Demand for bulletproof backpacks surging in the wake of shootings: report

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Jessica Campisi reports:

Bulletproof backpacks are reportedly rising in popularity as shootings increase across the nation and in the wake of two weekend massacres that left more than 30 people dead.

More companies are offering bulletproof backpacks for students as they gear up to go back to school as a means of protection if a potential threat were to enter their classroom, The New York Times reports.

The shields, which can cost up to $200, started becoming more in-demand after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in 2018. After the El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, shootings over the weekend, the products are back in the spotlight — especially as many students are days and weeks away from the new school year.

J.T. Lewis, a 19-year-old student at the University of Connecticut and the brother of one of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims, carried an armored backpack on campus to make him feel safer, the Times reports.

“I don’t know if it’s going to have any effect,” Lewis, who’s running for a seat in the Connecticut State Senate, told the Times. “But it might if I get shot from behind.”

Multiple companies, including Guard Dog Security — which has been marketing the product since the Newtown, Conn., shooting in 2012 — and ArmorMe have been selling the gear in stores such as Office Max, Office Depot and Kmart, the Times reports.

Other companies have sold protective panels that could be placed into a backpack.

“It could be the difference between life and death,” Yasir Sheikh, who runs Guard Dog, told the Times.

Since the Parkland massacre, there’s been, on average, one school shooting every 12 days, according to CNN, leading to gun control advocates speaking out in defense of tighter gun laws.

Multiple 2020 Democrats have decried the weekend shootings, saying the events illustrate why the U.S. needs to take action and pass legislation to curb gun violence.

Via thehill.com

‘Corn, soybeans and landmines’: Dems sweat early state blunders

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David Siders reports:

LAS VEGAS — With two sets of debates and six months of fundraising finished, a new stage is opening in the Democratic presidential primary: The summer slog.

For six weeks until the next debate, in mid-September, candidates will shift their focus more completely to the early primary states, grinding through a ritualistic run of picnics, forums, and party fundraisers: The Wing Ding, the Iowa State Fair, the Summer Sizzler, Londonderry’s Old Home Days.

For the frontrunners, the rigors of a month full of intimate, often less scripted public appearances will present a significant test. But the weaker contenders will also come under considerable pressure. Some will likely begin running out of money or will fail to qualify for the next set of debates, culling the now-sprawling field.

It was at the Iowa State Fair in 2011 that Mitt Romney perilously told a heckler: “Corporations are people.” Republicans Tommy Thompson and Tim Pawlenty abandoned their presidential campaigns that year after a weak showing in the Ames Straw Poll, before the GOP discontinued the tradition. 

Four years later in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton welcomed summer with her moving rope line to keep reporters at bay, reinforcing her campaign’s imperious image.

“The political landscape in Iowa is full of corn, soybeans and landmines,” said Dave Nagle, a former Iowa congressman and state Democratic party chairman. “An offhanded comment when a candidate is tired, a flippant remark can be blown way out of proportion and put a candidate significantly behind.”

Or as the progressive consultant Rebecca Katz put it, “There’s plenty of chances to fuck this all up.”

“All of these moments with candidates have been pretty controlled” so far in the campaign, said Katz, who advised Cynthia Nixon in her primary campaign against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year. “But now we’re getting into the quote, unquote fun part, and you’re going to see them out there with people really talking, and who knows what will happen.”

The campaign’s summer push began in 108-degree heat over the weekend in Las Vegas, where 19 candidates were drawn to a labor forum, then held competing rallies and events at senior centers, restaurants and churches in the city and suburban Henderson. 

The herd will migrate this week to Iowa and its Wing Ding dinner and state fair — speaking to raucous crowds and meeting with supporters, but also contending with fried food and hecklers.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign will focus much of its effort over the next six weeks building its organization in the four early primary states, with the candidate planning a spate of public appearances. Such in-person visits are vital to locking in support reflected in current polls, while also allowing Biden to road test and fine tune his campaign messages before public attention turns more completely to 2020 after Labor Day, a Biden adviser told POLITICO.

Sen. Kamala Harris, who has been slower than some candidates to establish a presence in Iowa, is planning a five-day bus tour through the state to assert herself there. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are both planning to aggressively campaign in Iowa and other early primary states. Several campaigns are beginning to internally discuss television advertising, after President Donald Trump aired a 30-second ad during the Democratic debates last week criticizing Democrats for “proposing a free taxpayer-funded healthcare for illegal immigrants.”

