murdered in 2021 — FBI Director Christopher Wray, writing in the Wall Street Journal — says

Quote — we owe it to them to redouble our efforts to take the most violent offenders off the streets and to make sure officers have the resources, equipment and training they need to do their jobs safely. Even more, we need to ensure the brave men and women know that the communities they serve have their backs. — that’s FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Could there be war in Europe? The U-S thinks the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine is quite real — abd talks this week between Russia, the U-S and America’s European allies appeared to make little progress on defusing tensions over Ukraine - which used to be a part of the Soviet Union until it broke up 30 years ago. I spent five years working in Moscow, but today I’m joined by someone who worked there even longer — David Satter — whose first posting in Moscow was nearly a half-century ago. Over the decades he’s worked there in and off, written numerous books — and was kicked out in 2013 — which I regard as a badge of honor.

The thing about Russia I asked Satter about — the internal weaknesses that they hide from the outside world —are gradually causing more problems — for Putin and the other corrupt and violent men that rule that icy country — he tells me what their biggest fear is:

My thanks to David Satter — one of the world’s top experts on Russia.

Now, lets hear about ANOTHER Evergreen podcast — that I know you'll enjo

Time now to open up the West Wing Reports archives — and see what made history this week in the past:

1908: Theodore Roosevelt designated the Grand Canyon as a national monument. TR was the first truly conservationist president. He protected 130 million acres of forests, created five national parks (the Grand Canyon was upgraded to a national park in 1919) and 51 wildlife refuges. By the way, it’s for these efforts to safeguard America’s natural beauty that Teddy Roosevelt was chosen to be on Mount Rushmore.

1943: Another Roosevelt — Franklin — became the first sitting president to fly, when he traveled in great secrecy to Casablanca, Morocco. For war talks with Winston Churchill. He flew all the way from Miami on a Pan Am Clipper.

And 1991: Congress approved George H.W. Bush’s request to use force against Iraq - and push its forces out of Kuwait. The House vote was 250-183; the Senate 52-47, The first Persian Gulf war began days later.

Want more history? Check out my books on Amazon — I’ll sign ‘em for you too — just shoot me an email: [email protected].

And need a speaker for your event? I do that too — current events, economics, analysis — history — I connect the dots — would love to hear from you.

Speaking of books — I’ll send you one — IF you download my new app — it’s called — West Wing Reports — available in the Apple and Android stores — just download it on your phone or tablet — there’s a button called “What’s on your mind?” All you do is push, talk and send. That’s it. And the question I have for you: “How do you rate President Biden's performance so far?" He’s been in office nearly a year — how’s he doing? Leave a comment — and your name goes into a drawing for any of my books — your choice.

I like to end each week with a quote — something you might find thoughtful: This week: it’s from Harry Truman:

America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.

Think about it.

That’s all for this week. Here’s my email — [email protected].

And here's my Twitter address: @WestWingReport

West Wing Reports is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.

Special thanks to CSPAN for the audio clips.

Our producer and sound designer and engineer: Noah Foutz

Executive producers: Michael D’Aleoia and Gerardo Orlando.

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