Home WORLD NEWS 2020 Election Updates: Joe Biden Offers a Plan for Reopening Schools

2020 Election Updates: Joe Biden Offers a Plan for Reopening Schools

by biasharadigest

Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday set up a sharp contrast with President Trump over what will most likely become a key campaign issue in the fall: how to reopen classrooms amid the coronavirus crisis.

Mr. Biden released a five-point “road map” emphasizing both deference to local decision-making and federal assistance to schools, a plan that served as an implicit rebuke of Mr. Trump, who has insisted that schools should rapidly resume in-person classes.

The question of when and how schools should reopen this fall has been a source of anguish and uncertainty for parents, students and educators. They are concerned about the health risks of full classrooms as the pandemic rages on, but are also often struggling with the professional and personal challenges posed by remote learning.

A statement from the Biden campaign said that the former vice president “believes that the decision about when to reopen safely should be made by state, tribal, and local officials, based on science and in consultation with communities and tribal governments. It should be made with the safety of students and educators in mind.”

Mr. Trump has favored a hard-line position, saying schools must reopen despite recommendations from federal experts, over a more nuanced approach, pursuing a pressure campaign in service of his demand.

Mr. Biden called for emergency funding for public schools and child-care providers — about $30 billion for school districts is needed, he suggested, and another $4 billion for upgraded technology and broadband. And he urged a “large-scale U.S. Department of Education” effort to improve remote learning and smooth the reopening process.

In his proposal, Mr. Biden also recommended initiatives designed to close what his campaign described as “systemic racial and socioeconomic disparities in education” that have worsened during the pandemic.

In a video announcing the plan, Jill Biden, an English professor, appeared with her husband and discussed the hardships facing students, families and teachers who desperately want to return to the classroom. But, she said: “It’s wrong to endanger educators and students. We need a better plan.”

“Everyone wants our schools to reopen,” Mr. Biden said in the video. “The question is how to make it safe, how to make it stick.”

The first step, Mr. Biden said, was reducing coronavirus cases.

After weeks of casting about for the best way to go after Mr. Biden, President Trump’s campaign has in recent days burst forth with an explosion of different lines of attack, many of them false. It began with his Rose Garden appearance on Tuesday and has continued — in person, on television, on Twitter, with campaign news releases — every day this week.

A Biden presidency, Mr. Trump said, would bring chaos to the streets of America, embolden socialists, raise taxes and destroy the economy. It would, in his words, empower Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

It would also, Mr. Trump claimed, eliminate the suburbs and windows.

Vice President Mike Pence on Friday picked up where Mr. Trump left off, suggesting that a Biden presidency would fundamentally alter the fabric of the country. Speaking at a campaign stop in Ripon, Wis., Mr. Pence said that a recent set of Democratic policy proposals meant to ease divisions between the moderate and progressive wings of the party was evidence that Mr. Biden had been pushed further leftward, particularly on matters involving policing.

“Joe Biden would weaken the thin blue line that separates order from chaos,” Mr. Pence said.

The policy document did show signs that Mr. Biden had adopted some progressive proposals, but it stopped short of adopting signature programs like the Green New Deal and “Medicare for All.” Still, Mr. Pence said that Mr. Biden had “combined forces with the socialist Bernie Sanders” and that “we don’t need to guess where they’re planning to take America.”

The sheer diversity, and occasional oddity, of the attacks suggested that they were not the product of some finely honed focus-group strategy. On Thursday, the Trump campaign revived past charges of plagiarism against Mr. Biden. On Friday, it pointed to the fact that Mr. Biden had not had a boat parade in his honor — something that Trump supporters in South Carolina and other states have been doing to show support for the president during the pandemic — as evidence of the lack of enthusiasm for his campaign.

It was an unconventional campaign talking point, to say the least, and immediately drew derision online for focusing on a meaningless metric when the president is trailing Mr. Biden in most national and battleground state polls.

