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Biden Marks January 6th: ‘I will defend this nation. And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy’

President Joe Biden marks the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection in the Capitol Rotunda: “I will defend this nation.  And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.. Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc

President Joe Biden spoke to the nation on the day marking the one year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, the attack on the Capitol and Congress aimed at impeding the Constitutional requirement for Congress to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election and interfere with the peaceful transition of power. In his address, Biden placed responsibility for the violent attack – the first since the War of 1812 and the first interruption of a peaceful transition of power after a free and fair election, promoted, incited and organized by the then-sitting but defeated president, in the nation’s nearly 250 years. He spoke to the need to continually protect democracy, especially in an era marked by the rise of authoritarians. Here is a highlighted transcript of President Biden’s remarks:

THE PRESIDENT:  Madam Vice President, my fellow Americans: To state the obvious, one year ago today, in this sacred place, democracy was attacked — simply attacked.  The will of the people was under assault.  The Constitution — our Constitution — faced the gravest of threats.
 
Outnumbered and in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard, and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law.
 
Our democracy held.  We the people endured.  And we the people prevailed.
 
For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.
 
But they failed.  They failed.
 
And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such an attack never, never happens again.
 
I’m speaking to you today from Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol.  This is where the House of Representatives
met for 50 years in the decades leading up to the Civil War.  This is — on this floor is where a young congressman of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, sat at desk 191. 
 
Above him — above us, over that door leading into the Rotunda — is a sculpture depicting Clio, the muse of history.  In her hands, an open book in which she records the events taking place in this chamber below.
 
Clio stood watch over this hall one year ago today, as she has for more than 200 years.  She recorded what took place.  The real history.  The real facts.  The real truth.  The facts
and the truth that Vice President Harris just shared and that you and I and the whole world saw with our own eyes.
 
The Bible tells us that we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free.  We shall know the truth.
 
Well, here is the God’s truth about January 6th, 2021:
 
Close your eyes.  Go back to that day.  What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart.
 
Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened.  But it happened here in 2021.
 
What else do you see?  A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol.  American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears.  Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. 
 
A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them.
 
Over 140 police officers were injured.
 
We’ve all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened.  One officer called it, quote, a med- — “medieval” battle, and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the war in Iraq.
 
They’ve repeatedly asked since that day: How dare anyone — anyone — diminish, belittle, or deny the hell they were put through?
 
We saw it with our own eyes.  Rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America.
 
But what did we not see?
 
We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack — sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, and the nation’s capital under siege.
 
This wasn’t a group of tourists.  This was an armed insurrection.
 
They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people.  They were looking to deny the will of the people.
 
They were looking to uphold — they weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election.  They were looking to overturn one.
 
They weren’t looking to save the cause of America.  They were looking to subvert the Constitution.
 
This isn’t about being bogged down in the past.  This is about making sure the past isn’t buried.
 
That’s the only way forward.  That’s what great nations do.  They don’t bury the truth, they face up to it.  Sounds like hyperbole, but that’s the truth: They face up to it.
 
We are a great nation.
 
My fellow Americans, in life, there’s truth and,tragically, there are lies — lies conceived and spread for profit and power.
 
We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie.
 
And here is the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election.  He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.
 
He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own Attorney General, his own Vice President, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost.
 
That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward.
 
He has done what no president in American history — the history of this country — has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.
 
While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principles of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else.  They seem no longer to want to be the party — the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes.
 
But whatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the rule of law and not the rule of a single man, I will always seek to work together with them to find shared solutions where possible.  Because if we have a shared belief in democracy, then anything is possible — anything.
 
And so, at this moment, we must decide: What kind of nation are we going to be?
 
Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm?
 
Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people?
 
Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?
 
We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation.  The way forward is to recognize the truth and to live by it.
 
The Big Lie being told by the former president and many Republicans who fear his wrath is that the insurrection in this country actually took place on Election Day — November 3rd, 2020.
 
Think about that.  Is that what you thought?  Is that what you thought when you voted that day?  Taking part in an insurrection?  Is that what you thought you were doing?  Or did you think you were carrying out your highest duty as a citizen and voting?
 
The former president and his supporters are trying to rewrite history.  They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection and the riot that took place here on January 6th as the true expression of the will of the people.
 
Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country — to look at America?  I cannot.
 
Here’s the truth: The election of 2020 was the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country.
 
More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history.  Over 150 million Americans went to the polls and voted that day in a pandemic — some at great risk to their lives.  They should be applauded, not attacked.
 
Right now, in state after state, new laws are being written — not to protect the vote, but to deny it; not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it; not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost.
 
Instead of looking at the election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections. 
 
It’s wrong.  It’s undemocratic.  And frankly, it’s un-American.
 
The second Big Lie being told by the former President and his supporters is that the results of the election of 2020 can’t be trusted.

The truth is that no election — no election in American history has been more closely scrutinized or more carefully counted.
 
Every legal challenge questioning the results in every court in this country that could have been made was made and was rejected — often rejected by Republican-appointed judges, including judges appointed by the former president himself, from state courts to the United States Supreme Court.
 
Recounts were undertaken in state after state.  Georgia — Georgia counted its results three times, with one recount by hand.
 
Phony partisan audits were undertaken long after the election in several states.  None changed the results.  And in some of them, the irony is the margin of victory actually grew slightly.
 
So, let’s speak plainly about what happened in 2020.  Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively sowing doubt about the election results.  He built his lie over months.  It wasn’t based on any facts.  He was just looking for an excuse — a pretext — to cover for the truth.
 
He’s not just a former president.  He’s a defeated former president — defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.
 
There is simply zero proof the election results were inaccurate.  In fact, in every venue where evidence had to be produced and an oath to tell the truth had to be taken, the former president failed to make his case.
 
Just think about this: The former president and his supporters have never been able to explain how they accept as accurate the other election results that took place on November 3rd — the elections for governor, United States Senate, the House of Representatives — elections in which they closed the gap in the House.
 
They challenge none of that.  The President’s name was first, then we went down the line — governors, senators, House of Representatives.  Somehow, those results were accurate on the same ballot, but the presidential race was flawed?
 
And on the same ballot, the same day, cast by the same voters.
 
The only difference: The former President didn’t lose those races; he just lost the one that was his own.
 
Finally, the third Big Lie being told by a former President and his supporters is that the mob who sought to impose their will through violence are the nation’s true patriots.
 
Is that what you thought when you looked at the mob ransacking the Capitol, destroying property, literally defecating in the hallways, rifling through desks of senators and representatives, hunting down members of congress?  Patriots?  Not in my view.
 
To me, the true patriots were the more than 150 [million] Americans who peacefully expressed their vote at the ballot box, the election workers who protected the integrity of the vote, and the heroes who defended this Capitol.
 
You can’t love your country only when you win.
 
You can’t obey the law only when it’s convenient.
 
You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.
 
Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America — at American democracy.
 
They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle.  They came here in rage — not in service of America, but rather in service of one man.
 
Those who incited the mob — the real plotters — who were desperate to deny the certification of the election and defy the will of the voters.
 
But their plot was foiled.  Congressmen — Democrats and Republicans — stayed.  Senators, representatives, staff — they finished their work the Constitution demanded.  They honored their oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
 
Look, folks, now it’s up to all of us — to “We the People” — to stand for the rule of law, to preserve the flame of democracy, to keep the promise of America alive.
 
That promise is at risk, targeted by the forces that value brute strength over the sanctity of democracy, fear over hope, personal gain over public good.
 
Make no mistake about it: We’re living at an inflection point in history.
 
Both at home and abroad, we’re engaged anew in a struggle between democracy and autocracy, between the aspirations of the many and the greed of the few, between the people’s right of self-determination and self- — the self-seeking autocrat. 
 
From China to Russia and beyond, they’re betting that democracy’s days are numbered.  They’ve actually told me democracy is too slow, too bogged down by division to succeed in today’s rapidly changing, complicated world.
 
