Joe Biden’s decision to stage a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing is attracting some praise from Republican lawmakers.
“The Administration is right to refuse diplomatic presence at the Beijing Olympics: America will not turn a blind eye to China’s predation, persecution, and genocide,” said Republican Senator Mitt Romney.
Republican congressman Ken Buck, a member of the House foreign affairs committee, added, “I applaud President Biden for refusing to send American diplomats to the Beijing Olympics in February, and I hope every freedom-loving nation joins the US. Genocide must not be rewarded.”
Bob Dole to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda
Bob Dole, the former Republican senator and presidential nominee who died on Sunday at the age of 98, will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer announced the honor in a joint statement released this afternoon.
“Senator Dole was an extraordinary patriot, who devoted his entire life to serving our nation with dignity and integrity,” Pelosi said.
“Senator Dole exemplified the greatest generation, and while I never had the pleasure of serving in the Senate with him, his reputation and his achievements, and most of all his character preceded him,” Schumer added.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said, “Those of us who were lucky to know Bob well ourselves admired him even more.”
According to Pelosi and Schumer’s statement, the Capitol will hold a formal arrival and departure ceremony for Dole’s casket. Because of coronavirus precautions, the ceremony will only be open to invited guests.
After delivering his prepared remarks on the need to lower prescription drug prices, Joe Biden was asked whether he believes Congress can still pass the Build Back Better bill by Christmas.
“As early as we can get it,” the president told reporters. “I want to get it done no matter how long it takes.”
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said this morning that he still wants the upper chamber to pass the $2tn social spending package by Christmas.
“Our goal in the Senate is to pass the legislation before Christmas and get it to the president’s desk,” the Democratic leader said in a letter to colleagues.
“I will continue to remind you that there are more long days and nights, and potentially weekends, that the Senate will be in session this month.”
Joe Biden is now delivering remarks on his Build Back Better agenda and the need to lower prescription drug prices for American families.
The president noted that some drugs are far more costly in the US when the same exact treatments are available at a lower price in other nations.
One anti-cancer drug that costs $14,000 in the US is sold for $6,000 in France, even though it is distributed by the same manufacturer in both nations.
“We can agree that prescription drugs are outrageously expensive in this country,” Biden said. “Doesn’t need be that way.”
Justice Department sues Texas over redistricting plans
The Justice Department is suing Texas over its new electoral maps, saying the plans illegally make it more difficult to participate in the electoral process.
Minority voters accounted for 95% of Texas’ population growth over the last decade, but there are no new majority-minority districts in the new plans.
Texas Republicans, who control the redistricting process, drew the lines to shore up their advantage across the state, blunting the surge in the state’s non-white population. The suit says Texas violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race.
“The complaint that we filed today alleges that Texas violated Section 2 by creating redistricting plans that deny or abridge the rights of Latino and Black voters to vote on account of their race, color or membership in a language or minority group,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a press conference.
Vanita Gupta, the number three official at the Justice Department, noted that some of the districts were drawn with “discriminatory intent.” She also noted that Texas is a repeat offender when it comes to voting discrimination, highlighting that courts have repeatedly found that the state has discriminated against minority voters over the last several decades.
This is the first redistricting lawsuit the Justice Department has filed this year. Last week, the Department made filings in three cases challenging new voting restrictions in Arizona, Texas, and Florida, defending the scope of Section 2.
A reporter asked press secretary Jen Psaki why the Biden administration is still sending athletes to the 2022 Olympics, even as the White House refuses to send a diplomatic delegation to Beijing.
“We believe US athletes, people who have been training, giving up a lot of blood, sweat and tears preparing for these Olympics, should be able to go and compete, and we look forward to cheering for them from home,” Psaki said.
The press secretary argued the diplomatic boycott clearly demonstrated that the US would not treat the games as “business as usual” in light of China’s human rights abuses.
China has said a diplomatic boycott of the forthcoming Beijing Winter Olympics by the Biden administration would be “a stain on the spirit of the Olympic charter” and “sensationalist and politically manipulative”, in what appears to be a further rift in the already strained bilateral relations.
