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At the first House hearing on reparations in 12 years, author Ta-Nehisi Coates sharply criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for claiming on Tuesday that "no one currently alive was responsible" for slavery, and that the country has tried to make amends through civil rights legislation and electing a black president.

Catch up quick: Also on Tuesday, Joe Biden received harsh criticism for nostalgically recollecting the "civil" relationships he had with segregationist senators in the 1970s and '80s. Coates condemned the 2020 candidate in an interview on Wednesday with Democracy Now, saying: "Joe Biden shouldn't be president ... The fact of the matter is Joe Biden owes his very presence in the race right now to the first black president Barack Obama."

The latest: On Thursday evening, in an MSNBC interview with Chris Hayes, Coates said: "...the problem here is not that [Biden] had polite relationships with people who had deeply, deeply deplorable views. The problem is those very polite relationships were premised on the fact that those people's deeply deplorable views actually disenfranchised an entire sector of the electorate. "

Wednesday's hearing:

"For a century after the Civil War black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror, a campaign that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell. It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder, from enslavement, but the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy, respects no such borders and the guard of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs. Coup d-états and convict leasing. Vagrancy laws and debt peonage. Redlining and racist G.I. bills. Poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism. We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox. But he was alive for the electrocution of George Stinney. He was alive for the blinding of Isaac Woodard. He was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama and a regime premised on electoral theft.
"Majority Leader McConnell cited civil-rights legislation yesterday, as well he should, because he was alive to witness the harassment, jailing, and betrayal of those responsible for that legislation by a government sworn to protect them. He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they’d love a word with the majority leader."

The big picture: The historic hearing is being held to discuss new legislation to study reparations for descendants of slaves, an issue that has made its way to the forefront of Democratic discourse. The bill would create a commission that would issue recommendations to educate the American public about the lingering effects of slavery on African-Americans and ultimately get the country on "the path to restorative justice." It is being held on Juneteenth, a holiday recognizing the liberation of black slaves.

Go deeper: Read Coates' full testimony

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

7 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.