Politics Family tradition: Republicans lack ways to check Biden family access-peddling
Lessons learned as vice president shape Biden decisions on covid relief package
Fast action on a big package dealing with the country’s biggest problems takes precedence over pursuit of bipartisan compromise and support from Republicans. If there were questions about how Biden would resolve the tension between his pledges to seek bipartisan cooperation versus his commitment to a $1.9 trillion package, he answered them Friday. Continuing an administration-wide communications offensive, the president drew clear lines he would not cross and offered unequivocal language that what Republicans are proposing as a counter is not big enough to deal with the problems he sees.
After four years of House Democrat-led investigations into former President Donald Trump, congressional Republicans are itching to look deeper into allegations of access-peddling by President Biden's immediate family members. But their options are scant.
Last Congress, for instance, Senate Republicans released an 87-page report by the Homeland Security and Finance committees. However, this Congress, it is the Democrats who control the most intensive investigative powers, not just in the House but also in the Senate.
Joe Biden turns to skills that powered his 2020 victory to sell Covid relief
Nearly three weeks into office, President Joe Biden is trying to do what he knows how to do best -- connect with average Americans, letting them know he understands their suffering and offering words of comfort. But instead of doing so quietly on the campaign trail, he's now using those skills to win a different kind of campaign -- to sell his massive Covid-19 relief package to the American people. © MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images TOPSHOT - A painting of Abraham Lincoln is seen as US President Joe Biden speaks on Covid-19 response in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 26, 2021.
"We need to understand the extent of the Biden family’s use of its connection to the president to enrich itself and any steps being taken to mitigate future self-dealing," said a Republican spokesperson for the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
The dilemma, for Republicans, is how. That's because life in the minority affords Republicans very few avenues of dissent and inquiry.
"The biggest thing we can do is just ask these questions," said Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, who sits on the Oversight Committee. "And in some respects, we have to rely on reporters, like yourself, to be able to ask these questions as well and try to do some digging. My hope is that the White House doesn't just stonewall us with a 'Come on, man' statement or a weak response by the press secretary."
Biden Hints at 'Extreme Competition' With China, Says There's No Need for Conflict
Biden will return to multilateral foreign policy to combat the growing global threat of China, he said in a CBS Evening News interview airing in full Sunday evening."We need not have a conflict, but there's going to be extreme competition," Biden said to anchor Norah O'Donnell in an interview to air in full Sunday evening on CBS Evening News. Referring to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, he said, "I'm not going to do it the way that he knows. And that's because he's sending signals as well. I'm not going to do it the way Trump did.
Republicans' inability to examine thoroughly whether any member of Biden's family has or stands to benefit personally or financially from their presidential patriarch is one of the first real consequences of the GOP losing two Georgia Senate runoff elections last month. That's because the twin defeats left the upper chamber split 50-50 between the parties, handing control to Democrats thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote.
Republican lawmakers and staffers working on two of Capitol Hill's leading investigative panels, the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, want to pursue, for example, the latest report on the president's potential ethical problems. This time, it's Biden's son-in-law who's alleged to have touted his links to the two-term vice president.
Howard Krein has been married to Ashley Biden since 2012. He's a head and shoulder surgeon, who's also StartUp Health's chief medical adviser. Since Howard Krein co-founded StartUp Health with his brother, Steven, and entrepreneur Unity Stoakes in 2011, the company has injected almost $2 billion into more than 350 ventures. That's an issue after reports this week that a tech firm approached StartUp Health in December for help marketing its coronavirus vaccine distribution software to state and federal agencies.
Biden doesn’t think the $15 minimum wage will make it into his stimulus bill
In a CBS interview, Biden acknowledged the final Covid-19 stimulus bill will look different from his opening bid.The new president told CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell that the prospect of including a $15 minimum wage in his final Covid-19 relief bill is dimming, and he’s also considering lowering the income threshold of who will get additional $1,400 stimulus checks.
StartUp Health spokeswoman Jennifer HankinKrein "does not make investment decisions at StartUp Health nor does he advise or assist companies on obtaining government contracts." StartUp Health, though, has promoted Krein's cancer research facility tours with Joe Biden, an Oval Office meeting with former President Barack Obama, even an excerpt from Joe Biden's memoir. Joe Biden has addressed an annual StartUp Health conference twice as a private citizen too.
The allegations that Krein could be manipulating his proximity to Biden to make money from the pandemic "are deeply concerning," a Republican Oversight Committee spokesperson told the Washington Examiner.
"Unfortunately, this follows numerous reports about President Biden’s family attempting to profit from their access to the White House," the spokesperson said.
As recently as Inauguration Day, Joe Biden's youngest brother Frank, a consultant, was featured in. That's on top of with presidential son and the president's middle brother, James Biden.
Republicans gamble with history
While the Republican gamble with history may pay dividends in the short-term, it is a long-term loser. A rising cohort of young people, minorities and single women view Donald Trump as the formative president of their times. The association between presidents and parties is a strong one. Back in 1986, a pollster played a word association game, asking respondents who came to mind when they heard the term "Democratic party." Forty-six percent answered, "John F. Kennedy," even though he had been assassinated nearly 25 years before.
When asked, the White House has outlined internal processes involving its counsel's office and family representatives that identifies and deals with possible conflicts of interests. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki was slightly more glib from the briefing podium when she was quizzed on Krein.
"Well, Dr. Krein is his son-in-law," Psaki said. "And I think he was here because the president was inaugurated recently, which is understandable."
"The president has made clear that there will be an absolute wall between him and any businesses connected with his family members," she added, even though incidents keep arising.
Federal employees are legally prohibited from creating even a whiff of unethical speculation, but the rules regulating first and second families are more amorphous.
Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project On Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog organization, told the Washington Examiner this month that "firewalls" had been established in the past to avoid breaches.
"But it really falls on the senior [administration] officials to kind of police that and keep the families in check," Amey said.
Donalds indicated that he supports Congress acting to ensure no public servant or their family members, made money from that senior government officials' position.
Live updates: Biden to host labor leaders in Oval Office to discuss coronavirus relief, infrastructure
As part of his focus on the pandemic this week, the president plans to visit a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine manufacturing site in Michigan on Thursday. The meeting comes amid a stepped-up focus on the pandemic. Speaking at a nationally televised town hall on Tuesday, Biden pledged that any American who wants a vaccine will have access to one by the end of July and said he wants many elementary and middle schools to be open five days a week by the end of April.
"What you are really seeing is the way Congress has really diluted its power and authority to the executive branch just because they happen to share the same party," he said. "This is not a good place for the country to be. Congress has a responsibility to ask these questions of the president and of the president's family."
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Jill Biden is hitting the ground running -- in all directions .
As far as Jill Biden is concerned, there isn't necessarily going to be one "first lady platform," or even two or three. A month into the job, and Biden has heaped a lot on her agenda, unsure at the moment exactly how it will unfold, only that it will "naturally evolve," she has told her staff.Unlike her predecessor Melania Trump, Biden has packed a calendar-full of events, appearances (most virtual) and interviews, aggressively pursuing policy passion projects, and maintaining her schedule as a teacher at a northern Virginia community college.