Port of Baltimore Opens Thanks To The Biden Administration While Trump Seeks Revenge For His Corrupt Behavior

Heather Cox Richardson

The Port of Baltimore reopened yesterday, fewer than 100 days after a container ship hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, collapsing it into the channel. The port is a major shipping hub, especially for imports and exports of cars and light trucks—about 750,000 vehicles went through it in 2022. It is also the nation’s second-biggest exporter of coal. In 2023 it moved a record-breaking $80 billion worth of foreign cargo. 

After the crash, the administration rushed support to the site, likely in part to emphasize that under Democrats, government really can get things done efficiently, as Democratic Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro demonstrated in June 2023 when he oversaw the reopening of a collapsed section of I-95 in just 12 days. Reopening the Port of Baltimore required salvage workers, divers, crane operators, and mariners to clear more than 50,000 tons of steel.

Yesterday, at the reopening, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg noted the “whole of government” response. State leadership under Maryland governor Wes Moore worked with those brought together by the Unified Command set up under the National Response System to coordinate the responses of the local government, state government, federal government, and those responsible for the crisis to make them as effective and efficient as possible; the Coast Guard; the Army Corps of Engineers; the first responders; and the port workers. 

Buttigieg noted that the response team had engaged all the stakeholders in the process, including truck drivers and trucking companies, trade associations, and agricultural producers. He gave credit for that ability to the administration’s establishment of the White House Supply Chains Disruptions Task Force, which, he said, “put us in a strong place to mitigate the disruptions to our supply chain and economy.”  

Clearing the channel was possible thanks to an immediate down payment of $60 million from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. The department estimates that rebuilding the bridge will cost between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion. President Joe Biden has said he wants the federal government to fund that rebuilding as it quickly did in 2007, when a bridge across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis suddenly collapsed. Within a week of that collapse, Congress unanimously passed a measure to fund rebuilding the bridge, and President George W. Bush signed it into law. But now some Republicans are balking at Biden’s request, saying that lawmakers should simply take the money that has been appropriated for things like electric vehicles, or wait until insurance money comes in from the shipping companies. 

Meanwhile, former president Trump traveled to Capitol Hill today for the first time since the January 6, 2021, riots. Passing protesters holding signs that said things like “Democracy Forever, Trump Never,” Trump met first with Republican lawmakers from the House and then with Republican senators, who, according to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), gave him “a lot of standing ovations.” Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) called it “bring your felon to work day.” 

Republicans billed the visit as a brainstorming session about Trump’s 2025 agenda, but no discussions of plans have emerged, only generalities and the sort of cheery grandstanding McConnell provided. The meeting, along with a press appearance at which Trump made a short speech but did not take questions before shaking a lot of Republican hands, appeared to be an attempt to overwrite the news of his conviction by indicating he is popular in Congress.

The news that has gotten traction is Trump’s statement that Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the Republicans are holding their convention in July, is a “horrible city.” Republicans are trying hard to spin this comment as a misunderstanding, but their many different attempts to explain it away—as meaning crime, or elections, or Pere Marquette Park (!)—seem more likely to reinforce the comment than distract from it. 

Indeed, it’s possible that the agenda had more to do with Trump than with the nation. Anna Massoglia of Open Secrets reported today that Trump’s political operation spent more than $20 million on lawyers in the first four months of 2024, and Rachel Bade of Politico reported hours before the House meeting that Trump has been obsessed with using the powers of Congress to fight for him and to, as she puts it, “go to war against the Democrats he accuses of ‘weaponizing’ the justice system against him.” 

Bade said that after his May 30 conviction by a unanimous jury on 34 criminal counts, Trump immediately called House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), insisting in a profanity-laden rant that “We have to overturn this.” Johnson is sympathetic but has too slim a House majority to deliver as much fire as both would like, especially since vulnerable Republicans aren’t eager to weaponize the nation’s lawmaking body for Trump. 

