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Even by Washington standards, this has been a particularly shameless week.
With millions of Texans freezing in their homes, Senator Ted Cruz fled to a Mexican beach, offering his constituents little more than the political cliché of wanting to be a “good dad.” (Apparently, flying your daughters to Cancún is just like car-pooling — if your minivan were the Ritz-Carlton resort.)
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas blamed the complete meltdown of state infrastructure not on a lack of preparation from leaders in the state but on the Green New Deal — a liberal policy proposal that is not even close to becoming law.
His predecessor, former Gov. Rick Perry, suggested that Texans would willingly endure days of blackouts to keep the “federal government out of their business.” It seems hard to believe that any Texan — or really any human — would choose to have to melt snow for water.
The outrageous behavior extended beyond the Lone Star State. In New York, a state lawmaker said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had vowed to “destroy” him for criticizing Mr. Cuomo’s handling of the deaths of nursing home residents in the past year — an issue that is under investigation by the Justice Department.
And Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin senator, said the armed attack on the Capitol didn’t seem all that well-armed. Apparently, he missed the many, many videos of attackers carrying guns, bats and other weapons.
And yet, beneath all this noise was the sound of something even more unusual: silence.
For much of the past six years, former President Donald J. Trump has dominated the political conversation, prompting days of outrage, finger-pointing and general news cycle havoc with nearly every tweet. The audacious behavior of other politicians was often lost amid Mr. Trump’s obsessive desire to dominate the coverage.
Well, the former president has now gone nearly silent, leaving a Trump-size void in our national conversation that President Biden has little desire to fill. That’s been a rude awakening for some other politicians, who find themselves suddenly enmeshed in controversy that isn’t quickly subsumed in a deluge of Trump news.
It’s unclear whether any will pay a significant political price for their actions. The last administration delivered a constant stream of chaos that may have fundamentally reshaped the kind of fact-based rhetoric and norm-abiding behavior we expect from our political leaders. Already, some politicians have adopted Mr. Trump’s playbook for surviving controversy: Blame liberals, double down and never admit any mistake.
Mr. Biden, at least, seems determined to set a different tone. T.J. Ducklo, a deputy press secretary who reportedly used abusive and sexist language with a female reporter, resigned last Saturday — reflecting Mr. Biden’s Inauguration Day promise that he would fire anyone he heard being disrespectful.
And in his first presidential town hall on Tuesday, Mr. Biden repeatedly used two words that many in Washington haven’t heard in a while:
Democrats in Disarray. Kind of?
After a few weeks of party unity, Democrats are showing some fresh signs of division.
Over the past week, Mr. Biden indicated that he was not fully sold on two proposals backed by his progressive base: forgiving $50,000 of student debt for each borrower and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Both plans have some high-profile champions. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have called on Mr. Biden to use his executive authority to cancel about 80 percent of the student loan debt run up by about 36 million borrowers. And the party is fairly united over a $15 minimum wage, with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont committed to including it in the Covid-19 relief package currently making its way through Congress.
The issue for Democrats is how quickly to move. Mr. Biden favors a more gradual phase-in of the $15 minimum wage, in part to assuage concerns from business owners. And on student debt, Mr. Biden is not convinced that he can erase so much with a stroke of his executive pen. He’s also signaled that the proposals should include income caps.
“My daughter went to Tulane University and then got a master’s at Penn; she graduated $103,000 in debt,” he said at a CNN town hall on Tuesday. “I don’t think anybody should have to pay for that, but I do think you should be able to work it off.”
Mr. Biden may simply be looking at some political realities. Polls indicate that both proposals are popular, though support for a $15 wage drops when voters are told of potential economic effects — like a Congressional Budget Office forecast that it could cost more than one million jobs. As for student debt, majorities back the $50,000 in relief, but support rises when the plan is targeted at lower-income families.
By the numbers: 16
… That was the number of crossover districts — congressional districts where the two parties split results between the presidency and Congress — in 2020, according to a new analysis by Daily Kos. That’s the lowest number in a century.
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