And they’re betting — they’re betting America will become more like them and less like us.  They’re betting that America is a place for the autocrat, the dictator, the strongman.
 
I do not believe that.  That is not who we are.  That is not who we have ever been.  And that is not who we should ever, ever be.
 
Our Founding Fathers, as imperfect as they were, set in motion an experiment that changed the world — literally changed the world.
 
Here in America, the people would rule, power would be transferred peacefully — never at the tip of a spear or the barrel of a gun.
 
And they committed to paper an idea that couldn’t live up to — they couldn’t live up to but an idea that couldn’t be constrained: Yes, in America all people are created equal.
 

We reject the view that if you succeed, I fail; if you get ahead, I fall behind; if I hold you down, I somehow lift myself up.
 
The former President, who lies about this election, and the mob that attacked this Capitol could not be further away from the core American values.
 
They want to rule or they will ruin — ruin what our country fought for at Lexington and Concord; at Gettysburg; at Omaha Beach; Seneca Falls; Selma, Alabama.  What — and what we were fighting for: the right to vote, the right to govern ourselves, the right to determine our own destiny.
 
And with rights come responsibilities: the responsibility to see each other as neighbors — maybe we disagree with that neighbor, but they’re not an adversary; the responsibility to accept defeat then get back in the arena and try again the next time to make your case; the responsibility to see that America is an idea — an idea that requires vigilant stewardship.
 
As we stand here today — one year since January 6th, 2021 — the lies that drove the anger and madness we saw in this place, they have not abated.
 
So, we have to be firm, resolute, and unyielding in our defense of the right to vote and to have that vote counted.
 
Some have already made the ultimate sacrifice in this sacred effort.
 
Jill and I have mourned police officers in this Capitol Rotunda not once but twice in the wake of January 6th: once to honor Officer Brian Sicknick, who lost his life the day after the attack, and a second time to honor Officer Billy Evans, who lost his life defending this Capitol as well.
 
We think about the others who lost their lives and were injured and everyone living with the trauma of that day — from those defending this Capitol to members of Congress in both parties and their staffs, to reporters, cafeteria workers, custodial workers, and their families.
 
Don’t kid yourself: The pain and scars from that day run deep.
 
I said it many times and it’s no more true or real than when we think about the events of January 6th: We are in a battle for the soul of America.  A battle that, by the grace of God and the goodness and gracious — and greatness of this nation, we will win.
 
Believe me, I know how difficult democracy is.  And I’m crystal clear about the threats America faces.
  But I also know that our darkest days can lead to light and hope.
 
From the death and destruction, as the Vice President referenced, in Pearl Harbor came the triumph over the forces of fascism.
 
From the brutality of Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge came historic voting rights legislation.
 
So, now let us step up, write the next chapter in American history where January 6th marks not the end of democracy, but the beginning of a renaissance of liberty and fair play.
 
I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today, but I will not shrink from it either.
 
I will stand in this breach.  I will defend this nation.  And I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy. 
 
We will make sure the will of the people is heard; that the ballot prevails, not violence; that authority in this nation will always be peacefully transferred.
 
I believe the power of the presidency and the purpose is to unite this nation, not divide it; to lift us up, not tear us apart; to be about us — about us, not about “me.”
 
Deep in the heart of America burns a flame lit almost 250 years ago — of liberty, freedom, and equality.
 
This is not a land of kings or dictators or autocrats.  We’re a nation of laws; of order, not chaos; of peace, not violence.
 
Here in America, the people rule through the ballot, and their will prevails.
 
So, let us remember: Together, we’re one nation, under God, indivisible; that today, tomorrow, and forever, at our best, we are the United States of America.
 
God bless you all.  May God protect our troops.  And may God bless those who stand watch over our democracy.

VP Harris Marks January 6th: ‘Our tested democracy requires voting rights in order to maintain free and fair elections’

In her remarks on the one-year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, Vice President Kamala Harris reminded the nation that “the strength of democracy is the Rule of Law,” and that to preserve our fragile, tested democracy requires voting rights in order to maintain free and fair elections © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via msnbc

In her remarks on the one-year anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, Vice President Kamala Harris reminded the nation that “the strength of democracy is the Rule of Law,” and that to preserve our fragile, tested democracy requires voting rights in order to maintain free and fair elections. Here is a highlighted transcript of her remarks, delivered in the Capitol Rotunda:

Fellow Americans, good morning.

Certain dates echo throughout history, including dates that instantly remind all who have lived through them — where they were and what they were doing when our democracy came under assault.  Dates that occupy not only a place on our calendars, but a place in our collective memory.  December 7th, 1941.  September 11th, 2001.  And January 6th, 2021.

On that day, I was not only Vice President-elect, I was also a United States senator.  And I was here at the Capitol that morning, at a classified hearing with fellow members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Hours later, the gates of the Capitol were breached. 

I had left.  But my thoughts immediately turned not only to my colleagues, but to my staff, who had been forced to seek refuge in our office, converting filing cabinets into barricades. 

What the extremists who roamed these halls targeted was not only the lives of elected leaders.  What they sought to degrade and destroy was not only a building, hallowed as it is.  What they were assaulting were the institutions, the values, the ideals that generations of Americans have marched, picketed, and shed blood to establish and defend.

On January 6th, we all saw what our nation would look like if the forces who seek to dismantle our democracy are successful.  The lawlessness, the violence, the chaos.
 
What was at stake then, and now, is the right to have our future decided the way the Constitution prescribes it: by we, the people — all the people.
 
We cannot let our future be decided by those bent on silencing our voices, overturning our votes, and peddling lies and misinformation; by some radical faction that may be newly resurgent but whose roots run old and deep.

When I meet with young people, they often ask about the state of our democracy, about January 6th.  And what I tell them is: January 6th reflects the dual nature of democracy — its fragility and its strength.

You see, the strength of democracy is the rule of law.  The strength of democracy is the principle that everyone should be treated equally, that elections should be free and fair, that corruption should be given no quarter.  The strength of democracy is that it empowers the people.
 
And the fragility of democracy is this: that if we are not vigilant, if we do not defend it, democracy simply will not stand; it will falter and fail.
 
The violent assault that took place here, the very fact of how close we came to an election overturned — that reflects the fragility of democracy.

Yet, the resolve I saw in our elected leaders when I returned to the Senate chamber that night — their resolve not to yield but to certify the election; their loyalty not to party or person but to the Constitution of the United States — that reflects its strength. 
 
And so, of course, does the heroism of the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard, and other law enforcement officers who answered the call that day, including those who later succumbed to wounds, both visible and invisible.
 
Our thoughts are with all of the families who have lost a loved one.

You know, I wonder, how will January 6th come to be remembered in the years ahead?

Will it be remembered as a moment that accelerated the unraveling of the oldest, greatest democracy in the world or a moment when we decided to secure and strengthen our democracy for generations to come?

The American spirit is being tested.

The answer to whether we will meet that test resides where it always has resided in our country — with you, the people.
 
And the work ahead will not be easy.  Here, in this very building, a decision will be made about whether we uphold the right to vote and ensure free and fair election.

Let’s be clear: We must pass the voting rights bills that are now before the Senate, and the American people must also do something more.
 
We cannot sit on the sidelines.  We must unite in defense of our democracy in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our prosperity and posterity.
 
That is the preamble of the Constitution that President Biden and I swore an oath to uphold and defend.  And that is the enduring promise of the United States of America.