Jamaal Bowman has won a stunning victory over Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York in a Democratic primary, defeating the 16-term incumbent and overcoming the efforts of the Democratic establishment in a profound show of progressive political power.

Mr. Bowman, a former middle school principal from Yonkers who ran on a platform that focused on racial and economic inequality, the Green New Deal and “Medicare for all,” was declared the winner on Friday, after more than three weeks of counting of absentee ballots.

Mr. Bowman was endorsed by an array of stars from the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

As a first-time candidate with a fiery anti-establishment message, Mr. Bowman’s victory has echoes of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s own stunning win in 2018 over another entrenched incumbent in New York, Representative Joseph Crowley, then the No. 4 Democrat in the House.

Still, weeks after the New York primary, some winners still haven’t been named.

The absentee ballot count — greatly inflated this year because the state expanded the vote-by-mail option because of the pandemic — has been painstakingly slow, with no running account of the vote totals available.

In some cases, the tiny number of ballots counted has bordered on the absurd: In the 12th Congressional District, where Representative Carolyn B. Maloney is fighting for her political life against the challenger Suraj Patel, only 800 of some 65,000 absentee ballots had been tabulated as of Wednesday, according to Mr. Patel.

The main reason for the delays is the sheer number of absentee ballots: In New York City, 403,203 ballots were mailed for the June primary; as a comparison, just 76,258 absentee and military ballots were counted in the 2008 general election, when Barack Obama was elected president.

“While I appreciate the public’s desire to know the results, at the end of the process we must ensure the integrity of the elections and the accuracy of the results,” said Michael Ryan, the executive director of the New York City Board of Elections.

With a new team in charge and just 109 days left to resuscitate the president’s flagging re-election effort, the Trump campaign is conducting an internal review of its spending.

The effort is meant to allow for more targeted decisions about ad buys and to demonstrate to Mr. Trump that the stories of profligate spending by the campaign are part of an old guard — one that is no longer making decisions about how the campaign spends its money.

The review came days after Mr. Trump announced that Bill Stepien, the former White House political director and deputy campaign manager, would become his campaign manager. Brad Parscale, the former campaign manager, was demoted to serve as a senior adviser for data and digital operations.

The campaign shake-up came as Mr. Trump has struggled in both nationwide and battleground state polls, but also after a year in which Mr. Parscale was the focus of sustained scrutiny over how much money he was personally pocketing from the campaign. The news coverage aggravated Mr. Trump.

“We want an effective and efficient organization, and we’re certainly not targeting anybody,” Jeff DeWit, the 2020 campaign’s chief operating officer, told Business Insider about the campaign’s spending audit. “We don’t like to see a single dollar fly out of the campaign without knowing where it’s going.”

The Business Insider article implied that an audit of Mr. Parscale himself was taking place, but in a statement, Mr. Stepien denied this. “Brad remains a senior member of our team and we are pleased with his contributions to President Trump’s re-election effort,” he said.

Campaign officials conceded that some spending decisions in the past, like the campaign’s $10 million Super Bowl ad focusing on criminal justice reform, were ill-advised. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, has personally signed off on any significant ad buy.

By the time former Representative Beto O’Rourke dropped out of the presidential race last November, the magic he had built during his long-shot 2018 Senate bid seemed to be gone. An unmoored 2020 campaign made him a figure of mockery, and his positions on issues like gun control were on the fringe of the Democratic Party — let alone among Texas voters.

But upon his return to El Paso Mr. O’Rourke dove back in to local politics. He’s still the most popular Democratic politician in Texas, he retains a huge fund-raising list and he controls a supporter phone database that he said will help contact virtually every Democrat in the state.

Now Mr. O’Rourke is using his political organization to do what national Democrats and Mr. Biden’s campaign have mostly found to be too expensive and ambitious: trying to flip Texas blue.

Mr. Biden’s campaign began running a television ad in Texas this week but does not have a significant staff presence in the state.

