GOP RELIEF BILL PUTS SPENDING CAPS ON RENTAL ASSISTANCE: New rules written into a fast-moving spending bill this week will slow down a state rental assistance effort that has already struggled to get money out quickly, the program's director said Thursday. State lawmakers added spending caps for each of North Carolina's 100 counties to a $550 million program meant to help people struggling through the pandemic pay rent and utility bills. This "throws a wrench" into a federally funded program that the state's Office of Recovery and Resiliency has been working to open, office Chief Operating Officer Laura Hogshead said. "If we're having to hold back applicants ... in order to serve other applicants across the state and make sure that County Y has hit its number before we can serve more in County X, it is absolutely going to slow us down," Hogshead said. Republican lawmakers responsible for the new rules said they're meant to ensure equity.
RICHARD WATKINS THROWS HIS HAT IN THE RING FOR BURR'S SENATE SEAT: Richard Watkins has spent the last year explaining the coronavirus pandemic — from describing how a virus works to, currently, discussing vaccine efficacy and distribution — to groups of people around the state. Watkins announced his bid for the Democratic nomination this week, joining former state Sen. Erica Smith and state Sen. Jeff Jackson as announced Democratic candidates. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is not running for reelection in 2022. “People are expecting science to lead,” Watkins said Thursday in a video interview. “In regards to the coronavirus, I think we need to make different decisions. If there were more scientists in leadership positions, we’d be able to do that.” Watkins, who grew up in Greensboro, earned his Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology with a specialty in virology at UNC-Chapel Hill. He did his research on HIV/AIDS and and is close friends with fellow UNC microbiology and immunology Ph.D. Kizzmekia Corbett, who helped develop the Moderna vaccine.
NC HAS A WHITE SUPREMACY PROBLEM THAT IS WIDESPREAD: Of the more than 250 people charged for their roles in the siege on the Capitol, at least seven are North Carolinians and one has ties to the Oath Keepers. Others charged also have past connections to hate groups or the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory. Still, that number represents just a small fraction of the number of extremist ideologies percolating within the state. There were 29 hate groups operating in North Carolina in 2020, virtually all of which adhere to racist, xenophobic, and bigoted beliefs, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). While that number has fluctuated up and down in recent years, the number of hate crimes surged in the state during the Trump era. There were 211 hate crimes reported across North Carolina in 2019, according to the latest FBI data, a 49% increase from 2018. Some of these local extremists and groups have already made clear they feel motivated by the Jan. 6 siege and have spoken openly about escalating violence. Right-wing extremist groups emerged from the shadows during the Trump era and the number of hate crimes rose dramatically during Trump’s time in office, according to FBI data. In the first eight months of 2020, white supremacist groups were responsible for 41 of 61 “terrorist plots and attacks,” according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
TRUMP APPOINTEE TO STATE DEPARTMENT TOOK PART IN INSURRECTION: On Thursday, the FBI arrested a political appointee of former president Donald Trump on charges that he stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a criminal complaint, marking the first member of the administration arrested in connection with the insurrection. Federal agents arrested Federico G. Klein, 42, a former State Department aide, on multiple felony charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to a criminal complaint published by the New York Times. (Politico first reported the arrest.) The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday. Klein, who is also a former Trump campaign employee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday. It is unclear if he has hired a lawyer. Klein was still employed at the State Department as a staff assistant on Jan. 6 when he joined a mob in a tunnel leading into the U.S. Capitol, the FBI said. Then he allegedly “physically and verbally engaged with the officers holding the line” at the building’s entrance, according to the complaint. After ignoring officers’ orders to move back, he assaulted officers with a riot shield that had been stolen from police, the complaint said, and then used the shield to wedge open a door into the Capitol. At one point, Klein was caught on video shouting for more insurrectionists to come to the front lines, where officers were struggling to hold back the mob. “We need fresh people, need fresh people,” he said, according to the complaint.
RON JOHNSON FORCES SENATE CLERKS TO READ ENTIRE PANDEMIC BILL OUTLOUD: With President Biden’s nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill moving toward passage, Senator Ron Johnson brought proceedings to a halt on Thursday by demanding that Senate clerks recite the 628-page plan word by word, delaying action to register his objections. The maneuver by Mr. Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, was unlikely to change any minds about the sweeping pandemic aid plan, which would deliver hundreds of billions of dollars for vaccine distribution, schools, jobless aid, direct payments to Americans and small business relief, and has broad bipartisan support among voters. Republicans signaled that they would be unified against it, and Democrats were ready to push it through on their own, using a special fast-track process to blow past the opposition. But in the Senate, where even the most mundane tasks are subject to arcane rules, any senator can exploit them to cause havoc. The exercise was Republicans’ latest effort to score political points against a measure they were powerless to stop and to punish Democrats with a time-consuming, boredom-inducing chore. “Is he allowed?” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, muttered quietly when Mr. Johnson tried to explain after demanding the reading. For hours on Thursday afternoon and into the night, Mr. Merlino and his colleagues took 20- to 30-minute shifts on the Senate dais, bent over a wooden stand, enunciating every “notwithstanding any other provision” and “amounts otherwise made available” of the measure, which was more than 100,000 words long — more than 70 times the length of this article. A hint of irritation could be heard straining Mr. Merlino’s voice around the dinner hour, as he made his way through Section 4006, on federal funding for disaster-related funeral expenses. There were 117 sections left.