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Female, Democratic and younger. EMILY’s List charts path to long-term power

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WASHINGTON — As the two parties battle for control of Congress in this year’s midterm elections, it follows that most of the political world would pay little attention to the election in New York’s 25th District.

That’s because the Rochester-based seat left open by Rep. Louise Slaughter’s death earlier this month is a virtual lock to elect a Democrat.

Slaughter won there 16 times, Hillary Clinton won it by more than 15 percentage points in 2016 and Democrats have a ready-made candidate in state Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, who wasted little time in rounding up local Democratic officials and Slaughter family members to coalesce behind his bid.

But EMILY’s List wants the party to hit the pause button on Morelle, who is 61.

Top officials at the Washington-based political network that recruits, trains and funds abortion-rights-backing Democratic women candidates see a chance to elect a younger woman to a seat that could be in the party’s hands for decades to come.

Across the country, EMILY’s List is backing more than 40 women House candidates, including many in the high-profile swing districts that will determine which party controls the House in the next Congress.

But in an important way, the safe House seats have more long-term value for a group trying to empower women in Congress. The more they can help women get elected to safe House seats, the more likely it is that future leaders in the House will be women.

For lawmakers to win chairmanships in the seniority-based committee system, they have to get re-elected repeatedly. That’s easier in politically safe districts. So is advancing in party leadership, which requires modern House members to take highly partisan stands and spend much of their time outside their districts raising money for colleagues.

The formula’s “not a huge mystery,” said Danielle Thomsen, an assistant professor of political science at Syracuse University who hasstudied candidates and polarization in Congress.

Top officials at EMILY’s List see Sarah Clark, the 44-year-old deputy state director for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and an alumna of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s office, as the kind of candidate who could someday become a force in the House, like Slaughter, who rose to become the top Democrat on the powerful House Rules Committee.

 Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List, speaks onstage at EMILY’s List Pre-Oscars Brunch and Panel on Feb. 27, 2018 in Los Angeles. Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images file

They dispatched veteran political operative Angela Kouters to Rochester to try to convince Clark to jump in the race before Morelle can lock up all the support he needs.

“We’re in the process of really taking a look at this with her,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock told NBC News.

Clark, who did not return calls from NBC News, has agreed to collect the signatures she’d need to get on the ballot while she weighs whether to jump in, according to a person familiar with her plans.

Schriock wants Democrats to wait a beat before deciding Morelle is the best person to take Slaughter’s seat because she thinks men — particularly white men — are sometimes quicker out of the gate to announce their candidacies.

“Women potential candidates often take a little more time to decide,” she said. “If we don’t pause, we don’t get women in the mix and we don’t get people of color in the mix.”

 Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Rochester, speaks in the Assembly Chamber at the state Capitol on June 20, 2017, in Albany, New York. Hans Pennink / AP file

Sometimes, there’s a tension between EMILY’s List’s two main missions: electing Democratic women who support abortion rights and helping Democrats take control of the House. That is, sometimes party leaders don’t think the EMILY’s List candidate is the best one to win in a particular swing district.

This year, the group has found itself at odds with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a handful of competitive primaries. That’s caused consternation within Democratic ranks when it’s happened in swing districts, where party officials are most concerned about ensuring victory in November.

But the open seat in Rochester represents a more traditional battleground for EMILY’s List— a place where there’s little chance that nominating a particular candidate will cost Democrats a seat in the House. And if they can stock the benches of the House chamber with women, the next leaders of the party are more likely to come from those ranks.

“You better believe this is a piece of the puzzle for us,” Schriock said.

CORRECTION (March 31, 2018, 9:28 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of a Syracuse University assistant professor of political science. She is Danielle Thomsen, not Thomson.

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Boris Johnson told 'up your game' and 'listen to shop floor' in fishing row

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A FORMER Brexit Party MEP has called on Boris Johnson to “up your game” to help British fishermen amid claims post-Brexit trade barriers had left some within the industry struggling to survive.

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Biden calls for ‘peace and calm’ in wake of Daunte Wright shooting in Minnesota

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President Joe Biden on Monday called for “peace and calm” in the wake of the”tragic” fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright in Minnesota.