As David Kurtz of Talking Points Memoexplained this morning, House Republicans “are already advancing Trump’s campaign of retribution.” Yesterday they voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress and recommended his prosecution for refusing to hand over an audio recording of special counsel Robert Hur’s interview with President Biden. Biden, who was not charged over his retention of classified documents as vice president, has provided a transcript of the interview but has exerted executive privilege over the recording.

The demand for the audio is particularly galling, considering that Biden voluntarily testified while Trump refused to be interviewed by either special counsel Robert Mueller or special counsel Jack Smith. But Biden has a well-known stutter, and having hours of testimony in his own voice might offer something that could be chopped up for political ads. 

Indeed, former Republican representative Ken Buck (R-CO) acknowledged that Republicans are “just looking for something for political purposes,” and House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) sent out a fundraising appeal promising that the audio recording “could be the final blow to Biden with swing voters across the country.” 

White House Counsel Edward Siskel wrote to Comer and Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) saying that the administration “has sought to work in good faith with Congress.” It released Hur’s long report editorializing on Biden’s mental acuity without redacting it, allowed Hur to testify publicly for more than five hours, and provided transcripts, emails, and documents. “The absence of a legitimate need for the audio recordings lays bare your likely goal,” Siskel wrote, “to chop them up, distort them, and use them for partisan political purposes.”

The attack on Garland, journalist Kurtz notes, continues the steady stream of disinformation the House Republicans have been producing through their “investigations” and impeachment hearings and press conferences. 

In the Senate, six MAGA Republicans demonstrated their support for Trump by threatening to block Biden’s key nominees in protest of the New York jury’s conviction of Trump, although they are trying to frame the convictions as “the current administration’s persecution of” Trump. The senators are J. D. Vance (R-OH), Mike Lee (R-UT), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and Eric Schmitt (R-MO). 

While MAGA Republicans show their reverence for Trump, Democrats are working to get them on the record on issues the American people care about. 

Today, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held a vote on whether to advance a bill that would provide federal protection for in vitro fertilization (IVF), an infertility treatment in which a human egg is fertilized outside the body and then placed in a human uterus for gestation. IVF is popular: a March poll by CBS News/YouGov found that 86% of Americans think it should be legal, while only 14% think it should be illegal. But the white evangelical Christians who make up the Republicans’ base are increasingly demanding that the nation’s laws recognize “fetal personhood,” the idea that a fertilized egg has the full rights of a living human. This would end all abortion, of course, as well as birth control that prevents implantation, such as IUDs and Plan B. And, if fertilized eggs are fully human, it would also end IVF because the procedure often results in some fertilized eggs being damaged or discarded. 

This is a vote Republicans did not want to take because voting to protect IVF will infuriate their base and voting to end it will infuriate the 86% of Americans who support it. So they tried to get around it by signing a statement noting that IVF is legal and that they “strongly support continued nationwide access to IVF.” While it is true that IVF is currently legal, the Alabama Supreme Court in February ruled that frozen embryos should be considered unborn children and their destruction could be prosecuted under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. In the wake of that decision, two of Alabama’s eight fertility clinics paused their IVF treatments. 

In today’s vote, all but three Republicans voted against taking up the bill protecting IVF. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted in favor of it; Eric Schmitt of Missouri did not vote. All the Democrats voted in favor, although Schumer changed his vote to a “no” so he could bring the vote up again later. 

Regarding the difference between the statement and the votes, Leah Greenberg of Indivisible posted: “Who are you gonna believe, me or my voting record?”

In another window onto the future of reproductive rights, the Supreme Court today unanimously decided that the antiabortion groups trying to get the drug mifepristone banned did not have standing to bring the case. This preserves access to mifepristone, commonly used to induce medical abortions, but as legal observers point out, the court ruled only on standing, meaning that others, who do have standing, could bring a similar case. 

This afternoon, Biden posted: “Kamala and I stand with the majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to make deeply personal health care decisions. And our commitment to you is that we will not back down from ensuring women in every state get the care they need.”

And so, going into the 2024 election, the question of abortion is on the table

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