“Somehow these debates sort of stultified the race in some ways,” said Paul Maslin, a top Democratic pollster. “We’re in the middle of summer, and starting to get into late summer, and I don’t think any major candidate … has start to spend serious money in Iowa yet, or South Carolina or New Hampshire for that matter.”

He said, “I think these debates were a weird kind of death trap for most of these [campaigns] … I think now it’s going to start becoming much more of a fight about Iowa and New Hampshire.”

Initial polling following the second round of debates suggested little movement in public opinion polls. And most observers — including advisers to several campaigns — do not expect significant swings in public opinion before the next debates.

It is not impossible, however, and candidates will try. Twenty years ago, Bill Bradley used a furious summer of campaigning in New Hampshire to pull even with or overtake Al Gore in state polls, putting a scare into Gore’s campaign. Mark Longabaugh, who ran Bradley’s campaign in the state, called August “a dynamite time to gain ground in Iowa and New Hampshire … It’s a good opportunity to connect to some of those voters.”

In 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama used the summer of the off-election year to add policy heft to his campaign, proposing tax cuts for the middle class and announcing a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq. But it was still a slog for the future president, who entered August 2007 about 15 percentage points behind Clinton.

In the “dog days of summer,” said Doug Herman, a Democratic strategist who worked for Obama in New Hampshire in 2007, “It was a slog. We had trouble getting people to show up.”

“You’ve got people focused on vacation, and in Iowa they’re going to the state fair. And I guarantee you they’re not going because of the Soapbox,” he said. “There’s opportunity for stealth, under the radar movement. But it’s going to be because you’re organizing, and you’re doing it at a retail level.”

Free of debate preparation, candidates can focus on staffing, fundraising and on messaging that is not dictated by confrontation with other candidates. Michael Ceraso, who was South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s New Hampshire director before leaving the campaign last week, called August “a good month to get the house in order, scale, hire, put their efficiencies in place.”

Ceraso, who said he is leaving presidential politics to focus on advocacy work around mental health, said what a candidate accomplishes in August “is a huge part of the campaign’s DNA.”

In Las Vegas on Saturday, Julián Castro, the former Obama Cabinet secretary and former mayor of San Antonio, said his campaign is “keeping our head down and just getting stronger and stronger and stronger in this race.”

For many candidates, August will remain a rush to qualify for the September debates. On Friday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar became the eighth candidate to announce that she had met the polling and donor thresholds required ahead of an Aug. 28 deadline.

Marc Farinella, who ran Obama’s North Carolina campaign in 2008, said, “The way most campaigns end is your accountant calls you and says you’re out of money. So, the second-tier candidates need to find a way to hold on … The summer is likely to be a tough time. It’s often a slow fundraising time anyway.”

He said, “The whole environment is such that there’s likely going to be a lot of stasis. Things are likely frozen for a bit.”

Jaime Harrison, associate chair of the Democratic National Committee and a former South Carolina state party chair, said, “The question is whether dollars start to dry up … and you get folks who drop out before the official announcement of the next debate [qualifiers] in order to save face.”

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, one of many candidates who has not yet qualified for the September debate, joked to reporters over the weekend at an event in Las Vegas, “As soon as all of you put SteveBullock.com as part of the story, I’m sure we’ll get the donors.”

But he downplayed the significance of qualifying, saying it is voters in early primary states — “like here in Nevada” — who winnow the field.

In his answer, Bullock avoided a common gaffe.

As Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said when asked what advice he would give to candidates about campaigning in his early primary state, “The first thing they need to do to appeal to the people of Nevada is understand that it’s pronounced Nev-AD-a.”

Via politico.com

Demise of U.S-Russia missile treaty sparks concerns of domino effect

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Wesley Morgan reports:

The departure of the U.S. from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia on Friday set off concerns that broader efforts to stem nuclear weapons are now at greater risk of collapsing — especially a separate treaty limiting ballistic missiles on each side that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads tens of thousands of miles. 

The official pullout from the INF Treaty comes six months after the Trump administration previewed its intention to scrap the 1987 agreement, citing repeated Russian violations.

The pact, which was negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, banned all land-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. 