Justice Department Announces New Rule to Enhance Safe Storage of Firearms

The March for Our Lives protest in Washington DC after the Parkland massacre by a former student. Despite this and other protests after school shootings, Congress has refused to do anything and states including Texas have made it easier to obtain guns, while the Supreme Court is considering overturning New York State’s gun restriction © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

BREAKING: A one-year-old child accidentally shoots their three-month-old sibling and mother at a Walmart in Texas after finding a gun concealed beneath the seat of the family vehicle. RT IF YOU THINK THIS MADNESS MUST BE STOPPED WITH NEW GUN LAWS! Occupy Democrats @OccupyDemocrats 7:08 PM · Jan 5, 2022

The Department of Justice is issuing a new rule to promote safe and secure storage of firearms, which would go a long way to reduce school shootings, for example, where an under-age person gets access to a gun. But the federal government should also use its purchasing power and rule making to require all guns purchased by the federal government (for military, law enforcement) be smart-guns that can only be used by the registered owner, which would make smart guns the norm.–Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice today announced a new rule to help enable the safe and secure storage of firearms and published a Best Practices Guide for federal firearms licensees (FFLs). This new rule implements the existing Gun Control Act requirement that federal firearms licensees that sell firearms to the general public (non-licensees) must certify that they have available secure gun storage or safety devices. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Best Practices Guide for FFLs is an important resource and reference guide about federal laws and regulations.

“Today’s announcements build on the department’s efforts to reduce the risk of firearms falling into the wrong hands,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Gun safety is a Department of Justice priority, and we will continue to take all appropriate steps to help reduce the number of people killed and injured by the misuse of firearms.”

The Department of Justice has submitted to the Federal Register for publication a final rule, which will take effect Feb. 3, requiring FFLs to certify that they have secure gun storage devices available to their customers for purchase. Secure gun storage or safety device, as defined by statute and regulation, includes a safe, gun safe, gun case, lock box or other device that is designed to be or can be used to store a firearm and that is designed to be unlocked only by means of a key, a combination or other similar means. Not all devices are compatible with varying types of firearms. Therefore, integral to the new rule is the requirement that FFLs have available secure gun storage options that are compatible with the firearms they are selling.

The final rule, published in the electronic reading room today, can be viewed here: https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/2021-28398/secure-gun-storage-and-definition-of-antique-firearm

In addition, today, the ATF published a Best Practices Guide for FFLs. The ATF’s Best Practices Guide is designed to assist FFLs in complying with all required firearm laws and regulations that are designed to ensure public safety and the traceability of firearms.

The Best Practices Guide also encourages FFLs to provide customers with ATF publications to help firearms owners better understand their legal obligations, as well as practical steps they can take to help keep firearms out of the hands of prohibited persons and facilitate the safe storage of firearms. Links to ATF publications addressing the following topics are included in the Best Practices Guide: procedures for FFLs to assist unlicensed firearms owners in conducting background checks for private party transfers; compliance with the Youth Handgun Safety Act; records firearms owners should maintain that can assist law enforcement if the owner’s firearms are ever lost or stolen; and the legal consequences and public safety dangers of straw purchasing – which involves purchasing a gun for someone who is prohibited by law from possessing one or for someone who does not want his or her name associated with the transaction. To view ATF’s Best Practices Guide, see: https://www.atf.gov/firearms/federal-firearms-licensee-quick-reference-and-best-practices-guide

Two New Over-the-Counter At-Home COVID-19 Tests Brought to US Market Quickly by Biden Administration

FDA Authorizes Roche and Siemens At-Home Tests, Which Went Through New Biden Administration Accelerated Review Program; Will Bring Tens of Millions of New Tests Per Month to the U.S.

Tests Authorized in Just Two Months Since Joint FDA-NIH Program Accelerating Test Developers Through Regulatory Process Was Announced

President Joe Biden discusses steps administration is taking to increase testing as a winter surge in coronavirus pandemic is underway © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via c-span.org

The Biden-Harris Administration has brought two new over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests to the U.S. market. The tests, one manufactured by SD Biosensor and distributed by Roche and the other manufactured by Siemens, have received emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after being evaluated through the Administration’s new accelerated pathway to support FDA review of tests with potential for large-scale manufacturing that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced just two months ago.

These quick authorizations are thanks to collaboration between the FDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Technology (RADx) program. Combined, it is estimated the companies can produce tens of millions of tests per month for use in the U.S.

“Increasing Americans’ access to easy-to-use, reliable COVID tests is a top priority for the Biden Administration, and we are using all resources at our disposal to make more tests available and ramp up supply,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Adding two new authorized tests will give Americans more options for testing at home, which helps keep people safe and provides peace of mind.”

In late October, HHS announced the Administration would invest $70 million from the American Rescue Plan to help bring more high-quality, at-home tests onto the market in the U.S. in coordination with FDA. This new Independent Test Assessment Program (ITAP) is helping identify manufacturers of high-quality tests and encouraging them to bring those tests to the U.S. market, increasing options for people and overall supply and potentially lowering costs.

In this new program, NIH’s RADx Tech network of experts from government, academia, and industry work together with FDA, CDC and other HHS specialists to assess and conduct studies on over-the-counter tests. This coordinated effort allows companies to compile proper data, work towards the right benchmarks for performance, and support other needs that will help ensure they are providing the best submissions possible for FDA’s regulatory review. The goal is to accelerate the availability of more high-quality, accurate and reliable over-the-counter tests to the public as quickly as possible. The tests by Roche and Siemens are the first to gain FDA authorization through this program.

“This program is incredibly beneficial to increasing access to rapid tests by quickly and consistently gathering the critical data companies need to request EUA and subsequently enter the U.S. market once authorized,” said Jeff Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Knowing these tests have been independently assessed by NIH allows the FDA to act quickly on well-performed studies and trustworthy data that will lead to the availability of additional accurate and reliable tests at this critical time.”

“By rapidly conducting the precise studies recommended by the FDA, this program is shaving weeks to months off the typical EUA timeline,” said Bruce J. Tromberg, Ph.D., director of the NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and RADx program lead.

This is part of the Biden Administration’s commitment to increasing access to COVID-19 testing. Last week, President Biden announced new actions to ensure Americans have access to free testing, including convenient, at-home tests. He committed to purchase half a billion at-home tests to be provided to Americans for free this winter, starting in January, and to stand up new federal testing sites across the country. Additionally, there are now 20,000 free testing sites across the U.S., four times as many at-home tests available to Americans than were available this summer, and free at-home tests are already being made available at key community sites, such as community health centers and rural clinics.

DoD Awards $136.7 Million Contract to MilliporeSigma to Establish Domestic Production Capacity of Critical Material Used in COVID-19 Point-of-Care Tests

Also, on Dec. 29, 2021, the Department of Defense (DoD), on behalf of and in coordination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded a $136.7 million contract to MilliporeSigma to establish nitrocellulose membrane production capacity in the United States.

Nitrocellulose membrane is a critical material used in manufacturing SARS-CoV-2 rapid point-of-care tests. This industrial base expansion effort will allow MilliporeSigma to establish a nitrocellulose manufacturing capability in its Sheboygan, Wisconsin facility to support more than 83.3 million tests per month for COVID-19 testing and future needs.

The DoD’s Defense Assisted Acquisition Cell (DA2) led this effort in coordination with the Department of the Air Force’s Acquisition COVID-19 Task Force (DAF ACT). This effort was funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support domestic industrial base expansion for critical medical resources.

NYS Governor Announces $30 Million to Incentivize Building Green (DeCarbonized) Houses

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the launch of a new $30 million initiative called Building Better Homes – Emissions Free and Healthier Communities to build market capacity and demand for healthier decarbonized homes and neighborhoods. The initiative will establish a network of builders and developers that are committed to building carbon neutral single-family homes and neighborhoods and provide training and technical support to builders and developers interested in both advancing the single-family carbon neutral housing market and marketing themselves as leaders in decarbonization and healthy home construction © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the launch of a new $30 million initiative called Building Better Homes – Emissions Free and Healthier Communities to build market capacity and demand for healthier decarbonized homes and neighborhoods. The initiative will establish a network of builders and developers that are committed to building carbon neutral single-family homes and neighborhoods and provide training and technical support to builders and developers interested in both advancing the single-family carbon neutral housing market and marketing themselves as leaders in decarbonization and healthy home construction. Advancing carbon neutrality in the building sector supports the state’s nation-leading goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050 as mandated by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act).  

