Ilhan Omar voted out of a House committee
Rep. Ilhan Omar was removed on Thursday from the Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressional Black Caucus members visited the White House while the House Republicans kicked off their investigations.
- Plus, the state of paid — and unpaid — leave for American workers.
- And, winter bears down across the U.S.
Guests: Axios' Stef Kight, Eugene Scott and Emily Peck.
Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Naomi Shavin, Robin Linn, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.
NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!
It’s Friday, February 3rd.
I’m Niala Boodhoo.
Here’s what you need to know today: the state of paid - and unpaid leave for American workers. Plus, winter bears down across the U.S. But first, partisan rancor in the House - that’s today’s One Big Thing.
Partisan rancor in the House
NIALA: Ilhan Omar is removed from her committee assignments, Congressional Black Caucus members visit the White House and House Republicans kick off their investigation – all part of this first week in February in Washington. Here for our Friday politics state of play conversation are Axios reporters Eugene Scott and Stef Kight. Hey guys.
EUGENE SCOTT: Hey. How's it going?
STEF KIGHT: Hi Niala.
NIALA: Eugene, let's start with the President's meeting yesterday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to talk about police reform the day after the funeral of Tyre Nichols. We've been hearing a lot about the George Floyd Policing Act has resurfaced this week. Can we expect any new legislation out of the capitol?
EUGENE: So there were some conversations earlier this week about perhaps reintroducing the George Floyd Act after the President’s State of the Union speech, but as of Thursday evening, Black lawmakers were still in conversations with the President about the best strategy moving forward. Senator Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate has been very vocal this week about how the act as-is is a non-starter. Uh, but he certainly believes that somehow the two sides can negotiate and figure out some bipartisan legislation that will get all sides to where they want to be.
NIALA: Stef, the House voted yesterday to remove Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee. Here she is on the floor.
ILHAN OMAR: This debate today, it's about who gets to be an American. What opinions do we get to have, do we have to have to be counted as Americans, this is what this debate is about.
NIALA: Stef, is that what this debate is about?
STEF: This has been a very contentious issue, and it was actually unclear whether Republicans had the votes to remove Omar initially, but they did end up having those votes to remove her from the committee. And of course, Democrats say that this is just, you know, a reaction to the fact that Democrats removed Marjorie Taylor Green and Paul Gosar from committees in the last Congress. But of course, Republicans have claimed that this isn't a tit for tat and have noted six comments that Congressman Omar made in the past that some have been angered about and called Anti-Semitic.
NIALA: And Stef, all of this comes as the first wave of House Republican investigations into the Biden administration began this week. There's a lot of different investigations going on here, right?
STEF: Yes. It has been a busy week where we've seen a lot of the committees really start their investigations in earnest. Of course, we've been hearing from Republicans for a while now that there are several issues that they were eager to investigate the Biden administration. This week we had the first two hearings, one on the border and another on alleged fraud and abuse of Covid assistance. We're seeing letters come out of the Judiciary committee as well as the oversight committee, and hearings being scheduled over all sorts of issues, including, you know, what they call the weaponization of the federal government, the use of Twitter to silence conservatives. It really is so many different topics we're starting to see Republicans dig into.
NIALA: To both of you, what do you think this week says about what we can expect for the rest of the year about this congress?
STEF: I mean, I think we are going to continue to see the hyper-partisanship we've already seen over the past few years. We have a Republican controlled House and a Democratic controlled Senate, and of course, Joe Biden, a Democrat in the White House. And we're gonna see Republicans continue to use their power in the House, their investigative power, their subpoena power to investigate the Biden administration. And that's going to lead to hyperpartisan debates.
EUGENE: I think, uh, this week has revealed just how different each respective party's basis are when it comes to what needs to be prioritized most. This is not something that has changed significantly with 2023, but ranging from issues as varied as police violence against Black people to concerns about Hunter Biden and his business relationships, really do shed some light on just how much daylight exists between, uh, the GOP and the Democratic Party right now.