It has long been considered a landmark achievement in arms control by outlawing an entire class of weapons and significantly reducing military tensions between East and West — particularly in Europe, where Soviet and NATO missiles could quickly threaten population centers on both sides and deprive leaders adequate decision time in a crisis. 

“This was a treaty that helped end the Cold War,” said Jon Wolfsthal, a former arms control official in the Obama administration. “It worked well for 30 years and then Russia was caught cheating.” 

Russia began developing the banned missiles as long as a decade ago, according to the U.S. government, a charge Moscow has denied.

"The United States worked hard to prevent this outcome," the chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), said in a joint statement. "For nearly six years, the United States pursued dialogue with Russia in the hopes it might return to compliance. It did so under both Democratic and Republican administrations. And it did so in concert with our allies.

"But as has often been the case under Vladimir Putin, Russia responded with denials, obfuscation and false counter-accusations," they added. "President Trump made the right decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty."

Another factor in the decision to pull out of the INF Treaty was the military rise of China, which is not governed by the treaty and can freely develop such missiles.

That’s “the reason the U.S. put no serious effort into preserving the treaty,” said Thomas Countryman, a former State Department arms control official who believes more should have been done to try to salvage it.

Other critics say forces in the Trump administration, especially national security adviser John Bolton, were too quick to abandon the treaty. 

“There are some voices in the U.S. government that believe that because China is not limited and has these intermediate-range missiles, the U.S. needs to have them, too," Wolfsthal said. "That’s not a consensus and it’s not clear that such missiles are needed militarily, but between John Bolton and those voices, it was enough for Donald Trump to kill the treaty,” 

It's unclear what exactly the U.S. and its NATO allies will do now that there is little hope the Russians will return to compliance. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recently told POLITICO that "if they don't come back into compliance, we have made it absolutely clear, we will respond. ... We will respond in a measured, defensive way. We will not mirror what Russia is doing. ... We don't have the intention of deploying new nuclear missiles in Europe, but we will respond making sure we have credible deterrence."

Indeed, plans for the Pentagon to respond with a new missile of its own remain in flux. Congress has deep disagreements about whether to back Pentagon proposals to develop new medium-range missiles.

"The Defense Department has requested nearly $100 million in fiscal year 2020 to develop three new missile systems that would exceed the range limits of the treaty, but the Democratic-led House of Representatives has expressed concern about the rationale for the missiles," the Arms Control Association, a nonpartisan think tank, reported on the cusp of the U.S. withdrawal. "The House versions of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and defense appropriations bill zeroed out the Pentagon’s funding request for the missiles."

But arms control advocates appear most worried that the death of INF further dims the prospects for another treaty with global implications. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the 2010 pact reached between Putin and President Barack Obama, is set to expire in early 2021 unless the two sides agree to extend it.

New START caps the number of nuclear warheads the U.S. and Russia can each deploy at 1,500 and limits each country's arsenal of ballistic missile launchers and strategic bombers. 

Diplomats have had irregular discussions in Switzerland on ways to extend the treaty five more years. But the Trump administration has insisted it wants to widen the number of nuclear powers that are party to it. 

“The President has charged us to think more broadly about arms control, both in terms of the countries and the weapons systems,” the White House said in a statement, which added that “both Russia and China must be brought to the table.

“The world has moved on from the Cold War and its bilateral treaties; serious arms control that delivers real security to the American people and their allies must as well,” the White House added.

Some critics of that approach see it as untenable anytime soon and therefore a "poison pill" designed to kill nuclear arms negotiations altogether. 

New START is “the last treaty to limit U.S. and Russian arsenals, and John Bolton is looking for a way to kill off that treaty,” Countryman predicted.

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres also warned about the consequences of killing the INF Treaty, telling reporters that it “will likely heighten, not reduce, the threat posed by ballistic missiles.”

Via politico.com

Biden: 'Bizarre' that Democrats attacked Obama's policies at debate

 Joe Biden, the 47th vice president of the United States, was the featured guest for the Tom Johnson Lectureship at the LBJ Presidential Library on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. The conversation was moderated by Mark Updegrove, former director of the LBJ Library. 

