Biden’s Joint Address To Congress Will Have Several Firsts

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden (image via White House/public domain)

President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress this evening will be noteworthy on several fronts.

Biden is reportedly going to present his $1.8 trillion package to Congress since taking office asking for new spending to expand the American education system, provide more help for childcare and create millions more jobs.

First, the joint address is not a State of the Union speech, although at first glance it will appear very similar. The president will be announced, he’ll walk down the aisle of the House chamber to applause, all that.

But due to COVID restraints, the number of attendees – usually all members of Congress plus guests – will be limited to 200. Many House representatives won’t be there anyway because the annual GOP retreat is taking place this week.

Still, some GOP House members aren’t happy about being left off the invitation list.  Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) says she plans on attending anyway. “I’ve requested an invitation and I haven’t heard back,” Boebert said last week. “I’m showing up.”

While the Senate is in session, only 58 invitations were made available to senators equally divided by party.

Easily the biggest difference for those watching will be visual as for the first time two women – Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – will be seated in the two chairs behind him.

It’s the first time the top two officials in the line of presidential succession are both women.

Another first – the livestream of Biden’s address will feature American Sign Language interpretation for accessibility.

 

President Biden Urges Swift Passage Of Equality Act

President Joe Biden issues a statement of full support to LGBTQ+ people on National Coming Out Day
President Joe Biden

In an official statement from the White House, President Biden calls on Congress to “swiftly pass” the Equality Act:

I applaud Congressman David Cicilline and the entire Congressional Equality Caucus for introducing the Equality Act in the House of Representatives yesterday, and I urge Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation.

Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, and this bill represents a critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality and freedom for all.

Full equality has been denied to LGBTQ+ Americans and their families for far too long. Despite the extraordinary progress the LGBTQ+ community has made to secure their basic civil rights, discrimination is still rampant in many areas of our society.

The Equality Act provides long overdue federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, locking in critical safeguards in our housing, education, public services, and lending systems — and codifying the courage and resilience of the LGBTQ+ movement into enduring law.

On my first day in office, I was proud to sign an Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. I directed agencies to implement the Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling, and fully enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

Now, it’s time for Congress to secure these protections once and for all by passing the Equality Act — because no one should ever face discrimination or live in fear because of who they are or whom they love.

The Equality Act, formally reintroduced in the House on Thursday, would ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination throughout the nation. The act would amend existing civil rights laws to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The legislation passed in the House in 2019 with a bipartisan 236-173 vote but was never given a vote in the Senate.

(via WhiteHouse.gov)

Biden: Trump Stopped Intel Briefings Because He Doesn’t Want Voters To Know How Putin Is Helping Him

Former Vice President Joe Biden (photo via campaign)

After Donald Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, announced in-person security briefings to Congress would be curtailed due to recent leaks, former Vice President Joe Biden issued this statement:

This is not how democracy works. But it is how American national security and sovereignty are violated.

The tools of our government are meant to defend the American people and our system of governance against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

And yet, at a moment when we know that our elections are under threat from foreign interference — and when the President of the United States has invited interference from Russia and China — the Director of National Intelligence is failing to provide full information about the danger.

For the DNI to curtail one of the most basic duties of our nonpartisan Intelligence Community — to keep the United States Congress fully informed about threats to our nation, in this case, about the real and rising threat of foreign election interference — is nothing less than a shameless partisan manipulation to protect the personal interests of President Trump. And it is a betrayal of the oath sworn to the American people and our Constitution.

Nothing is more important than the security and integrity of our elections. And we know that President Trump is unwilling to take action to protect them.

That leaves Congress as the best defender of our democracy. But now President Trump, through his hand-picked DNI — chosen for loyalty, not experience — is attempting to deprive Congress of the information they need to do their part.

There can be only one conclusion: President Trump is hoping Vladimir Putin will once more boost his candidacy and cover his horrific failures to lead our country through the multiple crises we are facing.

