As millions of relief dollars designated to assist school reopenings are still sitting untouched nearly a year after Congress passed stimulus legislation, congressional Democrats are seeking to provide $7.6 billion over the next 10 years toward a program that prioritizes the interests of teachers unions and the districts that bow to them over getting students back into classrooms now.
Beginning on page 210 of the massive COVID spending bill, Democrats included a provision to grant more funding for a scandal-filled, already bureaucratically resourced program called E-Rate. In its current state, E-Rate gives schools a discount on telecommunication services to better serve their classrooms. The latest legislation, however, expands E-Rate to provide funding and resources to schools incentivizing virtual learning as a majority of students around the nation approach nearly a year of no or limited in-person learning.
“E-Rate is a program worth fighting for, and that requires serious reform. If the goal is to get kids online right now, we have billions upon billions in unspent federal dollars between the FCC and the Department of Education for that purpose. We should implement those programs while heeding the calls of parents across the country to get schools open for in-person learning,” Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr told The Federalist.
In addition to allocating billions of dollars more to a program and state education agencies that only used approximately $3 billion of their previously designated $68 billion, E-Rate also has a bumpy track record in terms of rollout. As noted in a 2019 Government Accountability Office report, E-Rate often leaves poorer school districts without the ability to “provide wireless access off-premises” for their students, limiting who can access the technology and where they can get it. The program also provides no discounts or benefits for students and their families who need WiFi, only offering those benefits to science-denying school districts, most of which have chosen to stay closed for almost a year, a catch critics see as problematic.
“It’s not the most efficient way to help students and families,” Nathan Leamer, a former policy adviser to the now-departed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, told The Federalist. “There are ways that we could tie this to our students and we should be pursuing those options and, you know … they already received billions of dollars. How is how they allocate it different than the FCC? How are they working together to allocate this money appropriately to those in need, instead of the institutions who have more flexibility to use it as they see fit nicely, as students and family parents see fit?”
Some such as Leamer say there are faster solutions that could better assist students and their families in their efforts to return to classroom learning, but Democrats are choosing to include provisions that benefit certain interest groups instead. Just last week, the FCC enacted the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program meant to grant households and students in need of internet and technology services, such as computers or tablets, discounts so they can keep up with any remote learning requirements school districts might impose.
“No one should underestimate the time and agency resources it takes to stand up new connectivity programs. Congress directed us in December to create an emergency connectivity fund, and we just announced that we hope to open that fund up in the next 60 days. That is why leveraging these existing programs would be a faster and more effective way to help students in the near term,” Carr explained.
“Unlike E-Rate, the EBB program puts federal dollars directly towards the internet bills of families with children, not to school systems, and it lets those families choose the services that best meet their needs, rather than having school administrators make those purchasing decisions for them,” Carr added. “We should ensure that federal dollars follow the students, not the schools, as they would through E-Rate.”
Biden to Sign Executive Order Creating Commission on Changes to Supreme Court
President Joe Biden on Friday will order the creation of a commission to study possible reforms to the Supreme Court, including whether to expand the number of justices, which is a key goal of leftist members of the Democratic Party, or setting term limits for justices.
The order will form “the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, comprised of a bipartisan group of experts on the Court and the Court reform debate,” according to the statement from the White House on Friday.
The panel will consist of former federal judges and lawyers who have argued in front of the Supreme Court, as well as “advocates for the reform of democratic institutions and of the administration of justice,” the White House said. “The expertise represented on the Commission includes constitutional law, history, and political science.”
Calls to expand the Supreme Court reached a crescendo late last year after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Then-President Donald Trump appointed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, coming after he appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, giving the court a 6–3 conservative tilt.
The panel created by Biden will be led by Bob Bauer, who served as White House counsel for former President Barack Obama, and Yale Law School professor Cristina Rodriguez, who served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Obama administration.
Bauer, namely, has been a proponent for term limits for Supreme Court justices. In 2005, he wrote for the Washington Post that “in our system of government, we normally constrain great power with limits rather than license its indefinite exercise.”
He also previously worked for the Perkins Coie law firm, which has long worked for Democrats on election laws and was involved in the Russia-Trump “dossier” controversy several years ago. Bauer left Perkins Coie in 2019, according to the firm.
Last fall, Biden proposed a presidential commission when he was a candidate, partly as an alternative to “court-packing” efforts from some leftist members of the Democratic party. Republicans in Congress warned that expanding the Supreme Court would allow for Biden to appoint a slate of justices that would give the high court a left-wing slant, while Democrats said Republicans acted unfairly when the Senate, which was led by then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), blocked the confirmation of Merrick Garland to the court.
“It’s not about court-packing,” Biden said in response to a question at the time. “There’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated. … The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want. Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.”
According to the White House’s statement on Friday, more than 30 other people were named to the commission.
This week, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer warned against packing the court.
“Put abstractly, the Court’s power, like that of any tribunal, must depend upon the public’s willingness to respect its decisions, even those with which they disagree and even when they believe a decision seriously mistaken,” said Breyer, a member of the court’s liberal wing who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton.