Biden represented Delaware for 36 years in the U.S. Senate before serving as vice president from 2009 to 2017 in the administration of President Barack Obama. As vice president, Biden addressed important issues facing the nation and represented America abroad, traveling over 1.2 million miles to more than 50 countries. He convened sessions of the President's Cabinet, led interagency efforts, and worked with Congress in his fight to raise the living standards of middle-class Americans, reduce gun violence, address violence against women, and end the devastation of cancer.

The event was held in the LBJ Auditorium and was the fifth annual Tom Johnson lecture. The lecture series was created to honor Tom Johnson, who served for 30 years as chairman of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation Board of Trustees. Johnson also served as executive assistant to President Johnson and, later, as president and then chairman of CNN.

10/03/2017   LBJ Library photo by Jay Godwin

Julia Manchester and Tal Axelrod report:

Former Vice President Joe Biden slammed other 2020 rivals for criticizing former President Obama's policies, telling reporters Thursday that it was "bizarre" that the previous administration's actions were being compared to President Trump's.

"I was a little surprised at how much incoming there was about Barack, about the president," Biden said.

“I’m proud of having served him. I’m proud of the job he did. I don’t think there's anything he has to apologize for," he said.

Biden also strongly defended the Obama administration's record, while criticizing those who compared their policies on issues like immigration to Trump's.

"He changed the dialogue, he changed the whole question, he changed what was going on. And the idea that somehow it’s comparable to what this guy is doing is absolutely bizarre," Biden said comparing Obama to Trump.

The strong defense of Obama came after some Democratic candidates appeared to criticize a number of policies under the Obama administration on Wednesday night, including on deportations and his signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

Though Obama remains broadly popular among Democrats some progressives have long argued for a new Democratic president willing to take bolder action.

The debate is most prominent over health care, where candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are pushing for a more comprehensive "Medicare for All," whereas Biden and other more centrist candidates are pushing to build on ObamaCare.

Obama's record on deportations and immigration also came under fire during the forum at a time when Trump has come under intense criticism from Democrats over his "zero tolerance" policy.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio questioned Biden on whether he thought the 3 million deportations under the Obama administration were a good idea.

While Biden said he would not share details about his private conversations with Obama, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) interjected, saying he couldn't have it both ways.

“Mr. Vice President, you can’t have it both ways,” Booker said Wednesday. “You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.”

Biden has made a concerted effort to tout his ties to the former president, who is seen as one of the most popular figures within the Democratic Party.

Booker defended his criticism on Thursday, saying that he was still immensely loyal to Obama.

"The reality is we have a situation right now where the president is doing things to this country that are perverting our very values and ideals, and talking about what our plans would be, different from the previous president; different from the current president, is not a bad thing," Booker said.

"He [Obama] is our statesmen," he said. "He ain't perfect. Nobody's ever pulled that off."

Via thehill.com

Tim Ryan: Democrats will 'lose 48 states' on a Medicare for All platform

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Democratic presidential candidate Tim Ryan on Wednesday called the Medicare for All proposals backed by other 2020 candidates a "potential disaster" for the party, doubling down on criticism of a policy he said would cost Democrats all but two states in next year's election. 

The Ohio congressman devoted much of his rhetoric on Tuesday night's debate stage to questioning proposals from his more left-leaning counterparts to nationalize the nation's health system, a plan he said would take private insurance away from union workers who have sacrificed wages during negotiations in order to secure stronger health benefits. Ryan painted Medicare for All, championed most notably by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as a losing issue across much of blue-collar America.

“I think we’d lose 48 states and I’m having a hard time figuring out what the two states are we’re going to win if our lead message is we’re gonna confiscate healthcare from people,” Ryan said. “Let’s focus on giving healthcare and getting healthcare affordable and accessible to people who don’t have it. That should be the message, not taking it away."

Other moderate Democrats have expressed opposition to Medicare for All and echoed Ryan’s fear that pushing such a policy would clear the path for defeat in 2020. Former representative John Delaney called the plan “bad policy” and said that it “will just get President Trump re-elected.”

“We don't have to go around and be the party of subtraction, and telling half the country, who has private health insurance, that their health insurance is illegal,” Delaney, a former Maryland congressman, said.

Both Sanders and Warren are co-sponsors of Medicare for All legislation that they argue would provide quality care to Americans while cutting out the private sector and lowering healthcare costs overall. Asked to respond to Delaney's criticism on Tuesday night, Sanders replied, "You're wrong."