And he does not want the American people to know the steps Vladimir Putin is taking to help Trump get re-elected or why Putin is eager to intervene, because Donald Trump’s foreign policy has been a gift to the Kremlin.

Stock Markets Surge Amid Optimism For COVID-19 Stimulus Package

The U.S. stock markets surged on the news that Congressional leaders are close to agreement on a stimulus package to help cope with the ongoing coronavirus threat.

From Fox Business:

U.S. equity markets registered the strongest one-day rebound in history on Tuesday amid investor optimism that members of Congress will overcome their differences to reach a deal on a nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package.

In the final hour of trading, gains picked up steam giving the Dow Jones Industrial Average a 2,112 point gain, the biggest ever, or 11 percent, while the S&P 500 gained over 9 percent and the Nasdaq over 8 percent.

LGBTQ Member Of Congress Resigns Amid Accusations Of Affairs

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Santa Clarita)

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Santa Clarita) of California, the only openly bisexual member of the House of Representatives, recently came under investigation due to “allegations she had an improper relationship with a congressional staffer.”

Hill was accused of having a sexual relationship with her legislative director, Graham Kelly, and a female campaign staff member.

Hill denies any relationship with Kelly, but in a letter to constituents on Wednesday admitted to becoming involved with the campaign staff member during “during the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage.”

Hill has been in divorce proceedings with her husband of nine years, Kenneth Heslep.

“I know that even a consensual relationship with a subordinate is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment,” Hill wrote to her constituents. “For that, I apologize.”

“It is with a broken heart that today I announce my resignation from Congress,” Hill wrote in a letter shared on Twitter. “This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I believe it is the best thing for my constituents, my community, and our country.”

“This is what needs to happen so that the good people who supported me will no longer be subjected to the pain inflicted by my abusive husband and the brutality of hateful political operatives who seem to happily provide a platform to a monster who is driving a smear campaign built around cyber exploitation,” she added.

It was just last weekend when conservative website RedState reported that Hill and her husband had, until recently, been involved in a sexual relationship with a staffer in her 20s who worked on Hill’s campaign.

RedState posted explicit images purporting to be of Hill and the staffer. Hill subsequently told The Hill, a political news outlet, that the U.S. Capitol Police were investigating how the photo was obtained and published by RedState.

“Intimate photos of me and another individual were published by Republican operatives on the internet without my consent,” Hill said at the time.

That was followed by RedState releasing text messages that appeared to be between Hill’s husband, Heslep, and the campaign staffer.

In response to the #MeToo movement and high-profile sexual harassment accusations involving members of Congress, the House adopted rules last year that prohibited members from having sexual relationships with congressional staffers. Those rules do not, however, address any relationships that occurred prior to members taking office.

Hill has been viewed as a ‘rising star’ in the Democratic Party having flipped her district to blue when she won her election in 2018.

She is the vice-chair of the House Oversight Committee, and she is among a group of freshman Democrats who were nicknamed the “Big Six” after being selected for high-profile leadership posts.

(source: Politico)

News Round-Up: October 24, 2019

The men of Chippendales rock Belgium

Some news items you might have missed:

InstaHunks: The Chippendales stopped in Belgium for a one-night-only performance, and the place sold out completely. Keep up with the men of Chippendales on their Instagram here.

Advocate: A gay reporter for ABC News traveled to Chechnya to document the horrific treatment of LGBTQ people in the Russian republic. Along the way, he became part of the story.

Washington Blade: Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), the only out bisexual in the U.S. House, is in the middle of an increasingly growing scandal in which she has now admitted she had an “inappropriate” relationship with her campaign staffer before she took office.

Playbill: Tony Award winner Donna McKechnie is now hosting her own weekly podcast, The Ladies Who Lunch. Each episode, McKechnie will gather with friends at Sardi’s to discuss their showbiz pasts and more. For her first episode, McKechnie (who originated the role of Cassie) welcomes her A Chorus Line castmates: original Morales Priscilla Lopez, original Connie Baayork Lee, and original Sheila Kelly Bishop.