“Single-family homes are too often overlooked as sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New York and it’s crucial we work with both developers and homebuyers to reduce emissions,” Governor Hochul said. “Through the Building Better Homes initiative and its incentives, we are not only ensuring homebuyers have greener options to choose from, but also that we continue to work with the building and development industries to pave the way towards a more sustainable future.”

The initiative will be administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and today’s announcement makes $5 million available under phase one of the program to support builders and developers seeking training, technical assistance, marketing support, and funding to build carbon-free model homes. This program will grow the carbon neutral single-family home market as well as support modernization and decarbonization of building designs and construction practices to incorporate carbon neutral technologies and cost-effectively deliver high quality, healthy, resilient, and sustainable homes. Applications to become a program partner, with up to $250,000 available per partner, will be accepted through December 31, 2023. For more information on this opportunity and how to become a partner, please visit NYSERDA’s website.

As part of the Building Better Homes initiative, NYSERDA is also partnering with New York State Builders Association and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), to advance construction of carbon neutral homes and promote their non-energy benefits, particularly indoor air quality improvements associated with the absence of combustion appliances and the inclusion of balanced ventilation. These partnerships will provide information about the health benefits of carbon neutral construction that builders and developers can integrate into their own materials to educate homebuyers. Through the partnership with AAFA and their existing diversity, equity and inclusion programming, special attention will be paid to educating the builder network about the health benefits of carbon neutral construction in disadvantaged communities, which traditionally have higher rates of asthma and allergy, in part due to the siting of fossil fuel plants and transportation corridors in these neighborhoods as well as in-home combustion.

NYSERDA is launching the Building Better Homes initiative, in recognition of the impact of harmful building emissions on New York State residents and the world in general,” President and CEO of NYSERDA Doreen Harris said. “Through public-private partnerships, we are taking action to transform the market for carbon neutral homes by highlighting the health benefits of this type of construction and catalyzing market demand as we advance the state’s climate and clean energy goals.”

With over 12,000 new homes being built per year, addressing the single-family home new construction market is critical to achieving the State’s climate and energy goals. As the State implements the Climate Act, any home built with fossil fuel equipment and appliances will need to be retrofitted in the future, adding costs and hassle to homeowners. Building entire neighborhoods without the need to expand natural gas infrastructure, while still providing the quality and features that homeowners want such as fireplaces, swimming pool heaters, and outdoor entertainment areas, will significantly reduce the costs of new developments.

“Build Better Homes is an important initiative in our efforts to put New York on the path toward reaching our goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” State Senator Brian Kavanagh said. “In addition to strong mandates for zero-emissions, we will need to increase the capacity of the building sector to build all-electric homes and other critical sustainable infrastructure, as this program will do. While there is an urgent need to invest in sustainability on a much larger scale, Build Better Homes is a good step in the right direction. I thank Governor Kathy Hochul, NYSERDA Chair Richard Kauffman, and everyone at NYSERDA for their ongoing commitment to making New York a leader in creating a sustainableworld.”

“Today’s announcement of the Building Better Homes initiative demonstrates our state’s continued commitment to achieving our statewide emissions and energy goals,” Assemblymember Michael Cusick said. “In order to meet these goals we must address all sources of emissions including single family homes. While larger commercial or residential buildings are often highlighted as major targets for emissions reduction, it is crucial that we not overlook any source of infrastructure emissions and this initiative is a strong step towards significantly reducing single family home emissions.”

“NYSBA is proud to support this Building Better Homes initiative that will enable builders and developers to meet increased performance requirements and build healthier homes for their customers,” Assemblymember Michael Cusick said. “NYSBA strongly believes that state financial investment plays an important role in providing builders and homeowners a cost-effective way to invest in energy efficiency.”

“The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is grateful for the work New York is doing to make homes healthier and safer for people affected by asthma and allergies, by improving indoor environments and removing emissions-emitting appliances within the home,” CEO and President of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Kenneth Mendez said. “Making healthier homes available will improve the lives of families in New York State and I hope will improve health outcomes for communities that are disproportionately impacted by asthma and allergies.”

“New York State and NYSERDA continue to be leaders in the effort to decarbonize the built environment, and we at Phius are proud to be working alongside them in an effort to bring healthier, more efficient homes to the residents of New York and beyond. We hope to see other states and municipalities continue to follow suit in the near future,” Executive Director and Co-Founder of Passive House Institute of the United States (PHIUS) Katrin Klingenberg said, 

Building Better Homes is part of a multi-year investment to decarbonize single family home new construction, and subsequent phases of the program will provide funding for entire carbon neutral neighborhoods to be built, with a goal to increase home buyer demand for healthier carbon neutral homes by educating home buyers on the health and performance benefits. NYSERDA will launch the second phase of this program in mid-2022 with $10 million in funding as a design competition, similar to its successful Buildings of Excellence Competition, which awards exemplary carbon-neutral multifamily building designs. A third component of the program will launch in 2022 to build consumer demand by educating homebuyers on healthy and emissions free home construction.

Today’s announcement also advances recommendations included in New York State’s draft Carbon Neutral Buildings Roadmap, which identified building market capacity through training and technical support as a critical barrier to achieve scale for decarbonization in the new construction market. 

Buildings are some of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New York State, and integrating energy efficiency and electrification measures in existing buildings will reduce carbon pollution and help achieve more sustainable, healthy, and comfortable buildings. Through NYSERDA and utility programs, over $6.8 billion is being invested to decarbonize buildings across the State. In addition to the carbon benefits, these projects will also help the State achieve its ambitious energy efficiency target to reduce on-site energy consumption by 185 TBtu by 2025, the equivalent of powering 1.8 million homes.

This program is funded through NYSERDA’s $6 billion Clean Energy Fund. 

New York State’s Nation-Leading Climate Act

New York State’s nation-leading climate agenda is the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieve its mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy wide carbon neutrality. It builds on New York’s unprecedented investments to ramp-up clean energy including over $33 billion in 102 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce buildings emissions, $1.8 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $1.6 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. Combined, these investments are supporting nearly 158,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector in 2020, a 2,100 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011 and a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035. Under the Climate Act, New York will build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, while ensuring that at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities, and advance progress towards the state’s 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs of end-use energy savings.

White House Reacts to Joe Manchin’s Betrayal of Pledge to Support Build Back Better

President Joe Biden speaking last May on his optimism that Build Back Better (the American Families Plan) was back on track. Despite months of negotiations and compromises to get Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) support, he suddenly announced he would vote “no,” upending Biden’s agenda and likely torpedoing Democrats’ ability to retain control of Congress in the 2022 midterms © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued this statement following Senator Joe Manchin’s surprising reversal in declaring he would vote “no” on President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill, despite assurances given to Progressives when they agreed to de-couple the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill from the budget reconciliation framework to provide universal pre-K, child care and elder care, affordable prescription drugs, and mitigate climate change. Manchin has strung along the President and Democrats for months. Here is her statement:

Senator Manchin’s comments this morning on FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances. Weeks ago, Senator Manchin committed to the President, at his home in Wilmington, to support the Build Back Better framework that the President then subsequently announced. Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalizing that framework “in good faith.”

On Tuesday of this week, Senator Manchin came to the White House and submitted—to the President, in person, directly—a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the President’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities. While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all. Senator Manchin promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground. If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.

Senator Manchin claims that this change of position is related to inflation, but the think tank he often cites on Build Back Better—the Penn Wharton Budget Institute—issued a report less than 48 hours ago that noted the Build Back Better Act will have virtually no impact on inflation in the short term, and, in the long run, the policies it includes will ease inflationary pressures. Many leading economists with whom Senator Manchin frequently consults also support Build Back Better.