“If the public sees judges as ‘politicians in robes,’ its confidence in the courts, and in the rule of law itself, can only diminish, diminishing the Court’s power, including its power to act as a ‘check’ on the other branches,” he added.
Biden Blasts US As ‘International Embarrassment’ In New Gun-Control Executive Orders
President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that he is issuing multiple executive orders to combat what he called a “public health crisis” and “international embarrassment” of gun violence in the United States.
Among Biden’s executive actions are directives for the Department of Justice to “stop the proliferation of ‘ghost gun’” building kits within 30 days by subjecting those who purchase them to regular firearm procedures such as background checks and serial numbers on the guns. Biden also gave the Justice Department 60 days to reclassifying pistols with stabilizing braces as short-barreled rifles and cited the recent shooting in Boulder, Colorado, as one example of how the braces could be abused to harm people. He also asked the department to publish an “annual report on firearms trafficking and annual updates necessary to give policymakers the information they need to help address firearms trafficking today.”
Other actions Biden suggested include publicizing model “red flag” legislation for states and Congress to evaluate implementing to “allow family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order temporarily barring people in crisis from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others.” Similarly, Biden recommended multiple federal agencies invest and engage in “evidence-based community violence interventions” around the nation funded by the president’s proposed “American Jobs Plan.”
During his announcement of the new gun regulations, Biden claimed he does not intend to infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights but warned that “no amendment to the Constitution is absolute.”
“You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater and call it freedom of speech,” he said.
President Biden unveils several new executive actions, his first steps on gun control.
First, he says he’ll reign in “ghost guns,” or kits to build firearms, and have them “treated as firearms under the Gun Control Act.” pic.twitter.com/nbmmKDzG86
— The Recount (@therecount) April 8, 2021
In addition to making false claims that buying a firearm at a gun show does not require a background check, Biden also called for a ban on high-capacity magazines and said that if he could pick one item to implement from his reform list, it would be allowing gun manufacturers to be sued.
“The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation,” Biden said.
Vice President Kamala Harris also weighed in, claiming these proposed actions are “reasonable” and need to be passed by Congress.
“I have fought my entire career to end this violence and to pass reasonable gun safety laws. Time and again, as progress has stalled, we have all asked — what are we waiting for? Because we aren’t waiting for a tragedy. I know that,” Harris said.
Biden also announced his intent to name David Chipman, an anti-gun group adviser, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), where he used to work as a special agent. Shortly before his nomination, Chipman locked his Twitter account, most likely in an effort to prevent journalists and others from discovering any politically charged tweets that sank previous Biden nominees.
Gun Rights Groups Say Biden’s Gun Orders Are ‘Tyrannical,’ Will ‘Dismantle’ Second Amendment
One of the largest gun rights groups in the country said it is preparing to fight a slew of executive actions from the Biden administration, claiming they’re “tyrannical” and that they will “spare no expense” in defeating them.
“Gun Owners of America is wholeheartedly opposed to the unconstitutional gun control threatened today by President Biden—restrictions such as the attacks on homemade and brace equipped firearms and so-called ‘Red Flag’ Gun Confiscation Orders,” said Gun Owners of America’s Senior Vice President Erich Pratt in a statement.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden unveiled executive actions that the administration will take, including restricting so-called “ghost guns” made from do-it-yourself kits, the aforementioned Red Flag laws, investing in “community violence interventions,” nominating David Chipman—a gun control advocate—to head the ATF, and issuing a yearly report on firearms trafficking.
Biden, in announcing the orders, said it would help “confront not just the gun crisis but what is actually a public health crisis.”
“Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment,” Biden said. “These are phony arguments suggesting that these are Second Amendment rights at stake from what we’re talking about.”
But Gun Owners of America’s (GOA) statement suggested that Biden’s executive action would violate the Constitution.
“GOA is committed to the defense of gun owners, their pistol-braced firearms, do-it-yourself firearm kits, unserialized homemade firearms, as well as any other lawfully-purchased, constitutionally protected items the Biden Administration proposes to criminalize or confiscate,” the statement added. “GOA’s grassroots members are primed and ready to fight back against whatever Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment violations Joe Biden is cooking up with his state-level so-called ‘Red Flag’ Gun Confiscation Order proposal.”
In the announcement, Biden claimed that “from the very beginning the Second Amendment existed, certain people weren’t allowed to have weapons. So the idea is just bizarre to suggest that some of the things we’re recommending are contrary to the Constitution.”
But the National Rifle Association (NRA) stipulated that Biden’s “actions could require Americans to surrender lawful property, push states to expand confiscation orders, and put a gun control lobbyist to head ATF” and accused the president of “dismantling the 2nd Amendment. It’s time to STAND and FIGHT!”
Thursday’s announcement comes after two mass shootings in Colorado and Georgia that collectively left 18 people dead.
And in March, the Democratic-controlled House passed two bills that would expand background checks, largely along partisan lines. One would increase background checks on individuals who are seeking to purchase or transfer firearms and would give authorities 10 business days for federal background checks to be completed before a gun sale can be licensed.
The push for gun control also comes after tens of millions of Americans purchased firearms last year, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It noted that 21 million firearms were bought in 2020, setting a new record.
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