Mr. O’Rourke said his organization, Powered by People, has made 1.2 million phone calls and sent four million texts since July 1, aiming to flip key Texas State House districts and boost Mr. Biden in the state.

Mr. O’Rourke’s group has identified one million people who voted in Democratic primaries in other states and have moved to Texas in the last three years, but have yet to register to vote. Mr. O’Rourke has sent 350,000 pre-filled voter registration forms to those Democrats and has registered about 50,000 of them so far.

Mr. Biden winning Texas, Mr. O’Rourke said, would put re-election far out of reach for Mr. Trump and leave him no avenue to argue that a Biden victory was illegitimate.

“If Biden were to win the 38 Electoral College votes from Texas, a Democrat winning for the first time since 1976, the effect would be seismic,” Mr. O’Rourke said in an interview Friday. “There would be no close finish to contest, and we could really turn the page on Donald Trump in this country.”

House Democrats are picking up more momentum in their effort to protect their majority — and could even pick up seats in November — according to new projections by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, citing polling showing Mr. Trump is dragging down Republicans in races across the country.

In a new analysis published Friday, the political handicappers moved their ratings in 20 congressional races in favor of Democrats, asserting that they have “at least as good a chance at gaining House seats as Republicans on a net basis” for the first time this cycle.

Republicans began the cycle hoping they could win an uphill battle to reclaim the House, or at least regain some of the ground they had lost in 2018, when they lost control of the chamber. But as Mr. Trump continues his slide in the polls, with voters signaling their dissatisfaction with his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and Democratic incumbents and candidates posting staggering fund-raising numbers, that path has become increasingly difficult.

They are now on the defensive in battlegrounds throughout the nation, especially in suburban districts that were once Republican strongholds.

Given Mr. Trump’s “abysmal polling,” wrote David Wasserman, the Cook report’s editor for House races, “We may be approaching the point at which dozens of House Republicans will need to decide whether to cut the president loose and run on a ‘check and balance’ message, offering voters insurance against congressional Democrats moving too far left under a potential Biden administration.”

Among the key races in which Mr. Wasserman downgraded Republicans’ chances of holding their seats:

  • Indiana’s Fifth District, in which Representative Susan Brooks, a Republican, is retiring. Victoria Spartz, an immigrant from Ukraine and first-term Republican state senator who is self-funding her campaign, faces Christina Hale, a Democratic Cuban-American state representative.

  • Kansas’s Second District, currently represented by Steve Watkins, a Republican who this week was charged with three felony counts of voter fraud. Mr. Watkins still must navigate an August primary. Mayor Michelle de la Isla of Topeka, a Democrat, awaits the winner.

  • Texas’s 21st District, in which Representative Chip Roy, a Republican, faces Wendy Davis, a Democrat who first attracted national attention in 2013 for a 13-hour State Senate filibuster to protest anti-abortion legislation and who later lost the 2014 race for governor.

Democrats are working to seize the momentum.

“What we’re hearing about is this irresponsibility and unpredictability of what is coming from the Trump administration,” Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois, the chairwoman of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, said of swing-district voters in an interview with The New York Times. “People are very, very tired of the division.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, has had a recurrence of cancer, she said Friday, adding that the treatment she is receiving appears to be working.

“I have often said I would remain a member of the court as long as I can do the job full steam,” she said in a statement issued by the Supreme Court. “I remain fully able to do that.”

She said she had begun a course of chemotherapy on May 19, after “a periodic scan in February followed by a biopsy revealed lesions on my liver.”

“Immunotherapy first essayed proved unsuccessful,” she said. “The chemotherapy course, however, is yielding positive results. Satisfied that my treatment course is now clear, I am providing this information.”