“I haven’t called Daunte Wright’s family, but my prayers are with the family. It’s really a tragic thing that happened,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office of Wright’s death Sunday. “The question is, was it an accident? Was it intentional? That remains to be determined by a full-blown investigation,” he said, describing the body-camera footage of the shooting as “fairly graphic.”

Wright, 20, was shot after he was pulled over in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center for allegedly having an air freshener hanging from his rear-view mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said he believes, based on the body camera footage, that the officer who shot Wright mistakenly believed she was firing a taser and not her gun.

The shooting took place about 14 miles north of where George Floyd was killed last year, as former police officer Derek Chauvin is standing trial for Floyd’s murder. Floyd’s death set off a wave of protests across the country last year, some of which led to rioting and looting.

Biden called for any protests to Wright’s shooting to remain “peaceful,” echoing a plea from Wright’s mother.

“There is absolutely no justification, none, for looting, no justification for violence. Peaceful protests, understandable, and the fact is that, you know, we do know, that the anger, pain, and trauma that exists in the Black community in that environment is real, it’s serious, and it’s consequential. But it will not justify violence and/or looting,” he said.

“And we should listen to Daunte’s mom, who is calling for peace and calm,” he said.

Asked if he’d deploy federal resources to help keep the peace if necessary, Biden noted that he’d already done so because of the Chauvin trial.

“There are already federal resources,” Biden said. “There will not be a lack of help and support from the federal government if the local authorities believe it’s needed.”

Emma Thorne contributed.

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Trump-era tax change emerges as wedge issue in Democrats’ infrastructure debate

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Dissent whether to reinstate unlimited state and local tax deductions has emerged as a critical wedge in Democrats’ path to advancing President Joe Biden’s sweeping infrastructure plan.

Unlike most of former President Donald Trump’s policies, which the Biden administration has aimed to largely undo, the institution of the so-called SALT caps by Congress in 2017 has received support among elements of the Democratic Party — not least of all from the president himself.

Progressive groups have maintained the deduction predominantly benefits the wealthy, and the White House has signaled it wants to keep them because they can help pay for the infrastructure plan. Calls to reverse the caps, and restore the unlimited deduction, however, have emanated from a growing number of moderate Democrats predominantly from the Northeast and California — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — where property-owning residents of those high-tax states stand to benefit from the relief on their federal taxes.

The debate puts Biden, who campaigned on reversing most of Trump’s tax moves, including the SALT caps, in the unusual spot of siding against reversing a Trump policy.

Democratic strategists and lawmakers say the battle should come as no surprise: Trump set up this very fight to occur when he included the controversial caps on SALT deductions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The measure has, as intended, divided Democrats into a wealthier, establishment camp that favored the uncapped deductions, and a more populist and progressive wing that outspokenly supports higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for social programs and reduce income inequality.

“Democrats haven’t shown that they’re all in this together. And Mr. Biden doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room here,” said Glenn Totten, a veteran Democratic strategist.

“For now, all this debate does is make the job of Mitch McConnell and the Republicans easier because it frames it as a blue state versus red state issue,” he added. “Which was one of the intentions of the SALT caps in the first place.”

‘Not a revenue raiser’

The White House has repeatedly signaled that SALT caps are the rare policy issue from the Trump era that Biden supports.

During press briefings last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to multiple questions about the SALT issue by pointing out that undoing the caps “is not a revenue raiser,” even after it was pointed out to her by reporters that Democrats who support reversing the caps could easily sink an infrastructure bill.

Axios reported earlier this month that senior members of the administration felt that keeping the caps in place is “good policy” because they bring tens of billions of dollars in federal tax revenue.

A Biden administration spokesperson responded to questions from NBC News about the White House’s position on SALT by pointing to Psaki’s comments at recent briefings.

Progressive groups and strategists have said they support the SALT caps because they do, in fact, make a large portion of high earners pay more in federal taxes, which can then be used to fund progressive programs.

“It’s necessary to tax the wealthy, which has become a widely popular position. It’s clear that needs to happen. That is one way to do it,” said Maura Quint, the executive director of Tax March, a progressive group that advocates for tax fairness.

But so far, those lawmakers who want to reverse this particular Trump policy aren’t budging.

Eight moderate House Democrats, mostly from the blue states where residents were hammered by Trump’s SALT caps, penned a letter earlier this month, saying they were a hard “no” on Biden’s plan if it didn’t include lifting them.

“We’re going to keep fighting until this is part of the bill. It’s as critical as a road or a bridge or a tunnel, which is why we are going to keep fighting for it until the end,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., who was one of the eight to sign the letter, said in an interview.

“The SALT deduction cap was designed to target blue states,” Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., who also signed the letter, said in an email. “We are being punished for running programs that help our citizens.”

Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., another signatory, told NBC News that, “If we don’t get it done now, we won’t get it done. I’m pushing for a full repeal.” He added, “No SALT, no deal,” repeating a mantra both he and Gottheimer have said recently.

Pelosi has said in recent days that she is a “big supporter” of and was “sympathetic” to removing the caps and that “hopefully we can get it into the bill.” Schumer, meanwhile, sponsored a bill earlier this year that would restore the SALT deduction.

That could end up being more than enough to push Biden, who had expressed support for repealing the caps during the presidential primary, to undo them and align with the moderates.

Democrats have a narrow majority in the House and must keep their defections to a minimum in order to pass a bill, unless they get Republican support. In the Senate, a host of other issues, including a robust debate over raising corporate taxes, promise to further complicate the plan’s future.

‘Retribution politics’ or tax the rich?

Prior to 2017, filers could deduct all of their state and local taxes against their federal taxes.

For taxpayers in high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and California, the SALT deduction offered potentially enormous federal tax relief, because filers could write off the large amount of state and local taxes they were paying.

But the Trump administration, as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, instituted a $10,000 cap on that deduction, meaning filers who pay tens of thousands of dollars in state and local taxes now faced a very low ceiling to what they could deduct. As a result, the amount in federal taxes these filers owed went up significantly.

Proponents of keeping SALT caps, including progressives, have pointed to the fact that their removal would disproportionately benefit the wealthy. According to a 2020 Brookings Institution analysis, 96 percent of the benefits of a SALT cap repeal would help the top fifth of all taxpayers, and nearly 60 percent of the benefits would help the top 1 percent. Twenty-five percent of the benefits of a SALT cap repeal would benefit the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers, the analysis found.

Lawmakers in high-tax blue states have claimed Trump and Republicans included the measure to punish them. (New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called the policy “retribution politics, plain and simple.”)

“It’s impossible to deny that Republicans when they fashioned their tax bill, were quick to try to use wedge issues wherever possible,” Totten said.

What happens next?

The irony that Biden’s posture on a policy created by Trump could make or break an infrastructure package isn’t lost on strategists. Several said that regardless of that unusual intersection, Biden’s apparent support of keeping the SALT caps simply helps bolster the consistency he’s so far maintained in pitching progressive policies.

“It makes for some strange bedfellows,” Democratic strategist Joel Payne said.

Payne pointed out that, even though it was a Trump-era policy, SALT caps actually align with a progressive ”bottom-up approach” to the economy — one on which the Biden presidency has been consistent.

“The president is siding with the progressive position, which has been a consistent thread in all of his policy pronouncements so far, certainly with tax policy — that wealthy and the well-connected should pay more,” he said. “And that he could possibly dig in there represents a sea change in mainstream Democratic politics.”

In Payne’s estimation, Biden “is going to negotiate on this.”

The president is scheduled to meet Monday with Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate to talk about his infrastructure plan.

What future talks look like — possibilities include giving moderate Democrats what they seek; raising the caps instead of lifting them altogether; or promising that addressing the caps will come in a different bill, possibly Biden’s promised second infrastructure bill — is just the latest example of how Biden will have to work to keep the Democratic Party’s delicate coalition together while also keeping promises to undo many of his predecessor’s policies.

Some progressives are signaling they’re willing to cede some ground.

“Fundamentally, SALT isn’t necessarily the top issue,” said Quint, of Tax March, whose group just last year had been strongly opposed to efforts to repeal the caps. “We need to be looking at larger issues like increasing the corporate tax rate, looking at a wealth tax. The SALT cap is not an area for us to get lost in or divided over.”



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