"If you want a system which gives you freedom of choice with regard to a doctor or a hospital, which is a system which will not bankrupt you, the answer is to get rid of the profiteering of the drug companies and the insurance companies. Move to Medicare for All," Sanders said.

Still, Ryan framed the proposal as political suicide for Democrats.

“If our message isn’t 'we want to provide healthcare for everybody,' the message is going to be 'we want to take really good healthcare from people in the United States who have negotiated these contracts, negotiated good healthcare,'” Ryan said.

Via Politico.com

Trump Signs 9/11 Bill Extending Compensation for First Responders

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Bowen Xiao reports:

President Donald Trump signed a bill on July 29 that authorizes the extension of a compensation fund for first responders who risked their lives during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“Today, we come together as one nation to support our September 11 heroes, to care for their families, and to renew our eternal vow—never ever forget,” President Trump said in the Rose Garden before signing the bipartisan bill, dubbed the “Never Forget the Heroes Act,” which passed the Senate on July 23 in a 97–2 vote.

Trump took a moment from his speech to respond to a recent incident at the California Garlic Festival, where three people were shot and killed. The president called the perpetrator a “wicked murderer,” and said of the victims: “We grieve for their families. … We’re praying for those who are recovering right now in the hospital.”

“We will continue to work together as communities … to stop evil,” Trump said.

During his remarks, Trump introduced his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who was New York City’s mayor during the 9/11 attacks. The president said Giuliani was “our greatest mayor, in my opinion,” calling on him to stand up.

Trump told the many first responders in the audience that they “inspire all of humanity.”

“You lift up our communities and you remind us what it means to all stand united, one nation under God,” he said. “Today, we strive to fulfill our sacred duty to you.”

According to the White House, the legislation authorizes federal funding until 2092 to compensate an estimated 18,100 victims and their relatives, according to government estimates.

Many first responders were exposed to toxic chemicals during the attack in which two jets flown by radical Islamic terrorists crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

“The whole world witnessed the might and resilience of our nation and the extraordinary men and women of the New York fire department and the New York police department,” Trump said. “Selfless patriots with unmatched character and devotion—I grew up with them, so I can tell you that’s absolutely true.”

Trump said he was “deeply honored” to be in the presence of more than 60 first responders. He asked them to stand, to ringing applause.

“The love and loyalty of our 9/11 responders knew no bounds,” he said. “They answered terror with the emotional strength of true American warriors.”

Trump noted the late New York City Detective Luis Alvarez, a 9/11 responder who was a major advocate of the bill. In June, Alvarez testified before Congress, which Trump said “touched the heart of our nation.” Alvarez passed away just days after his testimony due to cancer linked to the attacks.

Trump said he was privileged to have Alvarez’s brother, Philip; his wife, Alaine; and sons Tyler and Ben in attendance.

“Our whole nation prays and pays tribute to the incredible life and legacy of Detective Alvarez—how hard he worked and how much he suffered,” Trump said. “And we really want to thank him.”

After Trump closed his remarks and signed the bill, he received a standing ovation. For about 10 minutes, the president shook hands and took photos with attendees.

Other notable attendees at the event included Vice President Mike Pence, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and a number of Republican senators.

A White House official noted that every member of Congress had been invited to attend the signing. No Democrat lawmakers attended the event.

Via theepochtimes.com

Federal Borrowing Soars as Deficit Fear Fades

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Kate Davidson reports:

WASHINGTON—Borrowing by the federal government is set to top $1 trillion for the second year in a row as higher spending outpaces revenue growth and concern about budget deficits wanes in Washington and on Wall Street.

The Treasury Department said Monday it expects to issue $814 billion in net marketable debt in the second half of this calendar year, bringing total debt issuance to $1.23 trillion in 2019. That would represent a slight decline from borrowing in 2018, when the Treasury issued $1.34 trillion in debt—more than twice as much as the $546 billion it issued in 2017.

The budget gap for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 is on course to exceed $1 trillion, following the 2017 tax cuts that constrained federal revenue and a previous two-year budget deal that raised spending nearly $300 billion above spending caps Congress enacted in 2011.

The new budget agreement congressional leaders announced last week effectively pushed the issue of government spending off until after the 2020 election.