Justice Ginsburg, the senior member of the court’s four-member liberal wing, has had surgery for lung cancer and radiation treatment for pancreatic cancer in recent years. She has also had surgery for early-stage pancreatic cancer in 2009 and treatment for colon cancer in 1999.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke Friday at a conference in Iowa for evangelical Christians, after a day full of private meetings with local business leaders and elected officials, the latest in a series of appearances that have fueled speculation that he is gearing up for a future political run — perhaps for the nation’s highest office.

In his remarks at the conference, the Family Leadership Summit, Mr. Pompeo touted his anti-abortion views and belief that American foreign policy should be grounded in religious liberty.

“Approach to government draws on that beautiful teaching from the first chapter of Genesis,” Mr. Pompeo said. “All human beings are made in the image of God.”

He also offered full-throated support for Israel while painting China and Iran as fundamental enemies of the United States.

Mr. Pompeo has made no secret of his political ambitions and is widely viewed as a possible presidential candidate in 2024.

He has also come under greater scrutiny in recent months for engaging in events that indicate he is using his status as the nation’s top diplomat for personal gain.

In May, the State Department inspector general, Steve A. Linick, was fired by Mr. Trump at Mr. Pompeo’s urging after opening an investigation into potential misuse of department resources by Mr. Pompeo for his and his wife’s personal benefit.

Earlier this year, Mr. Pompeo was also criticized after he secretly met with Republican donors and political figures while on diplomatic trips funded by taxpayers.

Last month brought a drastic drop in Americans who call themselves Republicans, opening a broad gap in major party preferences, according to Gallup’s polling.

In June alone, the percentage of Americans who say they are Republicans dropped from 44 percent to 39 percent, while the share of Democrats rose from 47 percent to 50 percent, the pollster found.

The dwindling number of self-identified Republicans comes at a time when Mr. Trump’s popularity is near the lowest levels of his presidency as the White House coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate American life. While Mr. Trump regularly brags about his near-universal support from Republican voters, that share of the electorate has shrunk 8 points since January.

There is now an 11-point gap between the percentage of Americans who call themselves Democrats and those who call themselves Republicans, a margin that Gallup hadn’t found in its polling since January 2019, after Democrats won control of the House and several governor’s mansions in the midterm elections.

Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, one of the most endangered Republicans up for re-election this fall, suggested that Hispanic residents of his state were driving a spike in coronavirus cases, drawing accusations of racism from Democrats and Hispanic officials.

Mr. Tillis made the comments on Tuesday during a call-in town hall event, in which he was questioned about mask-wearing and the spread of the virus.

“I’m not a scientist and I’m not a statistician, but one of the concerns that we’ve had more recently is that the Hispanic population now constitutes about 44 percent of the positive cases,” Mr. Tillis said. “And we do have some concerns that in the Hispanic population, we’ve seen less consistent adherence to social distancing and wearing a mask.”

Latinos have been disproportionately infected by the virus in North Carolina, but at least one study has suggested that they wear masks at a higher rate than white people do. And Mr. Tillis’s critics argued that his comments ignored the fact that Latinos disproportionately fill jobs deemed essential and have been asked to take on greater health risks during the pandemic, often without access to adequate protective gear.

“This racist BS needs to stop,” Representative Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas, posted on Twitter. “Latinos & African Americans are most at risk, dying at higher rates — and STILL going to work every day b/c they are essential workers.”

Representative Reuben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona, added that much of that work was done “at barely minimum wage” and then Latinos “went back home to big families under one roof because that is all they could afford,” adding to the spread.

A spokesman for Mr. Tillis, Andrew Romeo, said in a statement on Friday that Mr. Tillis understood that Latinos faced “increased exposure risk for essential workers on the front lines who are keeping our economy running” and because of multigenerational households. He said the senator had “been clear that not enough North Carolinians of all backgrounds have been wearing masks, and has consistently advocated that all his constituents do so.”