Build Back Better lowers costs that families pay. It will reduce what families pay for child care. It will reduce what they pay for prescription drugs. It will lower health care premiums. And it puts a tax cut in the pockets of families with kids. If someone is concerned about the impact that higher prices are having on families, this bill gives them a break.

Senator Manchin cited deficit concerns in his statement. But the plan is fully paid for, is the most fiscally responsible major bill that Congress has considered in years, and reduces the deficit in the long run. The Congressional Budget Office report that the Senator cites analyzed an unfunded extension of Build Back Better. That’s not what the President has proposed, not the bill the Senate would vote on, and not what the President would support. Senator Manchin knows that: The President has told him that repeatedly, including this week, face to face.

Likewise, Senator Manchin’s statement about the climate provisions in Build Back Better are wrong. Build Back Better will produce a job-creating clean energy future for this country—including West Virginia.

Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.

In the meantime, Senator Manchin will have to explain to those families paying $1,000 a month for insulin why they need to keep paying that, instead of $35 for that vital medicine. He will have to explain to the nearly two million women who would get the affordable day care they need to return to work why he opposes a plan to get them the help they need. Maybe Senator Manchin can explain to the millions of children who have been lifted out of poverty, in part due to the Child Tax Credit, why he wants to end a program that is helping achieve this milestone—we cannot.

We are proud of what we have gotten done in 2021: the American Rescue Plan, the fastest decrease in unemployment in U.S. history, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, over 200 million Americans vaccinated, schools reopened, the fastest rollout of vaccines to children anywhere in the world, and historic appointments to the Federal judiciary.

But we will not relent in the fight to help Americans with their child care, health care, prescription drug costs, and elder care—and to combat climate change. The fight for Build Back Better is too important to give up. We will find a way to move forward next year.

Biden Signs Executive Order to Improve Customer Experience and Service Delivery for the American People: Here’s What That Means

Breezy Point,New York, in aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The 25 million individuals, families, and small businesses who live through a Federally recognized natural disaster each year will benefit from  President Biden’s executive order to expedite delivery of services © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President Biden signed an Executive Order directing his administration to improve the “customer experience and service delivery” to the American people, building in accountability and transparency “into everything we do and that we’re good stewards of taxpayers dollars. “We have to prove democracy still works, that our government still works and can deliver for our people,” he stated.

Biden’s executive order is intended to promote fiscal stewardship by improving the Government’s delivery of services to the American people. The Executive Order directs 17 federal agencies to take more than 30 actions that aim to improve people’s lives and make it easier and simpler to access government services and benefits. 

Under the Executive Order, retirees will be able to claim their Social Security benefits online more easily; Medicare recipients will receive personalized online tools so they can save money on drugs, manage their health care, and access expanded customer support options;  taxpayers will be able to save time by having the option to schedule customer support callbacks; travelers will be able to renew their passports securely online; and more.

“These efforts are part of the Biden Administration’s commitment to rebuild trust in government and put people at the center of everything the government does.”

Here is a fact sheet from the White House spelling out how services will be improved:

The Federal Government interacts with millions of people each day and provides vital services during some of the most critical moments in people’s lives. Whether searching for vaccine safety information, claiming retirement benefits, receiving health insurance, passing through a security checkpoint, or checking the status of a farm loan application, Americans expect Government services to be responsive to their needs. But too often, people have to navigate a tangled web of Government websites, offices, and phone numbers to access the services they depend on. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring an effective, equitable, and accountable Government that meets the needs of its people.
 
Today, the President is taking decisive action to promote fiscal stewardship by improving the Government’s service delivery to its customers, the American people. The President will sign an Executive Order, Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government, directing that Government leaders account for the experiences of the public in seeking Government services. The President is making sure we’re building accountability and transparency into everything we do and that we’re good stewards of taxpayer dollars. As the President has said: “We have to prove democracy still works, that our government still works and can deliver for our people.”
 
The Executive Order directs Federal agencies to put people at the center of everything the Government does. Specifically, the Executive Order includes 36 customer experience (CX) improvement commitments across 17 Federal agencies, all of which aim to improve people’s lives and the delivery of Government services. The Executive Order also creates a sustained, cross-government service delivery process that aligns to the moments that matter most in people’s lives – like turning 65, having a child, or applying for a small business loan. As part of this framework, the Administration will work to identify and define critical services that meet customers’ needs and expectations, assess performance delivery and report it publicly, incorporate customer feedback during each interaction, and ultimately ensure services deliver a better experience to the public. Every interaction between the Government and the public, whether it involves filing taxes or renewing a passport, is an opportunity to deliver the value, service, and efficiency that the public expects and deserves.
 
The Government has designated 35 High-Impact Service Providers in Federal agencies as key service providers due to the volume and types of benefits, services, and programs they deliver to the public. As part of this Executive Order, agencies commit to putting their customers at the center of everything they do. These actions include modernizing programs, reducing administrative burdens, and piloting new online tools and technologies that can provide a simple, seamless, and secure customer experience. The types of high-quality interactions the American people should expect to have with their Government, and that the Executive Order addresses, include:
 

RETIRING

 
For the 54.1 million Americans who are over the age of 65, and the nearly 4 million Americans who become eligible for Social Security benefits each year, who manage their retirement and health care benefits:

  • Retirees will be able to claim their benefits online, receiving updates on the status of their application throughout the process.
  • Medicare recipients will receive personalized online tools so they can save money on drugs, manage their health care, access expanded customer support options (including an in-network pharmacy finder tool), and enjoy a streamlined enrollment experience with the Social Security Administration.

FILING AND MANAGING YOUR TAXES

 
For the 240 million individuals and businesses who file tax returns each year and the 167 million people who call the IRS for help: 

  • Filers will save time by having the option to schedule customer support call-backs.
  • Filers will be provided with new online tools and services to ease the payment of taxes, which may include automatic direct deposit refunds based on prior year tax returns, tax credit eligibility tools, and expanded electronic filing options.

SURVIVING A DISASTER

 
For the 25 million individuals, families, and small businesses who live through a Federally recognized natural disaster each year:

  • After a disaster, more survivors will be able to focus on helping their families, businesses, and communities because of streamlined assistance processes, rather than having to navigate a complex Government bureaucracy to get the help they need. Disaster survivors will no longer need to navigate multiple assistance forms across multiple agencies to get the help they need, saving time and energy to allow them to focus on their recovery and well-being. Survivors will have access to more flexible mechanisms to provide supporting documentation, such as virtual inspections and submitting photos of disaster damage from a mobile phone.

TRAVELING

 
For the more than 2 million daily passengers who travel through U.S. airports each year:

  • Americans will be able to renew their passports securely online, saving time from having to wait and the effort and cost required to print, go to a post office, and use a paper check. This new online process will be done with safety and security.
  • Passengers will have shorter security and check-in lines at airports due to increased use of technologies, like new security machines and computers with advanced screening features that streamline these processes.
  • Passengers with urgent, time-sensitive questions or concerns will find it easier to connect with and get help from the Transportation Security Administration through additional channels of communication.

FINANCING POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION

 
For the 1 in 6 Americans, or approximately 45 million people, who are managing their student loans:

  • Direct Loan borrowers will need to navigate only a single repayment portal on StudentAid.gov, so that they can apply for, manage, and repay their loans without having to visit multiple websites and manage multiple sets of credentials for different aspects of their student loans.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness candidates, including civil servants and active-duty service members, will be able to apply for the program with less paperwork than currently and without having to fill out forms with information they have already provided to the Federal government previously.
  • Students and borrowers can receive relevant recommendations for other benefits and services they may qualify for, like health care subsidies, broadband support, and food assistance, in order to connect them with support to lower additional economic barriers to post-secondary education completion.