Concerns about rising deficits and debt have been absent from the presidential campaign trail, in contrast to previous election cycles.

The tea party rose to prominence amid a budget austerity drive that consumed Washington in the early part of the decade, leading to the 2011 deal in Congress to impose spending caps. Worries about rising borrowing costs in the early 1990s led to sweeping bipartisan budget deals during the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, putting the budget in the black for the first time since 1969.

But political support for taming deficits faded in recent years, with Republicans supporting higher deficits in exchange for tax cuts and Democrats pushing for more spending on domestic programs.

The current bipartisan budget agreement, set for approval by the Senate this week, would boost federal outlays and suspend the government’s borrowing limit for two years, adding further to annual deficits into the future. It would lift spending $44 billion above fiscal year 2019 levels, or 3.5%, not including emergency war funding or one-time funding for the 2020 census.

Without a new deal, automatic spending cuts would have reduced discretionary spending—the part of the budget Congress can adjust each year—by 10% in 2020, weighing on economic growth.

The agreement removes a key source of economic uncertainty heading into the presidential election year, though economists said the modest spending lift is unlikely to translate into higher growth.

The deficit as a share of the economy is set to more than double over the coming decades, due in part to higher spending on Social Security and Medicare.

“It is difficult to see what would bring the deficit below $1 trillion in the absence of a very large turnaround in fiscal policy,” said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning think tank. “We can’t count on an economic recovery to save us like it did last time we had trillion-dollar deficits.”

Low borrowing costs, meanwhile, suggest that markets remain unfazed by all the red ink. Government debt has soared since the financial crisis, but 10-year Treasury yields have fallen to near 2% from more than 5% in 2006, holding down government interest payments. 

At the same time, mainstream economists are increasingly questioning whether larger federal debt and deficits might be tolerable if put toward programs that would bolster long-term economic growth.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated last week the budget deal would add $265 billion to federal deficits over the next decade, though projected deficits could be as high as $1.7 trillion during that time if spending continues on the same trajectory.

Deficits usually decline during economic expansions such as the current record-long one, as low unemployment and rising paychecks push up federal tax revenue, and automatic spending on safety-net programs declines.

Deficits, after falling in the expansion’s first six years as a share of the economy, are rising again. 

“Austerity is on no one’s political agenda at present, and even though this is the time in the business cycle where you really ought to be cutting back on red ink, there’s simply no appetite for it,” said Louis Crandall, an economist at Wrightson ICAP.

The U.S. economy grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.1% in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday, a slowdown from 3.1% in the first quarter but still a solid clip 10 years into the economic expansion.

Employers added 224,000 jobs in June, and the jobless rate continued to hover near a 50-year low at 3.7%, the Labor Department said earlier this month.

The estimates released Monday by the Treasury suggest the government borrowing surge will continue through the end of the calendar year. 

The department’s latest borrowing estimate is up significantly since its projection in April, when the government was constrained by the debt ceiling, which took effect March 2 after a previous one-year suspension. The agency has been relying on so-called “extraordinary measures” since then to keep paying the government’s bills on time, but has been unable to tap bond markets to raise new cash.

The deal in Congress announced last week would suspend the debt limit for two years—until July 31, 2021—enabling the government to begin borrowing again.

The Treasury said it now expects to end the third quarter with $350 billion in cash, compared with the $85 billion it estimated in April, before the deal to suspend the debt ceiling was announced. By the end of May, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers that the government may run out of cash by early September, a warning that accelerated negotiations over the deal.

The House voted last week to approve the agreement, which the Senate is expected to pass this week before leaving for its August recess. President Trump praised the pact as a positive for the military and veterans and urged Republicans to support it.

Fiscal conservatives, however, have warned the agreement will enshrine trillion-dollar deficits.

The Treasury said last month the U.S. budget gap widened 23% in the first nine months of the fiscal year, as higher federal spending outpaced rising tax receipts. Higher spending on the military and interest on the debt drove federal outlays up 7%, to $3.3 trillion as of June 30, while tax receipts rose 3%, to $2.6 trillion.

The Treasury will release new details on its financing plans Wednesday.

Via wsj.com

Democrats call for increased security after 'send her back' chants

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Lawmakers on Thursday expressed alarm over the threats toward freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) after a crowd at President Trump’s rally the night before chanted “send her back.”