According to a Pew Survey conducted last month, 74 percent of Hispanic adults said they regularly wore masks while in a store or other businesses, compared to 62 percent of adults identifying as white.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, said Friday that he still supports Representative Steve Watkins, Republican of Kansas, calling voter fraud charges against him “a personal matter.”

Mr. Watkins was charged on Tuesday with three felonies related to voter fraud. He has called the allegations against him politically motivated, and had previously said he would not give up his committee assignments even though party rules require that lawmakers indicted on certain felony charges do so. But on Friday, the first-term Kansan changed course and said he would relinquish his seats on three committees.

“I look forward to exposing the corruption and collusion behind this blatant political prosecution and holding those responsible accountable,” Mr. Watkins said in a statement.

Mr. McCarthy, who plans to continue to support Mr. Watkins’s re-election effort, said on Friday that he had not pressured Mr. Watkins to give up his committee posts. “It’s a serious charge and it’s a personal matter,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters. “I accept his decision to step aside from his committees. That was his decision.”

The district attorney of Shawnee County, Mike Kagay, charged Mr. Watkins with three felonies: interference with law enforcement by providing false information, voting without being qualified and unlawful advance voting. Mr. Watkins was also charged with failing to notify the state motor vehicle agency of a change of address, a misdemeanor.

Mr. Watkins changed his voter registration address to a UPS store last year before voting in a City Council race that was decided by 13 votes, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. He said this week that he had accidentally put his mailing address on his voter registration form.

On Friday, the Cook Political Report changed its ratings for Mr. Watkins’ race (and 19 others) to favor Democrats; his race is now considered “lean Republican” rather than “likely Republican.”

Rachel Maddow’s interview with the president’s niece, Mary L. Trump, was the highest-rated show across all of American television on Thursday night — and the biggest audience in Ms. Maddow’s 12-year history on MSNBC.

About 5.2 million people tuned in live for Ms. Trump’s appearance, eclipsing the next highest-rated program, a rerun of the CBS sitcom “Young Sheldon,” according to Nielsen. Ms. Maddow’s viewership was not only a record for her 9 p.m. program. MSNBC said it was also the network’s highest rated show ever, outside of major breaking news events.

Ms. Trump, whose book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man,” was released on Tuesday, had been prevented from having a typical publicity campaign because of a lawsuit filed by her family to scuttle the book’s publication.

MSNBC was Ms. Trump’s first stop on cable news. She is scheduled to appear next week on ABC’s “The View.” Ms. Maddow is the top ratings draw on MSNBC, but she usually averages 3.1 million viewers a night.

Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, who switched his affiliation from Republican to Independent and briefly explored challenging Mr. Trump as a Libertarian this year, confirmed that he does not plan to seek re-election this fall.

In a tweet on Thursday night, Mr. Amash said he would step down from his seat in the House, where he stood out as an independent thinker and one of the few conservative critics of Mr. Trump.

“I love representing our community in Congress. I always will,” Mr. Amash wrote. “This is my choice, but I’m still going to miss it.”

Mr. Amash had indicated previously that he was unlikely to seek a sixth term representing the Western Michigan district that includes Grand Rapids, but his official exit from the race helps simplify the race to succeed him. While the district has been in Republican hands for nearly three decades, it has become increasingly competitive, and if Mr. Amash had remained in the race as a Libertarian, analysts believed the three-way race would have boosted the Democrat.

Mr. Amash, a co-founder of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, left the Republican Party last year after becoming the first in its ranks to call for Mr. Trump’s impeachment. After a brief flirtation with the idea, he ruled out a presidential run in May.

Reporting was contributed by Maggie Astor, Luke Broadwater, Nick Corasaniti, Catie Edmonson, Reid J. Epstein, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Trip Gabriel, Katie Glueck, Michael M. Grynbaum, Annie Karni, Lisa Lerer, Adam Liptak, Jesse McKinley, Adam Nagourney, Nicole Perlroth, Katie Rogers, Giovanni Russonello, David Sanger and Pranshu Verma.

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