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The Spin: In Milwaukee, Biden to call for fast-tracking COVID-19 relief plan | CTU vs. Lightfoot battle over, what’s next? | Trump, Kinzinger tension goes back to 2016

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 2/16/2021 Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
a building with a metal fence: The Thomson Correctional Center is an Illinois maximum-security prison located roughly 150 miles west of Chicago in Thomson. © Tribune file photo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune file photo The Thomson Correctional Center is an Illinois maximum-security prison located roughly 150 miles west of Chicago in Thomson.

Heavy snow and severe cold is slowing down the vaccination supply chain here, with 100-plus Chicago sites not getting their weekly doses delivered, my Tribune colleague Alice Yin reports.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared a state of emergency over the “arctic” cold and snow, and is calling for “federal intervention” over an expected natural gas hike, the result in a spike in demand and diminished supply amid frozen wells in key natural gas-producing states, including Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, my Tribune colleague Jenny Whidden writes.

President Joe Biden, meanwhile, makes his first official trip today to Wisconsin, a key battleground state that paved the way for his November victory. He’ll participate in a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, where he’ll make the case to the public for expediting passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, the White House said.

And Pritzker tomorrow will lay out his budget proposal for the next fiscal year. The governor has taken off the table two key options for ginning up revenue for the cash-strapped state — raising income taxes or double-digit across-the-board spending cuts. Pritzker, however, vows to follow the letter of the law to erase a $3 billion deficit and deliver a balanced budget. Read my Tribune colleague Dan Petrella’s preview here.

Paul Schimpf wearing a suit and tie sitting at a table: Paul Schimpf meets with Chicago Tribune Editorial Board in 2014.. © Heather Charles / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/Heather Charles / Chicago Tribune Paul Schimpf meets with Chicago Tribune Editorial Board in 2014..

Republicans are bristling over Pritzker’s call to close $900 million in corporate tax loopholes. Opponents call that a tax hike on businesses already hurting over the effects of the coronavirus.

And the battle between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Teachers Union over returning kindergarten-eighth grade Chicago Public Schools students to classrooms is over. Only time will tell whether the fight will begin anew over sending high schoolers back to in-person learning. What seems certain, though, is that a larger political struggle between the two sides will continue.

Multiple outlets offered autopsies over the brinkmanship and eventual deal to get elementary schoolchildren back in school buildings. Lightfoot went so far as to suggest that the CTU is a political party that wants to take over city government, The New York Times reported. “CTU President Jesse Sharkey, meanwhile, said the dispute reflects a long history of autocratic leadership from CPS — a style that he indicated has continued under Lightfoot,” the Tribune’s Gregory Pratt and John Byrne write.

a group of people posing for the camera: Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot hold a news conference Jan. 8, 2021. © Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot hold a news conference Jan. 8, 2021.

Welcome to The Spin.

Biden in Wisconsin to sell his COVID-19 plan

Then-candidate Joe Biden didn’t go last year to Milwaukee, the host city for what was largely a virtual Democratic National Convention, to accept the party’s nomination during the pandemic. But Wisconsin’s largest city is the president’s first official trip outside Washington since taking office last month. He’ll speak in front of a socially distanced, invite-only crowd at the Pabst Theater, according to CNN.

Asked about the goal of the trip, a White House official said in a statement to The Spin: “He wants to use this trip as an opportunity to make the case for the swift passage of his American Rescue Plan, so we can get relief to those Americans who are struggling and so we can accelerate our vaccination initiative — getting shots in arms to stop the spread of this pandemic. President Biden wants to speak to all Americans — not Democrats, not Republicans — and believes that going to the center of the country is the perfect place to do that.”

You can watch it live: The “CNN Presidential Town Hall with Joe Biden” is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Chicago time, according to the network.

“A Democratic-led effort to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package has passed its latest challenge with House committees advancing measures that will soon be combined into a single bill expected to clear the full House by the end of February ,” The Associated Press reports. Highlights of the legislation, including stimulus checks and tax breaks for households with children, here.

Chicago allows indoor dining, bars to expand to 40% as coronavirus numbers improve: It’s the second consecutive week the city has eased restrictions, the Tribune’s Josh Noel writes. Bars and restaurants will now offer service at either 40% capacity or 50 people, whichever is less. Read the full piece here.