The last time the US staged a full boycott of the Olympics was during the cold war in 1980, when the former president Jimmy Carter snubbed the Moscow summer Games along with 64 other countries and territories.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, on Monday accused Washington of “hyping a ‘diplomatic boycott’ without even being invited to the Games”.
“I want to stress that the Winter Olympic Games is not a stage for political posturing and manipulation,” Zhao said. “It is a grave travesty of the spirit of the Olympic charter, a blatant political provocation and a serious affront to the 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
The US diplomatic boycott comes amid escalating tensions between China and many western countries. It was first raised by Joe Biden last month when he said he was considering a “diplomatic boycott” as pressures grew in the US Congress over its concerns about China’s human rights record, including over the treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
White House will stage diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics, Psaki confirms
The White House will stage a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, press secretary Jen Psaki has just confirmed.
“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” Psaki said from the briefing room podium.
The announcement comes two months before the games are set to begin. American athletes are still expected to compete in the Olympics, even as the Biden administration will not be sending any representatives to Beijing.
“The athletes on Team USA have our full support,” Psaki said. “We will be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games.”
Psaki said the White House determined it would be wrong to deny athletes the opportunity to compete in the games, and she argued the lack of a diplomatic delegation would still send a “clear message” about the administration’s priorities.
“Wow, it looks like highly respected Senator David Perdue will be running against RINO Brian Kemp for Governor of Georgia. David was a great Senator, and he truly loves his State and his Country,” the former president said in a new statement.
“This will be very interesting, and I can’t imagine that Brian Kemp, who has hurt election integrity in Georgia so badly, can do well at the ballot box (unless the election is rigged, of course).”
Trump has repeatedly criticized Kemp for refusing to attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Georgia, and he had encouraged Purdue to launch a primary challenge against the incumbent governor.
Washington Post announces death of Fred Hiatt
The Washington Post has announced the death of Fred Hiatt, its editorial page editor, this morning. He was 66.
Hiatt died in New York, where he suffered a heart attack while visiting his daughter in late November.
A statement from Post publisher Fred Ryan, widely shared by Post staffers, said in part: “All of us who worked with Fred know what a deep loss this is and how profoundly he’ll be missed.
“Over the past two decades, Fred’s leadership made the Post editorial page into the most consequential in the news industry. Nearly every person in the department was hired by Fred a great testament to his ability to identify and retain top talent.
“A 40-year veteran of the post, he built friendships through the company and made immense contributions as a writer and editor and a mentor to so many.”
Among responses, Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent of the rival New York Times wrote: “Devastating news. Fred was a first-rate journalist, smart and incisive, gentle but strong, open minded and thoughtful but never fooled by the propagandists of Washington or Moscow. Most of all, he was the epitome of decency and principle in an indecent and unprincipled age.”
US not seeking ‘direct use of military force’ over Ukraine – report
Details of a briefing call on the Biden administration’s options in regards to a feared and expected Russian invasion of Ukraine are beginning to come out.
Joe Biden and Vladmir Putin are due to talk tomorrow.
We’ll have more soon. In the tweeted words of Olivier Knox of the Washington Post, the options involve sanctions and other non-lethal moves:
“On a conference call organised by the White House, a senior administration official (anonymously) said this when asked whether Biden will warn Putin tomorrow that the US might respond militarily to a Russian invasion of Ukraine:
I don’t want to use a public press call to talk about the particular sensitive challenges that President Biden will lay out for President Putin, but I would say the United States is not seeking to end up in a circumstance in which the focus of our countermeasures is the direct use of American military force (as opposed to support for Ukraine’s military and Nato partners, new sanctions).
Knox adds: “Biden has been speaking to European allies, and will continue to do so. He’ll speak to Ukrainian President VolodymyrZelenskiy after the call to Putin. But Secretary of State [Tony] Blinken will speak to Zelenskiy before the call to Putin, the official said.”