MANAGING VA HEALTH CARE AND BENEFITS

 
For the 200,000 service members who transition to civilian life each year and the more than 18 million Veterans across the United States:

  • Service members and veterans will be able to use Login.gov accounts to access VA.gov and its information about the health care and benefits they’ve earned, and outdated and duplicate VA.gov sign-in options will be removed across VA websites and mobile apps.
  • Veterans and beneficiaries, and their caregivers or other designated representatives, will be able to access digital services through a single, integrated, and fully inclusive digital platform on VA.gov and a flagship VA mobile application so that VA’s customers don’t have to use separate portals, websites, or mobile applications when managing their health care and benefits online.

REDUCING BARRIERS FOR THOSE EXPERIENCING POVERTY

 
For the tens of millions of Americans who rely on critical safety net programs:

  • Low-income families can more easily enroll in Federal benefits and recertify their income status more easily across programs using direct certification, a process that automatically certifies income-eligible individuals without extra paperwork, instead of managing multiple, complicated processes that waste time and cause frustration.
  • Those navigating across multiple programs can expect a “no-wrong door” approach – interacting with one Federal program can help get them connected with other benefits and streamline enrollment for which they are eligible.

FINANCING YOUR BUSINESS

 
For the more than 30 million small business owners who may seek credit to grow their businesses and the 90% of U.S. farms that are small and family-owned:

  • Small business owners will be able to submit applications knowing that they will receive prompt and consistent service, such as reduced call center wait times, across Small Business Administration programs, including loans, grants, and certifications, because the agency will measure these experiences.
  • Farmers will be able to quickly and easily apply for loans from the Department of Agriculture with the support of digital tools, saving time, reducing unnecessary paperwork, and avoiding unnecessary trips to a county office.

SUPPORTING WOMEN, INFANTS, AND CHILDREN

 
For women seeking maternal health care and nutrition access in the critical early years of children’s lives:

  • More patients will be able to get more automated access to their electronic prenatal, birth, and postpartum health records (including lab results, genetic tests, ultrasound images, and clinical notes) to improve their experience and support better care coordination.
  • For the women who deliver 43% of all births in the United States each year covered by Medicaid, patients will have access to safer and more equitable care because of strengthened requirements for maternal health quality measurement, including perinatal quality and patient care experience, and measures will be evaluated by race and ethnicity to better identify and address inequities in maternal health care delivery and outcomes.
  • 7 million women and their children, including half of all infants born in the United States who are eligible for benefits through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), will be able to grocery shop online, providing an alternative way to access healthy foods for their families.

MANAGING YOUR HEALTH

 
All Americans should be able to access the vital health services they need at the time that they need them. Under this Executive Order:

  • Patients will have increased ability to use telehealth with their doctors, connecting rural Americans, individuals with disabilities, or individuals seeking the convenience of remote options with the health care they need.

UPDATING YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION ONCE

 
For the more than 30 million people who move each year, and approximately 2 million people who change their names each year:

  • Individuals who move their residences can update their addresses one time with the Federal Government and choose which other Federal or State entities they would like that information shared with.
  • Individuals seeking to change their names will be able to do so without having to appear in person at a Social Security Administration office, provide a wet signature, and submit original documents.

ADDITIONAL ACTIONS

  • USA.gov will be redesigned as a centralized and streamlined “digital Federal front door” so the public can get access to all Government benefits, services, and programs in just 1 to 3 clicks, taps, or commands from the USA.gov homepage, without navigating duplicate and outdated Federal websites. That home page will feature a new user experience based on the key life events, moments that matter most, and top tasks that Americans experience throughout their lives when interacting with Government.
  • Tribal communities will be able to expect more streamlined and integrated grants application processes, rather than having to provide information over and over again to the Federal government and navigate across multiple agency websites.
  • The Fish and Wildlife Service will provide more of their service transactions online, including for special use permits for National Wildlife Refuge System locations and several high-volume application forms required for individuals and businesses that import, export, or re-export animals, plant, and their products internationally. These transactions currently can take weeks or even months to process, and can require multiple paper forms to be mailed.

 
This Executive Order is a continuation of the launch of the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) Vision, which prioritizes delivering excellent, equitable, and secure Federal services and customer experience. The PMA recognizes that improving the delivery, efficiency, security, and effectiveness of Government programs will advance equity, enhance people’s everyday interactions with public services, and provide greater opportunities for those who need it the most.
 
The Government’s primary mission is to serve. By placing people at the center of everything we do, the Government will be able to deliver timely, modern, and secure services to you – the people. We will rebuild trust in our Government, ensure no one is left behind, and inspire others to join us in serving future generations of Americans.

White House Memo: How Biden Administration is working to Relieve Inflation Pressures on American Families

President Biden’s Build Back Better investment in EV charging stations will go far to help relieve pressure of gas prices at the pump, while installing the stations will provide jobs © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This is a memo from Kate Bedingfield, White House Communications Director, on what President Biden and his administration is doing to relieve inflation pressure hitting America’s families and why, though a President has limited tools to push back against inflation, his Build Back Better agenda, which would relieve cost-pressure of health care, child and elder care, prescription drug costs, and even gasoline prices by moving toward a clean, renewable energy economy, would be just the prescription needed now:

President Biden grew up in Scranton around a kitchen table just like the ones all over this country. He knows that any increase in prices can squeeze a family’s budget. No family should ever have to feel like they face a choice between paying their bills to keep the lights on or putting food on the table for their families.

Price increases have been a real challenge here at home and around the world as we exit this once-in-a-pandemic and as the economy reboots from a historic shutdown. Even as we see signs that our economic recovery is making process, addressing high prices are the President’s top priority. That’s why this summer, the President began highlighting the cost cutting benefits of the Build Back Better Act.

The memo below outlines where we are in our recovery, what the President is doing in the short- and long-term to address price increases, and the opposition that Congressional Republicans are presenting.

STATE OF PLAY

Since taking office at the time of the worst global economic crisis in decades, President Biden has made beating the pandemic and building a strong economic recovery his top priority. There are two indicators that signal the state of play with the progress of our recovery: jobs and prices.

This past week, we got additional proof that our jobs recovery is on track, setting records, and outpacing other countries. Unemployment insurance claims fell to their lowest level in 50 years. Nearly six million Americas are back to work. And, Americans have more money in their pockets than this time last year — $100 more each month than last year.

But even as America’s economic growth is stronger than virtually any other nation, the President believes that we have to decrease prices for consumer to feel confident in our recovery. While we are starting to see prices decrease and supply chain blockages ease, we know that higher prices are top-of-mind for Americans – and that’s why the President is laser-focused on taking action.

SWIFT ACTION & PROGRESS TO DATE

President Biden is taking swift and decisive action to combat high prices, ease inflationary pressures, and make sure America’s families can put food on the table. In recent weeks and days, President Biden has:

Address Supply Chain Challenges: President Biden is bringing together public and private partners to ease bottlenecks at America’s ports – making sure we can move goods from ship to shelf faster and lower the costs of goods. The President announced that the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are operating 24/7, the Department of Transportation provided $8 million to the Port of Savannah to set up container yards in Georgia and North Carolina, freeing up dock space and speeding up the flow of goods in and out of the port; and yesterday DOT awarded $12.6 million to marine highway projects to help move agricultural goods to market faster.

As a result of the President’s aggressive action, new data yesterday confirms the cost of shipping a container between Asia and the West Coast is more than 25 percent lower than it was three months ago. And this holiday season, America’s major retailers and small businesses – including Target, Walmart, and Esty – have said their shelves will be stocked.

And, as a result of the work of the Biden Administration’s effort to ensure U.S. auto companies received fair allocation of the global supply of chips and to minimize pandemic-related disruptions to semiconductor production in SE Asia, companies like Ford and GM have hailed progress and said they expect car supply will increase. 

Tackling Gas Prices: President Biden sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) expressing concern around oil and gas companies manipulating the marketing and asking the commission to examine any anti-competitive or illegal conduct. He also announced the largest-ever release from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve with other nations, helping bring down gas prices in the near-term.