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The roots of Trump, Kinzinger’s enmity

In its examination of Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s seemingly lonely mission to yank the party away from former President Donald Trump, The New York Times also offered a longer look at the Channahon congressman’s criticism of Trump.

An excerpt: “While Mr. Kinzinger never presented himself as a Trump loyalist, he rarely broke with the former president on policy grounds, but he was critical of him dating back to the 2016 campaign, when he was a surrogate for Jeb Bush.

“Mr. Trump was aware of Mr. Kinzinger’s lack of fealty. At a fundraiser in the Chicago suburbs before the 2016 election, Mr. Trump asked Richard Porter, a Republican National Committee member from Illinois, how Mr. Kinzinger would do in his reelection bid. He didn’t have an opponent, Mr. Porter recalled telling the future president.

“Mr. Trump, Mr. Porter said, poked his finger in his chest and told him to deliver to Mr. Kinzinger a vulgar message about what he should do with himself. When Mr. Porter relayed the comment to Mr. Kinzinger during a conversation on Election Day, Mr. Kinzinger laughed and invited Mr. Trump to do the same.” Read Reid J. Epstein’s story in the Times here.

Former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, tells the Times that Kinzinger could lose in his battle with Trump: “The only winners in the war between Trump and Republicans will be Democrats. For some voters, character matters. For most, it doesn’t.”

Lightfoot, the standoff with CTU and the politics of it all

The Tribune’s Gregory Pratt noted in a weekend piece that “(m)uch of Lightfoot’s time as mayor has been marked by conflict with CTU, including the 2019 strike.”

What that means in the world of electoral politics: “University of Illinois professor Robert Bruno, who wrote a book about the 2012 Chicago teachers strike, said Lightfoot will need to tout her educational successes as she runs for reelection in 2023. But she may struggle to gain traction as some of her achievements are drowned out by the labor unrest, which could make her campaign harder, he said.”

“During a post-strike interview with the Tribune, Lightfoot has said she expects CTU to ‘come after’ her in the 2023 mayoral election.”

CTU President Jesse Sharkey denies it’s about politics, saying “the idea that somehow the fight over school reopening is about a mayoral election two years ago or another in two years is patently false.”

Lightfoot told The New York Times it certainly is about politics, going so far as to claim the CTU wants to run city government.

Lightfoot also made news in her chat with the Times by once again veering from away from a campaign promise to push for an elected school board. Right now the mayor controls the CPS administration, serving as boss to the CEO and handpicking the school board.

The mayor told The Times: “We would have never opened without mayoral control.” Read the full question-and-answer piece with the mayor, which was edited for clarity, here.

Former Downstate GOP state Sen. Paul Schimpf announces bid for Illinois governor

From the Tribune’s Rick Pearson: “Former military prosecutor and one-term Downstate Republican state Sen. Paul Schimpf formally announced his candidacy for governor on Monday, contending Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has lost public confidence over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Read the full story here.

Also: While he’s the first Republican to official declare, “Downstate state Sen. Darren Bailey of Xenia, who has unsuccessfully contested Pritzker’s pandemic restrictions, and suburban business owner Gary Rabine are among several other Republicans eyeing a bid for the nomination,” Pearson notes.

Despite federal and state guidance to reduce jail populations, few inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes have been released early

My Tribune colleague Nausheen Husain writes: “In March and April, former Attorney General William Barr recommended that federal inmates who were convicted of nonviolent crimes, are immunocompromised and don’t pose a risk to society should be prioritized for home confinement.

“But less than 14% of the more than 150,000 federal inmates, the majority of whom were convicted of nonviolent crimes ... have been released to home confinement since last spring, according to the Bureau of Prisons website.

“Advocates in Illinois say state prison reductions aren’t happening enough either.”

Snapshot: “According to weekly data collected by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press, 1 in 4 Illinois prisoners has tested positive for the virus since March, more than three times the general rate of contraction in Illinois,” Husain writes.

Federal fight against carjackings brings tough sentences, but hurdles limit case count as violent heists mount in Chicago, the Tribune’s Jason Meisner reports.

Thanks for reading The Spin, the Tribune’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox weekday afternoons. Have a tip? Email host Lisa Donovan at

Twitter @byldonovan


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