Friday News: Stubborn as a mule


BERGER IS HOLDING UP BUDGET PROCESS UNTIL HE GETS WHAT HE WANTS: Republicans control both the House and Senate. The two chambers take turns every two years on who puts out its version of the budget first. This time it’s the Senate’s turn. Senate leader Phil Berger has repeatedly told reporters that he wants the chambers to agree on a spending number before the Senate releases its version. So what’s the holdup, then? That spending agreement. The Senate wants to spend less than the House does. And they are still, still, still talking about it. Five rounds of talking about it. “It’s a little confusing,” Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican and the House’s chief budget writer, told The News & Observer on Thursday. He said the House has given the Senate five different offers.

LAWSUIT IN THE WORKS OVER UNC REFUSING TO GRANT TENURE TO NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: In a letter informing North Carolina lawmakers of their duty to preserve records related to Hannah-Jones’s hiring, the attorneys from the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., Levy Ratner PC, and Ferguson, Chambers & Sumter, P.A. said they are representing Hannah-Jones “in connection with the failure of the Board of Trustees (the “Board”) to consider and approve her application for tenure,” the letter says. “I had no desire to bring turmoil or a political firestorm to the university that I love,” Hannah-Jones said, “but I am obligated to fight back against a wave of anti-democratic suppression that seeks to prohibit the free exchange of ideas, silence Black voices and chill free speech.” Protecting the right to free expression is not only a cornerstone of democracy, but critical for Black Americans and other marginalized groups, she said. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a statement that the board’s action is “in lock step with the political, conservative and race-based backlash across the country that seeks to revise the truth of racism throughout our Nation’s history and to censor honest conversations about race in America.”

MADISON CAWTHORN ON BIDEN'S LIST OF REPUBLICAN HYPOCRITES: During a speech on the economy in Ohio on Thursday, Biden pulled out a list of 13 Republicans. He did not name them in his speech. But a photographer captured a picture of the list, which included Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a freshman representative from Western North Carolina. “Even my Republican friends in Congress, not a single one of them voted for the rescue plan. I’m not going to embarrass anyone of them, but I have here a list of how back in their districts they’re bragging about the rescue plan,” Biden said. Cawthorn, a first-term representative, sent two tweets on March 30 about grants awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services to four community health centers in the 11th Congressional District. “Happy to announce that NC-11 was awarded grants from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,” Cawthorn wrote. The money for the grants was authorized in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Biden’s top legislative accomplishment, which passed Congress without a single Republican vote in either the House or Senate.

OFFICER SICKNICK'S WIDOW PLEADS WITH SENATE REPUBLICANS TO SUPPORT JAN 6 PROBE: Within four months, the mother and partner of Brian D. Sicknick made two visits to the Capitol — for a February memorial service to honor the deceased officer after the violent siege of Jan. 6 and Thursday to plead with Republican senators to support an independent investigation into the failed insurrection by a pro-Trump mob. But the day of meetings and calls by Gladys Sicknick and Sandra Garza, the late officer’s companion of 11 years, with 16 senators and their staffs appeared unlikely to change hearts and minds in the GOP. Republicans were poised to block legislation to create a bipartisan commission that would examine the events of that day — the worst attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that the probe was “extraneous” and would not shed light on what happened Jan. 6, while others in the GOP saw it as a Democratic-driven, endless pursuit of former president Donald Trump. Gladys Sicknick said Thursday morning that it has angered her to see Republican senators oppose the commission. “That’s why I’m here today,” she told reporters. “You know, usually I stay in the background, and I just couldn’t — I couldn’t stay quiet anymore.” Garza said it was “very disturbing” that some members of Congress seem uninterested in finding answers to the still-lingering questions around the attack. “I mean, why would they not want to get to the bottom of such horrific violence?” Garza said. “They are here today — and with their families and comfortable — because of the actions of law enforcement that day. . . . It just boggles my mind.”

RUSSIAN (GOVERNMENT) HACKERS ARE AT IT AGAIN, THIS TIME AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT: Hackers linked to Russia’s main intelligence agency surreptitiously seized an email system used by the State Department’s international aid agency to burrow into the computer networks of human rights groups and other organizations of the sort that have been critical of President Vladimir V. Putin, Microsoft Corporation disclosed on Thursday. Discovery of the breach comes only three weeks before President Biden is scheduled to meet Mr. Putin in Geneva, and at a moment of increased tension between the two nations — in part because of a series of increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks emanating from Russia. The newly disclosed attack was also particularly bold: By breaching the systems of a supplier used by the federal government, the hackers sent out genuine-looking emails to more than 3,000 accounts across more than 150 organizations that regularly receive communications from the United States Agency for International Development. Those emails went out as recently as this week, and Microsoft said it believes the attacks are ongoing. The email was implanted with code that would give the hackers unlimited access to the computer systems of the recipients, from “stealing data to infecting other computers on a network,” Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice president, wrote on Thursday night. Microsoft identified the Russian group behind the attack as Nobelium, and said it was the same group responsible for the SolarWinds hack. Last month, the American government explicitly said that SolarWinds was the work of the S.V.R., one of the most successful spinoffs from the Soviet-era K.G.B.