Multiple Democrats are calling for more enhanced security for members of Congress, including Omar and her three closest allies who were also targeted by Trump earlier this week when he suggested they all “go back” to other countries.

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) announced on the House floor that he plans to introduce legislation asking for more security resources for lawmakers. While members of leadership in both parties have dedicated security details, rank-and-file members do not.

“This is an important time in this country. These are dangerous times. Every member of this House needs additional security,” Green said. 

“Leadership has adequate security. Members do not have adequate security. I want to thwart the efforts of those who might want to harm a member of this House,” Green continued.

Asked by reporters if she was scared for her safety, Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, said "I am not. What I'm scared for is the safety for people who share my identity."

"This is not about me. This is about fighting for what this country should be and what it deserves to be," Omar said.

The House voted on Wednesday to table a resolution from Green to impeach Trump for inflaming racial tensions in America that cited the attacks on the four congresswomen as the latest example.

Omar on Thursday stressed the importance of lawmakers sending the message that we’re “all welcome, irregardless of what he says.”

“And so I’m going to go vote on minimum wage and uplift millions of people,” she said, stepping into the House chamber as lawmakers were about to pass legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), one of the four lawmakers targeted by Trump this week, said Thursday that she’s concerned for her safety amid heightened attacks from Trump on her and the members of her “squad,” accusing the president of targeting the minority lawmakers at risk of inciting violence against them. 

Asked if she is concerned about her security, Ocasio-Cortez was blunt.

“Of course. I think part of the point is to target us,” she said. “The president is evolving, as predicted, deeper into. ... the rhetoric of racism which evolves into violence.”

She added: “It’s natural to be concerned about our security.”

Ocasio-Cortez said the caucus is “having conversations” about how to address those concerns, but did not provide any details about the substance of those talks or whether targeted members have been offered additional security.

Earlier this week, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) sent a letter to Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, who currently chairs the Capitol Police Board, to set thresholds for “enhanced security for certain targeted members.”

“Being proactive in this instance is vital to the safety of not only these targeted members, but all members of Congress,” Thompson wrote in the letter, which came after Trump’s tweets over the weekend attacking the four progressive freshmen: Omar and Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). 

In the letter, dated Monday, Thompson asked Stenger to convene an emergency meeting of the Capitol Police Board within 48 hours and requested a classified readout.

Thompson told The Hill on Thursday that he hadn't yet received a response to his letter. He plans to send another letter in the aftermath of Trump's rally "just to highlight the ongoing threat, that what the president is saying is not helping the safety of members."

Thompson previously urged the Capitol Police Board to convene an emergency meeting in April after Trump tweeted an edited video of Omar talking about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Earlier this week, the Capitol Police chief said that threats against lawmakers are increasing and projected that the number of threats this year will break last year's record. 

During the rally Wednesday night in Greenville, N.C., Trump mentioned each of the four Democratic lawmakers by name and listed quotes that he argued demonstrated how they are outside the mainstream. As Trump spoke about Omar, the crowd broke into chants of “send her back.”

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), who represents the district where Trump’s rally took place, said that he’s worried the president is “inciting many of those to the dark side.” 

“I'm concerned about the safety, not just for the four women, but the safety of everyone who is similarly situated,” Butterfield said. 

“The president needs to check himself. And we need to check the president to make sure that he understands the gravity of his conduct,” Butterfield continued.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who like Butterfield and Omar is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said she is “frightened” by the atmosphere on display at Trump’s rally.

“I am concerned for women of color, who may be fighting on the foreign shores as to how their morale would be,” Jackson Lee said. “I certainly am concerned about my fellow members of Congress who, as everyone has said, have been duly elected by their constituency. And I am frightened about highlighting a woman whose birth was first in Africa.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), meanwhile, defended Trump, saying the president’s message is simply that “if you don’t love America, you can leave.”

“He doesn’t pinpoint any individual,” McCarthy said. “He talks about the love of America.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot and gravely wounded in 2017 when a man opened fire on a baseball practice by the House GOP team. The man who shot Scalise had made a number of postings on Facebook highlighting a hatred for Republicans.

In 2011, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot and gravely wounded by a man who opened fire on a constituent meet-and-greet at a grocery store parking lot. Six people were killed in the shooting.

Via thehill.com