NIALA: Eugene Scott covers Congress for Axios. Stef Kight is also part of the Axios politics team. Stef, Eugene, thank you for being with me.
STEF: Thanks for having us.
NIALA: In a moment, what paid - and unpaid leave - for workers in America looks like, on the 30th anniversary of FMLA.
The state of paid - and unpaid- leave for American workers
NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.
KAMALA HARRIS: 30 years ago, just outside in the Rose Garden, our nation took a long overdue step.
NIALA: That's Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House yesterday celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provided workers with unpaid time off to care for themselves or family. Former president Bill Clinton, who signed the bill into law, was also there.
BILL CLINTON: After all these years, I still have more people mention the family leave back to me than any other specific things I did.
NIALA: And the Biden administration marked this anniversary by announcing a new initiative to support families. Axios’ Emily Peck is here with more. Hey Emily.
EMILY PECK: Hey, Niala.
NIALA: So it's been 30 years since FMLA. How much have things changed?
EMILY: Things have changed. I mean, back before FMLA, I think only about 1% of working women had paid maternity leave and the percentages for unpaid parental leave or family leave were similarly low. It just was kind of unheard of if you got pregnant, for example, at work. Okay, bye. Like you were fired, you were done. And now, today a lot of companies do offer workers paid leave. You know, it's not public or federal policy, but a lot of employers have done it. But mostly this is a benefit going to higher income workers, and right now
NIALA: So, Emily, What did the Biden administration announce yesterday? A lot of advocates have always talked about having paid leave.
EMILY: So Niala for 30 years, since the FMLA passed paid leave has kind of been the holy grail here for advocates, because while FMLA is great and unpaid leave is is good. People that don't make a lot of money, can't really afford to take 12 weeks off unpaid. So you wind up with this situation, where civil rights policy essentially has had this very unequal impact. You know, yesterday at the White House, the administration announced their support for family and medical leave. But they didn't really announce a new paid leave policy or anything particularly groundbreaking.
NIALA: But isn't it up to Congress?
EMILY: Yeah, it is up to Congress just this Wednesday, Senator Gillibrand and Representative Rosa DeLauro, they unveiled a legislative package proposing federal paid leave program and some FMLA expansion, so more people would have access to unpaid leave as well. They've introduced legislation like this in the past though, and it hasn't obviously gone through.
NIALA: The New York Times reported that the U.S. is one of six countries in the world that doesn't have a national paid leave policy.
EMILY: Yeah. Isn't that crazy, we don't have anything, and it's pretty standard stuff, just six countries in the world, you know, some people will say, oh, the United States is the only developed nation or the only rich nation, but it's really worth emphasizing. It's one of the only nations. Yes, period.
Paid leave is an economic policy. You know, I think some people see it as sort of this like, individual thing. But if people don't have access to paid leave. They have to leave the workforce. They leave the workforce, they do not make money. And that is not good for the economy or for people. So one imagines that in the future the U.S. would be on the other side of the balance sheet there.
NIALA: Axios’ Emily Peck. Thanks Emily.
EMILY: Thank you.
Winter bears down across the U.S.
NIALA: One more winter headline before we go today: yesterday was Groundhog Day. And Punxsutawney Phil’s annual prediction is that we’ll have six more weeks of winter – which – this week has certainly turned out to be true.
More than 11 million Americans woke up yesterday to ice warnings issued by the National Weather Service across the Southern United States, with sleet, freezing rain and snow causing at least nine deaths. Officials urged caution from Texas to Tennessee as roads start to thaw out.
Even as that storm comes to an end - the weather service is warning about potentially record-breaking cold expected this weekend in New England and parts of the midwest. The forecast is calling for wind chills to reach 10 below zero in New York City, 40 below in North Dakota and as low as 60 below zero in northern Maine tomorrow morning - so if you’re up north, please be careful!
NIALA: That’s it for us for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Naomi Shavin and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Thanks to Robin Linn for her help on today’s episode! Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief. And special thanks as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.
I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday.