House fails to override Biden's first veto

House fails to override Biden's first veto

The Republican-led House on Thursday failed to override President Biden’s first veto, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to revive the resolution targeting an administration rule related to ESG investing, which takes environmental and social factors into account.

The chamber voted 219-200, with one Democrat voting with every Republican in favor of overriding the veto.

Both the House and the Senate approved a resolution that would undo the administration’s rule, sending it to Biden’s desk and forcing the first veto of his presidency. The votes in both chambers were bipartisan.

The effort to overturn the veto was not expected to be successful — only one House Democrat supported the initial resolution — but it put most of the Democratic caucus on record as supporting this type of investing for the second time. Two Senate Democrats voted for the disapproval resolution in the upper chamber.

Veto overrides are very rare for Congress. During the Trump administration just one veto was overridden — the president’s rejection of a mammoth defense bill. Former President Obama’s eight years in office only saw one veto override, and former President George W. Bush had four of his vetoes overridden.

The Biden administration rule targeted by Republicans clarifies that money managers can weigh climate change and other ESG — which stands for environmental, social and governance — factors when they make investment decisions related to retirement accounts. 

It replaces a previous Trump administration rule that said money managers could only make investments based on financial considerations. Critics of the Trump rule have called it confusing, and the Biden administration has said that it discouraged consideration of ESG factors “even in cases where it is in the financial interest of plans to take such considerations into account.”

The pushback against the Biden administration rule is part of a larger Republican effort opposed to ESG investing, which some legislators have decried as “woke.” Republicans argue that considering these types of factors can come at the expense of profits, and they warn that it could harm the fossil fuel industry. 

“Ultimately, President Biden had a choice to make: do you support blue collar workers who deserve the best benefits in their retirement, or billionaire elites who want to direct your funds into places that get a lower yield?” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said. “And I think it’s important to keep trying and, you know, keep fighting for those workers who, when they retire, they want the highest rate of return.”

“And that’s what the bill’s all about,” he continued. “It’s disappointing that Joe Biden sold them out to go help his billionaire friends that want to inject their personal ideology at the expense of lower returns for people when they retire.”

Proponents, however, argue ESG investing allows people to both do well financially and do good for the world, and it can help protect people from investing in industries that may be on the decline as the world transitions to lower-carbon energy sources.

In a statement announcing his veto, Biden said the disapproval resolution “would put at risk retirement savings of individuals across the country.”

“They couldn’t take into consideration investments that would be impacted by climate, impacted by overpaying executives,” he continued. “And that’s why I decided to veto it.”

Not all Democrats, however, were in favor of the Biden administration rule. Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) supported the effort to overturn the rule when their chambers took up the disapproval resolution.

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Pentagon chief: Putin-Xi meeting sends ‘very troubling message’

Pentagon chief: Putin-Xi meeting sends ‘very troubling message’

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday said Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia sends a “troubling message.” 

Xi earlier this week concluded his three-day visit to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a visit seen by the West as Beijing doubling down on its support for the Kremlin in its war in Ukraine. 

“Xi’s visit to Putin and remaining there for a couple of days I think sends a very troubling message, a message of support,” Austin told lawmakers on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. 

While the U.S. military has not assessed Beijing as yet providing any military weapons or equipment to Moscow, “certainly just showing support by his presence there, I think, is very troubling,” Austin said. 

Austin added that should Xi decide to provide material support to Russia, “it would prolong the conflict and certainly broaden the conflict potentially — not only in the region, but globally.” 

U.S. officials warned last month that there will be “consequences” if China begins to provide lethal aid to Russia to support its war in Ukraine. 

And Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday accused Xi of providing “diplomatic cover” to Putin during the visit. 

But China, which labeled Xi’s visit a “journey of friendship, cooperation and peace,” has claimed that it remains neutral in the conflict and seeks to promote peace talks, and has not provided Moscow with any weapons.  

Beijing also accused the United States of “fanning the flames” in Russia’s attack on Ukraine by providing military assistance to Kyiv.  

The visit was Xi’s first trip to the Russia since the country invaded Ukraine last year. 

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Buttigieg: Transportation Department reviewing hazardous material definitions after East Palestine disaster

Buttigieg: Transportation Department reviewing hazardous material definitions after East Palestine disaster

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Thursday that the agency is reviewing its definition of a high-hazard flammable train in the wake of the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment.

Buttigieg made the remarks in response to questioning from Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) during a hearing on the Transportation Department’s budget request.

“We’ve been here before with crude oil incidents, and I worked with the administration then… to require comprehensive oil spill response plans” for railroads, Murray said. “Could you expand those efforts now for other hazardous materials?”

“The short answer is yes,” Buttigieg replied. “Often what happens is that America learns from experiencing disasters.”

“Questions arose in the wake of East Palestine from those who asked the very reasonable question, looking at that horrific smoke column coming out of the vinyl chloride controlled burn, that if this train did not meet the legal and technical definition of a high-hazard flammable train [HHFT], what would?” he continued.

The derailment, Buttigieg said, “is compelling us” to review and revise the department’s HHFT definitions as well as a broader examination of such definitions, some of which he noted are defined in law. The transportation secretary added the department “welcomes” revisions from Congress in those cases, such as larger fines for safety violations and more specific technical measures.

Buttigieg added that the department is also calling on industry itself to “not wait” for new requirements but rather voluntarily implement new safeguards in the meantime.

The budget proposal for the department was prepared prior to the East Palestine derailment, but Buttigieg said it contained a number of requests that would enable improved rail safety, such as increasing the research budget, which has in the past contributed to technology such as the wayside detectors used in the rail industry.

Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) co-sponsored legislation in 2015 to tighten security procedures for oil being transported by rail following a series of derailments in the state.

The Feb. 3 East Palestine derailment involved several cars carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic substance used in the production of plastics.

The Hill has reached out to the Transportation Department to clarify the status of any reviews of hazardous-material definitions.  

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Bragg says Trump created ‘false expectation’ on potential arrest

Bragg says Trump created ‘false expectation’ on potential arrest

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) for the first time on Thursday addressed a claim by former President Trump that he would be arrested in connection to an investigation into a hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, calling it the creation of a “false expectation.”

Bragg, in response to demands by House Republicans to force his testimony and turn over all documents and communication on the case, wrote in a letter to Congress that such a move was an “unprecendent[ed] inquiry into a pending local prosecution.”

“The letter only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene,” Bragg wrote.

Trump wrote in a Truth Social post over the weekend that he expected to be arrested on Tuesday in connection to the probe, but as of Thursday morning, no charges have been announced and the grand jury weighing the case is not expected to meet for the rest of the week.

In a Saturday post, Trump wrote that “illegal leaks” indicate that “the far & away leading Republican candidate & former president of the United States of America, will be arrested on Tuesday of next week.” 

“Protest, take our nation back!” Trump added.

Trump’s call was shortly followed by a demand from a trio of House Republican chairmen on Monday for testimony from Bragg ahead of his anticipated prosecution of Trump in connection to the hush money payment made just before Trump’s 2016 election. Monday was also the same day a last-minute witness, attorney and Trump ally Robert Costello, appeared before the grand jury.

In a lengthy response, Bragg addressed Trump’s fears of an imminent arrest and said he could not reveal details about the investigation, as such a move could violate the confidentiality of all involved, including potential defendants such as Trump.

On Thursday morning, Trump again professed innocence in the matter and accused Bragg’s inquiry as being politically motivated.

“Everybody knows I’m 100% innocent, including Bragg, but he doesn’t care,” Trump wrote.

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Democratic infighting complicates Schumer response to banking crisis 

Democratic infighting complicates Schumer response to banking crisis 

Democratic infighting over a bipartisan bill that passed in 2018 to roll back part of the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act is the latest political problem facing Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).  

Liberals led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are pushing for a vote on legislation to unwind a key piece of the 2018 law — co-sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and other Democrats — that gave the Federal Reserve more discretion over how to regulate mid-sized banks.

Both Tester and Manchin both face tough reelection races next year.  

Warren and other progressive Democrats say the 2018 bill was part of a broader effort under then-President Trump to lighten regulations on banks, which they say set the stage for the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.  

“Joe Biden says we need tougher bank regulations,” Warren said, arguing that unwinding the 2018 rollback of Dodd-Frank “is exactly that, tougher bank regulations.”

“I haven’t seen anyone else propose anything else that actually gets to the heart of the problem,” she said.  

Warren says she wants her proposal — which has 18 Senate Democratic co-sponsors — to reverse the 2018 rollback to get a vote, but Schumer has hinted that he only wants to bring bipartisan legislation to the floor that has a chance of passing.

“We need strong legislation and hopefully we can put something together that’s bipartisan,” Schumer told reporters last week.  

On Wednesday, he said “there are currently many proposals that are on the table that are worth considering, but of course every one of them will need bipartisan support to pass.”  

Schumer voted against the 2018 rollback, but he doesn’t appear inclined to put his vulnerable Democratic colleagues in a tough political position now. 

Several of the Democrats who voted to weaken Wall Street Reform Act before the 2018 midterm election now face reelection races and they don’t necessarily agree that the bill they supported and Trump signed into law put banks and depositors across the country at risk.

In addition to Manchin and Tester, Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who was in the House in 2018, voted for the bill. They are also up for re-election in 2024. 

“We’re still looking at the facts, I want to see the facts come in,” said Manchin, one of 13 Democrats who voted to amend the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act to give the Federal Reserve more discretion to regulate midsize banks.

Manchin says the bank fees to cover insuring deposits above $250,000 should be put on depositors above the limit — not those with less than $250,000 in deposits at a bank. 

“Ninety percent of West Virginians have less than $250,000 [in deposits.] They shouldn’t be paying higher bank fees,” he said.

Manchin said depositors who want Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) coverage for deposits over $250,000 should pay extra. 

Manchin said he’s looking at a proposal to raise the $250,000 cap on bank deposits insured by the FDIC but emphasized he doesn’t want constituents in West Virginia who have smaller deposits to pay higher fees.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said she doesn’t regret her vote for the 2018 bill to give the Federal Reserve more regulatory discretion over banks with less than $250 billion in assets.

“There were many provisions in that bill really important for small banks,” she said.  

“We were losing small community banks in Michigan that were being closed or consolidated,” she added.  

Stabenow challenged Democratic colleagues’ claims that the 2018 Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act led to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.  

“From what I’m hearing from people that really study this, there are other things that caused” the bank failures, she said. “There are other things that caused it. If we’re going to fix it, we should fix the right thing.”

Stabenow said she’s been told that Silicon Valley Bank would have passed the Fed stress test that it would have had to undergo had the 2018 law not eased the requirements of the earlier Wall Street Reform Act.  

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who voted for the 2018 banking reform bill, said he wants to find out more about why Silicon Valley Bank failed before bringing back the stronger requirements for midsize banks that went away under Trump.  

“Let’s find out what caused this first,” he said. 

Warren said the causes of the bank failures are clear enough.  

“We know what happened,” she said. “Surely, there’s no one in America who thinks that easing the regulations made it less likely that this bank would load up on risk, boost short-term profits and then explode.” 

Other Democrats agree the softening of banking rules by Congress needs to be revisited.  

“I think present events would seem to confirm that fairly forcefully,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).  

Democrats who aren’t thrilled about wading into an intraparty fight over the 2018 weakening of Dodd-Frank rules say there are other proposals that have a better chance of becoming law, such as raising the $250,000 FDIC insurance limit or require a Senate-confirmed inspector general to oversee the Federal Reserve system.  

Schumer on Wednesday said raising the FDIC insurance cap “is a serious proposal and should be carefully studied” but he said the cost should be paid for by banks and not taxpayers. 

“It will strengthen smaller banks and prevent depositors from putting their money into larger banks, but on the other hand there is a moral hazard argument, which could have significant impacts on our economy in the long run,” he said.  

Warren and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) introduced legislation to require an inspector general appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate on the Federal Reserve’s board of governors. 

But that proposal is already running into Republican opposition.

“It’s regulators on top of regulators. We’ve already got enough regulators, let’s make sure they’re doing the job,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). “I don’t know that we need someone overseeing the regulators overseeing the banks.”

Republicans are also pushing back on Warren’s call to restore the piece of Dodd-Frank that Congress changed five years ago.  

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), a senior member of the Banking Committee, says the Federal Reserve had enough authority to regulate Silicon Valley Bank.  

“They have broad authority to apply whatever supervisory standards they want to apply,” he said.   

“There’s this thing about whether the 2018 reforms to Dodd-Frank took away that authority. That’s just a false argument. The 2018 legislation we did very clearly said that the Fed could put together whatever risk models it needed to put together for every bank of every size,” he said.  

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GOP questions DeSantis attacks on Trump ahead of possible indictment

GOP questions DeSantis attacks on Trump ahead of possible indictment

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) salvo targeting former President Trump’s character this week has been met with questions from corners of the GOP over the effectiveness of his latest message as the world waits to see whether Trump will be indicted over a hush money payment to an adult film actress.

DeSantis has yet to announce his expected presidential bid and had been muted in his response to the flurry of barbs Trump has thrown his way. But this week he came out swinging against his onetime ally and Trump and his backers punched back.

Chief among their concerns about DeSantis’s latest attack lines: that character may not be a message that resonates with primary voters these days, and their view that DeSantis’s response to the possibility of Trump’s indictment has been ham-handed and botched.

“You look at college football, basketball [or] anything in this country — winning matters first,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), an early Trump supporter, told reporters. “Unfortunately, sometimes, character should be more involved. But people look for success, they look for people to get things done. … That’s the way it is.”

In the Monday press conference, DeSantis attacked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) as a “Soros-funded prosecutor” who is trying to create a “political spectacle,” a common attack line across the GOP. 

DeSantis has largely not responded to Trump’s attacks on him prior to his criticism of the former president this week. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

However, flares went up in Trump’s universe when DeSantis declared that he doesn’t “know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.”

His sit-down with British journalist Piers Morgan, who has also been a target of Trump’s venom, emerged a day later, showing him questioning Trump’s chaotic management style and criticizing him for hiring people who did not align with his policy positions and leaked information to reporters. 

“I also think just in terms of my approach to leadership, I get personnel in the government who have the agenda of the people and share our agenda,” DeSantis said. “You bring your own agenda in, you’re gone. We’re just not going to have that. So, the way we run the government, I think, is no daily drama, focus on the big picture and put points on the board, and I think that’s something that’s very important.”

The comments from DeSantis, who is running second to Trump in the majority of primary polls, have broken with most other current or likely Republican presidential candidates. Former Vice President Mike Pence and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) are among those who have issued words of support for Trump in the face of the looming indictment. 

“It’s gutsy,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who has not endorsed in the 2024 race but has previously been critical of Trump, told reporters of the governor’s attacks against Trump. “He’s stepping into a big arena. It’s a big arena. He’s probably calculating that if he’s going to be in that arena, you can’t just take all the blows. You have to land a couple yourself.” 

According to a pair of GOP operatives, however, DeSantis was both too late to respond and too weak in how he did it to be effective.

“The attacks from this week are too cute by half and come off as childish,” one GOP operative told The Hill. “What’s happening this week, the party thinks it’s wildly unfair and the way President Trump is being treated is a total joke, and they’re rallying around him — and that’s from a lot of people who love him, people who hate him who think he’s being treated unfairly.”

“These attacks are being perceived as cheap shots. Kicking someone while they’re down,” the operative continued. “So I don’t think they’ve helped [DeSantis]. If anything, they’ve helped Trump.” 

A second GOP strategist also questioned whether DeSantis is the right messenger for the pair of attacks over the ex-president’s character. The operative argued Pence and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who are viewed as top candidates for the evangelical, morality-based lane in an eventual 2024 field, would be more effective.

Both have supported Trump in the face of the possible indictment. 

Some GOP insiders have argued that DeSantis’s comments this week were too late and too weak to land any real impact. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

“Donald Trump creates the playing field on which everyone’s playing on. He has the ability to create and shape what everyone’s talking about,” the second GOP operative said. “Your success in today’s Republican Party is dependent on your ability to play on his game board.”

“[DeSantis’s staff] could have had a camera on him in Tallahassee in 5 minutes on Saturday. He could have said it in an off-the-cuff line and it would have been fine instead of it coming days later and it feeling like it was a calculated line,” the operative continued. “When the two guys who can claim the moral high ground in their own response don’t criticize the moral failings, that means you’re probably wrong as well.” 

Adding to the issues for DeSantis, he has lost steam in recent months polling-wise after deciding to completely sidestep the various criticisms from Trump. Some Republicans believe that DeSantis may be in a period of transition from his reelection romp in November to a likely national campaign after the Florida legislative session wraps up in May. 

Trump’s latest missive toward DeSantis also arrived Wednesday, dismissing his work in office and laying the success of his in Tallahassee with his “great Public Relations” team. 

A week ago, GOP lawmakers were cringing at Trump’s attacks on DeSantis, concerned they were an early sign of a bitter and drawn-out primary.

But notably, a number of senators — spanning the spectrum of Trump backers to critics — on Wednesday either claimed they hadn’t seen the latest back-and-forth or just declined to comment. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who usually doesn’t hesitate to talk national politics, notably demurred when asked about the bitterness between the two GOP figures.

“Can we talk about like the AUMF [authorization for use of military force] repeal or —” Cornyn, who has not endorsed in 2024 but has criticized Trump, said with a laugh. He added it doesn’t do him much good to get involved.  

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