The 'Artful Dodge' In Biden's Big Speech

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THE HILL: President Biden gave his first address to a joint session of Congress last night. He presented an ambitious $1.8 trillion suite of social programs that would be backed by tax increases for wealthier Americans. The big question heading into the speech was whether Biden would include a prescription drug pricing bill that Capitol Hill sources told The Uprising was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “pet project.”

According to those sources, the issue caused a bit of a “tug of war” between Pelosi and the White House since the legislation has questionable prospects in the Senate and internal opposition within the Democratic caucus.

Ultimately, Pelosi got the win … sort of.  

“We pay the highest prescription drug prices of anywhere in the world,” Biden said in the speech, later adding, “Let's give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower drug prescription prices. … It won’t just help people on Medicare. It’ll lower prescription drug costs for everyone.”

Pelosi’s push to get the bill in Biden’s speech included having a spokesperson publicly declare that they expected it to be part of the “American Families Plan” agenda the president touted in the speech. At the time, it was not actually clear the White House wanted Biden to mention the measure. 

One Hill source described the outcome as a win for Pelosi.

“Nancy is as Nancy does,” the source said. “She picks her spots.”

A second Hill source had a more nuanced view, noting Biden discussed the plan and called on Congress to back it but didn’t make it part of his agenda.  

“It didn’t actually get into his plan,” the source said. “An artful dodge.”  

Pelosi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Biden’s plan included universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds, two years of free community college, and a paid family and medical leave program, among other things. Other notable moments in the speech included nods to the transgender community, an off-script call for the country to do more to compete with China, a very relaxed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and the fact two women were behind the dais for the first time in history.

Republicans, led by Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina who delivered the GOP’s official response, criticized Biden’s agenda as costly and vaguely dystopian. Scott, who began his remarks by noting Biden “seems like a good man” said the plan would “put Washington even more in the middle of your life — from the cradle, to college.” 

As the GOP’s only Black senator, Scott addressed the party’s support for measures that restrict voting. He said Republicans want to make it “easier” to vote, which is demonstrably untrue. Scott also criticized “the left” for its approach to racial issues and argued “America is not a racist country.” He said “the left” uses race as a “political weapon” and accused Democrats of “doubling down on the divisions we've worked so hard to heal.”  

"Our best future won't come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you — the American people,” Scott said. 

GOTHAM: New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer defended himself against an accusation of sexual harassment and groping with a hastily scheduled press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Despite his denials, the 20 year old accusation was immediately a major blow to his campaign. 

Within the past day, one major endorser jumped ship and The Uprising has learned that Stringer staffers may be eyeing the doors. The controversy seems set to reshape the election with less than two months to go before the crucial Democratic primary. 

At his presser, Stringer admitted he had an “on-and-off relationship over a few months” with Jean Kim during his 2001 campaign for public advocate. He denied her claim that she was an unpaid intern and said that Kim, who was 30-years-old at the time, was a publicist and “an active supporter of the campaign.” Kim’s attorney, Patricia Pastor, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his claims. 

The allegation came at a crucial moment for Stringer’s mayoral bid. He has been polling in third place behind former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Hours before Pastor announced the accusation on Tuesday evening , Stringer launched a $1 million television offensive aimed at sparking his candidacy. 

Stringer’s campaign thus far has relied heavily on prominent progressive backers who have been sharply critical of the widespread sexual harassment issues in New York’s political realm. The situation put them in a painful position. Shortly after Stringer’s Wednesday press conference, one of those key allies — State Senator Jessica Ramos — dropped her endorsement. Other Stringer backers issued decidedly morevague statements. 

Endorsers aren’t the only ones leaving Stringer’s side. One New York City operative told The Uprising that they know of Stringer staffers who are quietly applying for new jobs. His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about potential defections.

In a room on the audio chat app Clubhouse, local progressives discussed the fallout. The consensus seemed to be that two other candidates — former City Hall aide Maya Wiley and nonprofit executive Dianne Morales — would pick up support. 

“Baby girl, in terms of opportunity, this is their moment,” political strategist Na’ilah Amaru said of Wiley and Morales. 

Both Wiley and Morales, however, are far from the front of the pack. One veteran New York City operative said they believe the scandal would change the race by taking Stringer out of contention without vaulting anyone else up sufficiently to compete with Yang and Adams. 

“I think this story is basically going to make it a two man race,” the operative said. 

911: Judge Jeffery Foster delayed the release of body camera footage showing Andrew Brown Jr. being shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies in Pasquotank County, North Carolina on April 21. Local authorities had prepared for “civil unrest” if the videos were released. 

Brown’s family and a coalition of media groups have pressed the judge to show the footage to the public. Protesters also took to the streets in Elizabeth City, North Carolina on Wednesday night to demand the release of the videos. 

Foster suggested the footage should be withheld to preserve the impartiality of a review of the incident that is being conducted by state officials. The FBI is also conducting an investigation. 

The deputies were serving a drug-related arrest warrant on Brown, who was in his car, when they opened fire. His family members watched 20 seconds of the footage and said it showed him attempting to drive away from the officers and posing no threat. The local district attorney disputed their account. An independent autopsy conducted by the family concluded Brown was shot five times, including in the back of the head. His funeral will be held on Monday. 

GHOSTED: Rudy Giuliani vowed to appear on a talk radio broadcast on Wednesday afternoon to address the FBI raids on his home and office. However, at the appointed hour, Giuliani was off the air. He also deleted the tweet announcing his appearance.

The raids were part of a widening investigation into whether Giuliani engaged in illegal lobbying during his time as President Trump’s personal attorney. The home of a Giuliani associate, attorney Victoria Toensing, was also raided. Giuliani did not respond to requests for comment. The Uprising called Toensing’s phone after the raid and someone hung up. It may not have been Toensing herself, however, since her phone was reportedly confiscated by the feds. 

With Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, keeping quiet, it was up to his son Andrew to serve as the family’s public face. Andrew, a former Trump White House aide who has said he plans to run for governor next year, held a press conference where he described the raids as a “disgusting” political attack from the Justice Department.

"If this could happen to the former president's lawyer, this could happen to any American,” Andrew said. 

FUN FACT: The late “To Kill A Mockingbird” author Harper Lee was born on this day in 1926. Contrary to popular belief, Lee was not a recluse in her later years. Though she stayed out of the public eye, her hobbies included exercise classes and visiting casinos to play quarter slots.

In 1990, Lee visited Donald Trump’s new Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey shortly after it opened. She subsequently wrote a letter to a friend describing it as a horrible experience. 

“The worst punishment God can devise for this sinner is to make her spirit reside eternally at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City,” Lee said. 

Fridays are downtime here at The Uprising. There won’t be a newsletter in your inbox tomorrow morning, but check into the website for our first ever Happy Hour discussion session! That post will go live Friday afternoon and I will hang around to engage in the comments from 5-6 p.m. 

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