Since the President raised the prospect of taking action to address energy prices, oil prices are down 10% on average over the last month versus the month before. Retail gas prices are down 7 cents over the last month and whole sale gas prices are down by 15% from their October peak. Pump prices in 20 states are now lower than the 20 year average, adjusted for inflation. Natural gas prices have fallen 25% from their November average.

Encouraged Competition: President Biden issued an executive order to lower prices for American consumers by increasing competition in various industries. Just a few examples of the President’s executive actions on competition include: investing in smaller meat processors to give farmers and ranchers more affordable options, lowering the cost of hearing aids by making them more accessible, and lowering the cost of broadband.

The meat price increases we are seeing are not just the natural consequences of supply and demand in a free market — they are also the result of corporate decisions that take advantage of consumers, farmers and ranchers, and our economy. Gross profit margins for big meat processors are up 50% and net margins are up over 300%. That’s why the President is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to create more competition in meat-processing and over a billion dollars in relief to small businesses and agricultural workers hurt by COVID. Just yesterday, USDA announced investments in small meat processors to give producers more options, help bring competition to the meat-processing industry, and close vulnerabilities in the food supply chain.

THE NEXT STEP: BUILD BACK BETTER

There is more work to do in order to lower prices for American families and maintain a strong economic recovery for years to come.

The average American family spends 60% of their monthly income on health care, housing, child care, and transportation. These are costs that have held back too many American families for too long. If you are concerned about costs facing American families, passing BBB is the most immediate and direct step we can take to deliver. 

Three key pieces of the Build Back Better Act that will cut costs for America’s families:

Lower Health Care & Prescription Drug Costs: This isn’t a partisan issue: outrageous drug prices affect everyone across the board, spanning every kind of condition and disease. BBB will cap insulin costs, expand health care coverage, extend ACA tax credits, empower Medicare to negotiate down costs, limit seniors’ expenses, and hold drug companies accountable.

Lower Child Care Costs: Preschool and child care are prohibitively expensive for middle class families. BBB delivers two years of free preschool and affordable child care in the setting of a parent’s choice, enabling more middle class families to work and succeed in our economy while educating the next generation – so other countries don’t out-educate and out-compete us.

Lower Elder Care Costs: Caring for older loved ones is costing working families and preventing them from fully participating in our workforce and economy. BBB expands access through Medicaid to high-quality, affordable care for older Americans and people with disabilities in their homes – while supporting the workers who care for them.

And, the Build Back Better Act will also cut other costs American families also struggle with – from high housing costs to the costs of climate change impacts.

THE ALTERNATIVE

Congressional Republicans are unified in their opposition to the President’s plans to address price increases.

As President Biden works in tandem with Congress to lower costs for consumers, ease inflationary pressures, and strengthen our economic recovery, Congressional Republicans have no plan to address any of the issues that working families are grappling with right now. Instead of working with the President to fight inflation, Republicans are playing politics with higher prices – one leading Republican even called it a political ‘gold mine’ for them.

The plan Congressional Democrats are supporting:

  • Lowering prices and costs for the American people as the economy recovers from a global pandemic.
  • Extending tax cuts for working families that put money in pockets.
  • Easing inflationary pressures on the economy, as affirmed by 17 Nobel Prize winners in economics.

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans have no plan to lower prices for working families. Congressional Republicans are only focused on:

  • Fighting against common sense measures to put the pandemic in retreat.
  • Voting against lowering core costs for Americans – prescription drugs, child care, elder care, and housing.
  • Standing united against easing inflationary pressures.

The historic Build Back Better Act will cut costs that American families have struggled with for years. The President and Congressional Democrats are actively working to lower prices and costs for the American people. On the other hand, Republican Members of Congress have no plan, while supporting raising taxes and increasing the biggest costs families deal with.

White House: Renewed US Leadership at COP26 Raises International Ambition to Tackle Climate Crisis

International Community Put Forward Innovative Efforts to Build a Clean Energy Economy and Create Jobs 

The United States Will Continue to Push for Action Beyond Glasgow and Keep 1.5 Degrees Celsius Goal Alive 

 

Youth strike for Climate Action, NYC 2019. Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, rolled back actions to reduce emissions contributing to global warming, promoted coal and fossil fuels, but Biden has immediately put the United States back on track and back in a global leadership role to take aggressive action to address the climate crisis © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The White House put out this Fact Sheet summarizing the results of United States engagement in COP26 and renewed priority to combat the climate crisis and “keep 1.5 alive”.

“President Biden reiterated that tackling the climate crisis requires the whole of society – communities, businesses, states, local governments, Tribal nations and nations around the world – to come together to deliver economic prosperity, peace, and security.”

On day one at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), President Joe Biden made clear that Glasgow must raise global ambition during this decisive decade of climate action to preserve our shared future. The President reiterated that tackling the climate crisis requires the whole of society – communities, businesses, states, local governments, Tribal nations and nations around the world – to come together to deliver economic prosperity, peace, and security.

The President and United States have led by the power of example, taking bold steps to reduce emissions and create economic opportunity at home and abroad, while rallying other countries to step up. On his first day in office, President Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement, restored U.S. leadership on the world stage, and reestablished our position to tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad. He convened the first-ever Leaders Summit on Climate that affirmed the need for unprecedented global cooperation and ambition and convened a U.S.-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate.

Congress passed President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, which will expand access to clean drinking water, make unprecedented investments in clean energy infrastructure, and is a critical step towards reaching our goal of a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. When paired with the Build Back Better Framework which the President also looks forward to signing into law, these once-in-a-generation investments will reduce our emissions by well over one gigaton this decade – ensuring we meet President Biden’s commitment to reduce U.S. emissions by 50-52% from 2005 levels in 2030 and unlock the full potential of a clean energy economy that combats climate change, advances environmental justice, and creates good-paying, union jobs.
 
Today, as COP26 ended, over 190 countries concluded negotiations on a text that includes a global commitment to tackle the climate crisis and keep the goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach. The text sets out a path to increase the commitments and actions of countries starting next year, outlines new rules of the road for the Paris Agreement that will provide transparency for countries to turn words into actions, and doubles the amount of support that is going to vulnerable countries to enhance their resilience to the crisis. But it is not enough. More work remains as we leave Glasgow to get where science tells us we need to be and the United States will continue to push for more progress at home and abroad in this decisive decade for climate action.  
 
As the U.S. engaged in intensive diplomacy and partnership with countries around the world, collective action increased global ambition, innovation and action to tackle the climate crisis. At the close of COP26:

  • 90% of the world’s GDP now has net zero commitments and 154 countries put forward new climate action plans to cut emissions or “NDCs”. In April, President Biden announced a new target for the United States to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030 and convened the Leaders Summit on Climate to secure stronger targets from world leaders.  
     
  • The United States and European Union announced that over 100 countries, covering nearly half of global methane emissions and almost 70% of global GDP signed the Global Methane Pledge, including six of the world’s top 10 methane emitters. This complements the U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan – bold steps announced by President Biden to redouble efforts from across the government to dramatically reduce U.S. methane emissions, cut consumer costs, protect workers and communities, maintain and create thousands of high-quality, union jobs, and promote U.S. innovation and manufacturing of critical new technologies. 
     
  • Developed countries made progress towards the $100 billion climate finance mobilization goal. In April, President Biden has released the first-ever U.S. International Climate Finance Plan and announced a quadrupling of the U.S. international climate finance pledge at the UN General Assembly in September, including the largest U.S. commitment ever made to reduce climate impacts on those most vulnerable to climate change worldwide. 
     
  • The U.S. announced our first-ever contribution to the Adaptation Fund which at COP26 received $356 million in new support from contributing national and regional governments. President Biden announced the launch of the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE), a whole-of-government initiative that will serve as the cornerstone of the U.S. Government response to addressing the increasing impacts of the global climate crises in order to enhance global stability. 
     
