The Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked in an 11-11 vote Thursday on President Biden’s nominee to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, setting up a procedural hurdle for Democrats to overcome before he is confirmed.
Republicans oppose David Chipman for the job because of his advocacy for stricter gun laws, including serving as a policy adviser for Giffords, an organization led by former Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona that works to reduce gun violence.
The Judiciary Committee is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, and it was unlikely Chipman would win any support from the GOP senators. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who doesn’t sit on the panel but represents one of the more moderate voices on the Republican side in the Senate, said Monday that she would not vote to confirm Chipman when a vote came to the floor, calling him an “unusually divisive pick.”
“After meeting with Mr. Chipman, listening to Mainers, and reviewing his record, I have decided to vote against Mr. Chipman’s nomination to serve as the ATF director,” Collins said. “In recent years, Mr. Chipman has been an outspoken critic of the firearms industry and has made statements that demean law-abiding gun owners.”
The split vote on Chipman means Senate majority leader Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, will need to hold a full Senate vote to discharge the nomination from committee.
The panel also voted 11-10, along party lines, to confirm Ur Mendoza Jaddou, Biden’s nominee to lead the Homeland Security Department’s Citizenship and Immigration Services, with one Republican senator abstaining. Jaddou, who will be the first woman to lead the agency if confirmed, has faced opposition from Republicans over her criticism of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Biden’s sister, his confidante, signs book deal
NEW YORK — President Biden’s sister, confidante, and longtime political strategist, Valerie Biden Owens, has a book deal.
Celadon Books said on Thursday that Owens’s “Growing Up Biden” will come out April 12 of next year. She is expected to cover everything from her childhood as the only girl among four siblings to her “trailblazing, decadeslong professional relationship” with Biden, who has referred to Owens as his best friend. Vogue magazine last year dubbed her “The Joe Biden Whisperer.”
The 75-year-old Owens has been working with her older brother for virtually his entire career, dating back to high school in Delaware. She managed his winning 1972 run for the US Senate and his unsuccessful presidential attempts in 1988 and 2008 and was a top advisor for his election to the White House in 2020. She also has been closely involved with his own family, quitting her job as a teacher and moving in with him for four years so she could care for his two sons after he lost his first wife and 13-month old daughter in a 1972 car accident.
“Valerie Biden was the cornerstone that allowed me to sustain and then rebuild my family,” Biden wrote in “Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics,’' published in 2007.
Financial terms were not disclosed. Owens was represented by Javelin, the Washington, D.C.-based literary agency whose other clients have included former FBI director James Comey, former national security adviser John Bolton, and former House speaker John Boehner.
Celadon Books is a division of Macmillan Publishers, which in 2017 released Joe Biden’s “Promise Me, Dad,” about his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015.
“Our family’s story is a very American one — full of joy but also shadowed by tragedy,’' Owens said in a statement. ’'What we Bidens learned long ago is a timeless lesson: that family matters, possibility can emerge from pain, and the ties that bind us together are stronger than anything that might pull us apart. So this will be a story of one family — but our story, I hope, will resonate and inspire.”
Protesters carry assault rifles outside Mich. Capitol
As Michigan state Representative Donna Lasinski got out of her car at the state Capitol in Lansing on a sunny morning last week, she was greeted by two people carrying what she described as assault rifles while protesters outside the building called for an audit of the 2020 election.
Such disconcerting encounters are not uncommon in Lansing — a reflection of persistent and growing tension gripping Michigan eight months after Joe Biden defeated former president Donald Trump and more than a year after arrests were made in a plot to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Attacks on the integrity of the 2020 election have persisted in Michigan, where county officials are contending with demands by some residents to review ballots for possible fraud. The mounting calls by Trump supporters to revisit the election results are creating a thorny dilemma for the state Republican Party, which has sought to fend off those efforts, even as GOP officials seek changes to election law.
On Wednesday, a Republican-controlled state Senate committee issued a report forcefully rejecting the claims of widespread fraud in the state, saying citizens should be confident in the results and skeptical of “those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain.”
Fla. law will survey viewpoints at state universities
After banning public schools from teaching ’'critical race theory’' two weeks ago, Florida is reshaping civics lessons and addressing what its governor says parents worry about when they send their children to college: indoctrination.
Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said he is concerned about the free flow of ideas on campus and whether higher education stifles free speech from conservatives. Under a law he signed Tuesday, which will take effect July 1, public universities must assess ’'viewpoint diversity’' on campus each year through a survey developed by the State Board of Education, a requirement that a free-speech expert predicted as a model for other conservative-led states.
Although the Florida law does not address penalties for schools where the survey finds low levels of ’'intellectual freedom’' and ’'viewpoint diversity,’' DeSantis has hinted at the potential for budget cuts at universities that don’t pass muster.
DeSantis’s office reiterated Thursday that the bill does not address funding and the governor’s comment was ’'an expression of his firmly-held opinion that taxpayer-funded schools, colleges, and universities should be places for education — not indoctrination.’'
Clay Calvert, director of the University of Florida’s Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project, said the law raises a crucial question: Why a survey?
’'I think the answer is that it is being mandated because it gives a conservative state legislative body a tool to withhold funding from a university that, based upon the survey results, seems to discriminate against conservative viewpoints,’' he said in an interview.
The answer could also be more benign, Calvert said: Maybe the state is just gathering information.
Indiana’s Republican governor signed a similar bill last month that was written by its GOP-led Legislature and set out to survey ’'perceptions of whether free speech and academic freedom are recognized and fostered by the state educational institution in a manner that welcomes expression of different opinions and ideologies.’'
The Indiana measure also requires each public university to report what the institution is doing to protect First Amendment rights.