10 Things in Politics: Kamala Harris' first big test as VP

Good morning! Welcome back to 10 Things in Politics. President Biden holds his first press conference as president later this afternoon.

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Here’s what you need to know:

  • Kamala Harris will run point on the politically fraught issue of immigration.
  • Here’s how young and healthy people are getting vaccinated early. It’s totally legal. 
  • There’s another Gov. Andrew Cuomo scandal.

1. HARRIS GETS HER ISSUE: Vice President Kamala Harris now has a specific portfolio. President Biden’s decision to tap Harris as the administration’s point person on stemming the increase of migrants at the southern border gives her a high-profile issue to focus on. It’s also a very politically fraught assignment, one Biden himself had as VP.

  • The assignment: A senior administration official told reporters that Harris would be responsible for both “stemming the flow of irregular migrants to the US” and strengthening diplomatic ties between the US and Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. She’ll also be working on solutions to the “root causes of migration.” Biden said he “could think of nobody better qualified to do this.”
  • Insider’s perspective: “Everyone in the DC policy world has been waiting to see what Vice President Harris picked up as her top policy issue,” Insider’s Robin Bravender told me. “We’re still not sure if Biden is going to run again, so if she gets a big win on this it could set her up a future presidential run.”

Challenges for the GOP: Party strategists are fearful that the hardline MAGA immigration policy could doom Republicans. One group projects 2.2 million newly-naturalized citizens should be eligible to vote in the 2022 midterms, which scares the hell out of some conservatives.

Read how some lawmakers are trying to chart a different path in our exclusive report.

2. Senate Democrats made a generational push on voting rights: Senators made their push at the first hearing for the party’s flagship voting proposal. In a sign of how serious both sides view the matter, both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell testified. McConnell, underlining the GOP’s staunch opposition, called it “an effort by one party to rewrite the rules of the political system.” Here are highlights from the hearing.

  • Schumer called the legislation necessary to preempt Arizona and other states’ passing voting restrictions: The bill would mandate states to enact online, automatic, and same-day voter registration. States would also have to hold at least 15 days of early voting, offer no-excuse mail voting, and restore voting rights to the formerly incarcerated.

Not all Dems are on board: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told reporters that any overhaul must have GOP support, a tall order given the House Democrats passed an identical proposal without a single Republican vote.

  • Meanwhile, Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia is urging Democrats to change the filibuster over the proposal, which would make Manchin’s support absolutely necessary.

3. Another Cuomo scandal: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed top officials in the state health department to conduct priority COVID-19 testing on his family and allies in the early days of the pandemic, the Albany Times Union reports. One of the family members was CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. 

A reminder of all the other scandals.

  • The governor’s response: Cuomo officials say the early testing was not preferential, with one adding: “We should avoid insincere efforts to rewrite the past.”

4. The House passed tougher gun laws before the Colorado shooting: Lawmakers voted for two proposals to strengthen and expand background checks. While they passed largely on party lines, both bills did receive some Republican support. Here’s what the measures would do.

  • A man carried five guns and body armor into an Atlanta Publix days after the Boulder shooting: Alarmed employees called the police, leading to the man’s arrest.

5. How young and healthy people are getting vaccinated early — and it’s entirely legal: Thousands of younger and healthier people have received their COVID-19 vaccine through volunteering at a vaccination site. But information about such programs isn’t always clear or widely communicated. 

Insider talked to four people who scored a golden ticket: Read their advice in our exclusive report.

6. USWNT star Megan Rapinoe talked to Biden about her team’s equal-pay lawsuit: Rapinoe was among the 28 members of the US Women’s National Soccer Team who sued the US Soccer Federation in 2019, alleging “institutionalized gender discrimination” in the pay and resources given to the men’s team. She visited the White House on Wednesday to mark Equal Pay Day. Rapinoe told Biden that despite her athletic success, “I’ve been devalued, I’ve been disrespected, and dismissed because I am a woman.”

  • The World Cup champion appeared to enjoy her White House tour: She famously said “I’m not going to the f—ing White House” in 2019, when Donald Trump was president.

7. The top things for your calendar, all times Eastern:

  • 9:15 a.m.: Court hearing for Boulder shooting suspect.
  • 12:00 p.m.: Facebook, Twitter, and Google testify before House lawmakers about extremism and misinformation.
  • 1:15 p.m.: Biden holds his first news conference as president.
  • 2:00 p.m.: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a weekly news conference.

8. A campaign finance case meant to make congressional lawmakers safer could have unintended consequences: A broad ruling by the Federal Elections Commission on a Republican request on whether campaign money could be spent on bodyguards could lead to almost anyone being hired to protect lawmakers. In the most extreme circumstance, this could include members of the ultra-conservative Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, or radical antifa adherents. More on the pending case in our exclusive report.

9. The Suez Canal blockage could affect your gas prices: On Tuesday morning, a massive container ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most critical trade routes — especially for Middle Eastern oil. About 600,000 barrels of crude oil pass through the canal to the US and Europe each day, meaning a traffic jam could boost US gas prices even higher. 

Watch a fleet of tug boats trying to free the tanker:

10. Out of the dog house: Major and Champ Biden are back at the White House after Major had a “biting incident” earlier this month and spent time in Delaware being trained. President Biden said the German Shepherd wasn’t sent away because of the incident, but that the move was planned as he and Jill Biden were going to be traveling. More on their return.

One last thing.

Today’s trivia question: The East Room where Biden’s press conference will take place today has seen a wide number of uses. Before it was finished, what did John and Abigail Adams use it for? Email your guess and a suggested question to me at bgriffiths@insider.com.

  • Yesterday’s answer: Lily Ledbetter, a former Goodyear employee, was the namesake for the first law President Obama signed that expanded workers’ rights to sue in pay-discrimination cases.

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