CBS News: After Donald Trump trolled rock icon Bruce Springsteen from the campaign stump, the rocker responded: “The stewardship of the nation has been thrown away to somebody who doesn’t have a clue as to what that means. And unfortunately, we have somebody who I feel doesn’t have a grasp of the deep meaning of what it means to be an American.” #BOOM

OUT: Facebook and Instagram have issued new guidelines about sexual expression on the social media platforms. Users will no longer be able to add eggplant or peach emojis to messages that have a sexual nature anymore. Plus, no more using emojis to cover nude body parts. AND – no more linking to sites with sexual content. So, no more promoting OnlyFans or JustForMyFans pages from Facebook or Instagram.

Twitter: At a rally last night, Donald Trump told the crowd his administration is “building a beautiful wall” in Colorado. I keep wondering if anyone told him it’s New Mexico, not Mexico, that borders Colorado…? #4thGradeGeography

Leaked Memo Urges GOP House Members To Pressure Amazon Regarding Conversion Therapy Books

(stock photo of depressed teen via Depositphotos)

A memo currently being circulated among Republican members of Congress asks the lawmakers to “contact Amazon with concerns” regarding “censorship” after the online retail giant announced it had removed books on the subject of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’

Earlier this month, Amazon announced it had removed all books by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, widely credited as the ‘father of conversion therapy.’

The action by Amazon was the result of months of complaints and an online petition that garnered over 82,000 signatures demanding the removal of the titles which included A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, Healing Homosexualityand How a Gay Boy Became a Straight Man.

Conversion therapy, sometimes known as reparative therapy, has been shown to lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness and suicide.

The discredited practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity has been widely denounced by major medical organizations like the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association as phony ‘pseudo-science.’

Currently, 18 states plus dozens of local municipalities have banned the harmful practice for minors.

But Vice News obtained a copy of the memo, given to members of the Republican Study Committee, which includes more than 70% of all GOP members of the House. The document was handed out during a private meeting of the members on Wednesday.

It would appear that Republicans want to see Nicolosi’s books back in circulation on Amazon.

“These books were available on Amazon until an LGBT activist repeatedly petitioned Amazon to remove the ‘homophobic books’ from the company’s website,” reads the memo per Vice News. “Amazon removed Dr. Nicolosi’s books and those of several other authors on similar topics.”

“It is not clear that any of the banned books have violated an Amazon policy,” continues the document. “But rather that the company is choosing to censor speech.”

The memo urges the GOP lawmakers to read an article from the Federalist which tries to assert hypocrisy for banning books on conversion therapy when Amazon still sells history book about Hitler, Mussolini, KKK leader David Duke and U.S. terrorist Timothy McVeigh.

Calling the LGBTQ community “a supposedly oppressed and marginalized group,” the Federalistarticle states the community “wields an extravagant amount of power” aimed at “anyone who chooses not to support” LGBTQ rights.

Vice News contacted Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) who has previously chaired the Republican Study Committee. Walker shared he didn’t know about the move to pressure Amazon but admitted he thinks Amazon shouldn’t be in the business of ‘banning speech.’

The author of the online petition, Sky Gray, told Vice News via email that the goal of banning conversion therapy books could be hampered with members of Congress getting involved.

”It shouldn’t be surprising that the conservatives are in support of conversion therapy; they’ve made it clear they are in the past,” said Gray. “It looks like this is going to be a bigger fight than previously anticipated, though I knew it would be an uphill battle.”

“Looks like the hill just got a lot steeper, with this knowledge in mind,” he added.

A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling released in April this year showed 80% of respondents believe performing conversion therapy on minors should be illegal.

Must See: Jon Stewart’s Emotional Take-Down Of Absent Congress Members At 9/11 First Responders Hearing

Jon Stewart

Everyone seriously needs to stop and watch Jon Stewart’s incredible speech before a Congressional committee regarding funding for 9/11 first responders.