  • Twenty-five countries, including the United States, and five financial institutions pledged to end new international finance for unabated fossil fuel energy by the end of 2022, except in limited and clearly defined circumstances that are consistent with the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit, reorienting tens of billions of dollars of public finance and trillions of private finance towards low carbon priorities. 
     
  • Over $20 billion of new public and philanthropic finance has been committed to support developing countries to transition away from coal.  
     
  • Countries representing 90% of global forest cover pledged to reduce deforestation to zero by 2030, backed by the biggest ever commitment of public funds for forest conservation and a global roadmap to make 75% of forest commodity supply chains sustainable. Twelve countries signed the Global Forest Finance Pledge: a target of $12 billion to combat deforestation. The United States released the Plan to Conserve Global Forests: Critical Carbon Sinks, a first-of-its-kind, whole-of-government effort to preserve global ecosystems which serve as vital carbon sinks. 
     
  • The United States launched the First Movers Coalition with more than 25 Founding Members including some of the largest companies in the world, across a wide range of industries, with hundreds of billions of dollars in purchasing power. The buyers’ clubs assembled by this initiative will create early market demand for innovations across eight “need-to-abate” sectors—steel, trucking, shipping, aviation, aluminum, concrete, chemicals, and direct air capture—which represent more than one-third of the world’s carbon emissions today, and is expected to grow in the coming decades. 
     
  • China joined the United States, the world’s two biggest economies and emitters, in committing in a new Joint Declaration to collaborate on increased ambition to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius warming within reach, and China for the first time committed to develop a plan to address methane emissions and accelerate its coal phase-down. 
     
  • The United States, UK, EU, France, and Germany announced a partnership with South Africa to chart a course from coal to clean energy through the creation of new jobs and opportunities for South African coal communities. This partnership will seek to prevent up to 1-1.5 gigatons of emissions over the next 20 years in support of South Africa’s accelerated transition to a low emission, climate resilient economy, and aims to mobilize $8.5 billion for the first phase of financing, through various mechanisms including grants, concessional loans, investments, risk sharing, and other instruments for private sector mobilization. This partnership comes as the United States continues to redouble efforts to invest in our nation’s energy communities, including delivering the largest investment in American history to tackle legacy pollution while creating thousands of new good paying jobs as part of the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.
     

The United States and the United Arab Emirates launched the Agricultural Innovation Mission alongside more than 30 countries and more than 45 non-government partners to increase and accelerate agricultural and food systems innovation in support of climate action. The initiative has already garnered an $4 billion in increased investment in climate smart agriculture and food systems innovation, with the United States planning to mobilize $1 billion over five years. 

Biden Proclaims Veterans Day: ‘Our nation has only one truly sacred obligation: to properly equip military, care for veterans on return’

President Biden pays his respects to the fallen at Arlington Cemetery, April 14, 2021 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com via MSNBC

All too often, especially in the Trump years, veterans and active military have been used as props and as pawns to achieve personal and political gain. Trump demeaned Senator John McCain’s heroism as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and later called those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, “losers and suckers” and repeatedly questioned the intelligence of those who serve and couldn’t be bothered to visit the graves of Americans who died in World War I in a cemetery while in France.

Well before Joe Biden became President, he and First Lady Jill Biden were activists on behalf of the military, veterans and military families. As Second Lady, Jill Biden teamed with then First Lady Michelle Obama to create Joining Forces – the White House initiative to support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors – to solve many of the problems that military families and veterans face. Now, as President, Biden has advanced policies on behalf of active military, veterans and their families and the First Lady continues her work with Joining Forces.

I often have problems each Veterans Day and Memorial Day because these events shroud the horrors of war in glory – necessary because otherwise no one would sign up. And I have often warned about the difference between lying the nation into war as George W. Bush did to invade Iraq, and Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon did during Vietnam, using war for political gain, as Reagan did in invading Grenada, being used by callous business interests to make their fortune, like World War I, and a justified war like World War II.

This Veterans Day, November 11, 2021, Biden’s Proclamation is genuine and speaks to this administration’s commitment: “Our Nation has only one truly sacred obligation:  to properly prepare and equip our service members when we send them into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home.” — Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com

VETERANS DAY, 2021

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
 
A PROCLAMATION

For generations, millions of Americans have answered the call to serve — taking the sacred oath to defend and preserve our Nation’s ideals of liberty and democracy.  These patriots represent the best of us.  On Veterans Day, we honor their service, dedication, and valor and are forever grateful for their sacrifice. 

Our Nation has only one truly sacred obligation:  to properly prepare and equip our service members when we send them into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home.  For our 19 million veterans, that means ensuring that they have access to the support and resources for a future of security, opportunity, and dignity.  This is even more important as we continue to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our obligation to support our Nation’s veterans and their families is personal for me and the entire Biden family, and I remain committed to ensuring that every veteran receives the care and support they have earned.  The recently passed bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will create millions of good jobs for veterans and grow opportunities for veteran-owned businesses. My Build Back Better framework also prioritizes improvements to VA health care, ensuring that every veteran — including our often-underserved female and LGBTQ+ veterans — receives competent, world-class health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Last month, the White House Gender Policy Council released the first-ever United States Strategy for Gender Equity and Equality, which included the unique needs and contributions of women service members and veterans.  And the Department of Veterans Affairs is also working to get every eligible veteran the information and opportunity they need to register and vote, protecting their voice in the democracy they fought to preserve. 

Ensuring veterans have timely access to services and benefits is at the center of my Administration’s commitment to fulfilling our sacred obligation.  This includes addressing the adverse health effects of service-related exposures.  In August, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it will begin processing disability claims for respiratory conditions connected to exposure during military service in Southwest Asia and other areas.  My Administration also added three conditions to the list of those presumptively associated with exposure to Agent Orange, ending the long wait for disability benefits for many Vietnam era veterans.  In the coming months, we are committed to taking additional action to address potential adverse health effects associated with military environmental exposures.  

So many of our veterans carry the scars from their service — both visible and invisible — and it is our Nation’s responsibility to help them heal. Too many veterans and service members have considered suicide or taken their own lives, and addressing this tragedy is a national responsibility. That is why I have made military and veteran suicide prevention a top priority, and earlier this month, I released a new comprehensive, cross-sector public health strategy to reduce military and veteran suicide. Implementing this approach will unite us around a common mission and accelerate meaningful improvements in suicide prevention programs, helping us live up to our sacred obligation to those who have served in our Nation’s Armed Forces.

Fulfilling our Nation’s promise to our veterans and military families, caregivers, and survivors is not only a moral imperative — it is crucial to our national security and to maintaining the finest military the world has ever known.  We are a Nation that keeps our promises.  That is why my Administration is dedicated to a whole-of-government approach in responding to the needs of our veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors. 

Through the First Lady’s work with Joining Forces — the White House initiative to support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors — my Administration is addressing employment and entrepreneurship, military and veteran child education, and health and well-being for veteran families.  Earlier this year, the First Lady met with military and veteran families to learn how we can better support and prioritize their needs, and in September, Joining Forces and the National Security Council released a report outlining the first round of Administration-wide commitments and proposals that support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors.  These efforts will honor our sacred obligation to support our veteran families and ensure they receive the resources they need to thrive. 

On Veterans Day, we honor our Nation’s veterans, who have given so much to protect our freedoms and the freedom of others around the globe.  They represent the highest ideals of our country.  While we can never fully repay the debt we owe these heroes, we will honor their service and provide them the care and support they deserve. We also salute and show gratitude for all who ensure our Armed Forces remain strong, united, and unmatched…

I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor, courage, and sacrifice of our veterans through appropriate ceremonies and private prayers.  I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States of America and to participate in patriotic activities in their communities. And I call on all Americans, including civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, and communities, to support this day with commemorative expressions and programs.