Less than half the committee bothered to show up for the hearing, and an emotional Stewart lambasts those there in front of the cameras.

Congress loves to say “Never Forget,” but they forgot to show up.

Watch below.

CBS News reports the shaming worked:

The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill which would permanently reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Wednesday, the day after comedian Jon Stewart gave impassioned testimony in support of the bill in video that quickly went viral.

The bill will now go to the floor for a full vote in the House of Representatives, where it is likely to pass. It’s unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will take up the bill in the Senate, although Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Wednesday that he was “imploring, pleading, even begging” McConnell to bring the bill to the floor as soon as it passes in the House.

FEC Filing – Is ‘Totally-Not-Gay’ Aaron Schock Running For Congress Again?

Is former Congressman/current West Hollywood gadabout Aaron Schock planning on running for Congress again soon?
Aaron Schock (image via Instagram)

Is former Congressman/current West Hollywood gadabout Aaron Schock planning on running for Congress again soon?

Just days ago a Statement of Organization was filed or updated with the Federal Election Commission by Schock for Congress.

The date shown is June 7, 2019 and the form indicates it was signed by Schock himself.

The office sought is listed as Illinois’ 18th Congressional District and the party? Yep, still Republican.

The 38-year-old is also named as the Treasurer, although there’s not much to tend to since the Financial Summary shows 0.00 funds.

In 2015, Schock resigned from office in disgrace for alleged financial misconduct regarding his campaign funds.

Back in March, the Justice Department agreed to drop the corruption case involving false expense claims and inappropriate use of campaign funds. In exchange for paying $110,000 in restitution and taxes, the 24 felony counts against him were dropped.

The agreement did not require him to admit any wrongdoing, and left him without a criminal conviction.

At the time, the Republican told CBS News that he hadn’t shut the door on a possible return to politics at some point in the future.

“At 37-years-old, I don’t think I’ll ever say never,” said Schock. He added that he had “enjoyed being out of politics the last four years.”

Of course, we know he’s enjoyed a lot over the last few years than just “being out of politics.”

(image via Instagram)

The ‘totally-not-gay’ former Congressman has been spotted and photographed hanging, kissing and getting handsy with gay men at Coachella, flirting at WeHo pools and apparently getting busy on dating apps.

Now, nothing wrong with that – unless you spent your time in office opposing LGBTQ rights like voting against the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ or supporting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

(images via Facebook/Queerty)

For the record, Schock denies being gay. So, there.

It is difficult to imagine how a run for political office would play out.

The recent stories and photos would definitely come up at some point, and he would have to address those, as well his insistent denials about being gay.

Would a conservative-leaning, Republican district vote for him? Or, in a wider context, who would vote for him? A guy who lied over and over on the issue, and voted against a community that he’s a part of?

Does Schock have a second chapter in politics in mind?

Or, maybe he just re-upped the FEC filing for “old times sake.”

We’ll just have to see.

White House Ordered Former Aides To Defy Congressional Subpoenas

Politico is reporting that the Trump White House instructed two former aides to defy subpoenas issued by a Congressional committee seeking documents related to possible obstruction of justice by Donald Trump.
Donald Trump

Politico is reporting that the Trump White House instructed two former aides to defy subpoenas issued by a Congressional committee seeking documents related to possible obstruction of justice by Donald Trump.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone reportedly told the Judiciary Committee that the two former West Wingers were directed not to comply with the subpoenas because they “do not have the legal right to disclose the White House records to third parties.”

The tactic didn’t work, it seems.

From Politico:

But one of those aides, Hope Hicks, a longtime Trump confidant who served as White House communications director, has turned over some documents to the House Judiciary Committee regarding her service on Trump’s presidential campaign, according to Jerry Nadler, the panel’s chairman.

He hailed the document production as a show of “good faith” and indicated that the committee will continue to negotiate with Hicks — as well as former White House deputy counsel Annie Donaldson — for the next few weeks as they attempt to arrange public testimony pursuant to the committee’s subpoenas.