Washington mourns death of ‘trailblazer’ Colin Powell as tributes pour in – live

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Biden offers condolences following former secretary of state Colin Powell’s death

Joe Biden reflected on Colin Powell’s legacy of service and offered condolences to his family following the former US secretary of state’s passing.

“Jill and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity, General Colin Powell,” said Biden in a newly released statement.

Biden spoke about his long working relationship with Powell during his tenure as senator of Delaware, including during Powell’s work as National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as Secretary of State.

“Over our many years working together – even in disagreement – Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect,” said Biden.

Biden also celebrated Powell’s longtime service in the military, which included two tours in Vietnam. “Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else—in uniform and out—and it earned him the universal respect of the American people,” said Biden.

Characterizing Powell as a trailblazer for future generations interested in federal government service, Biden spoke about Powell’s legacy of “repeatedly [breaking] racial barriers”, including serving as the first Black US secretary of state.

Biden also noted Powell’s legacy of service through the America’s Promise Alliance, a non-profit which Powell chaired since 2004, and Powell’s leadership with Eisenhower Fellowships.

Speaking on their decades-long friendship, Biden described Powell as someone who was “easy to share a laugh with” and a “trusted confidant in good and hard times.”

“I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and for our shared battle for the soul of the nation. I will miss being able to call on his wisdom in the future.”

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Congress in session for vital two weeks of talks on Build Back Better bills

Returning from recess today, Democrats in Congress are working to pass a version of Joe Biden’s $3.5tn social and climate budget package, as part of his wider Build Back Better legislative agenda.

With only 13 days until the 31 October deadline given by House speaker Nancy Pelosi to agree the flagship legislation, politicians are working to get centrist holdouts like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia behind a version of the bill, including rewriting climate policy that would reward utilities transitioning to clean energy while penalizing those that use fossil fuels.

A proposed alternative would make it easier for fossil fuel burning plants to receive financial incentives for clean energy.

Senators have repeatedly called for Manchin to support Biden’s bill, including Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont who wrote an op-ed in Manchin’s hometown paper, calling out Manchin’s disapproval of the legislation.

The Biden administration is also working to combat misinformation that the bill would add to the country’s growing deficit or increase taxes. According to recent Gallup polling, a majority of Americans favor a more hands-off government, making it even more crucial for the Biden administration to explain where funding for the flagship spending bill comes from.

“The cost of the Build Back Better Agenda is $0. The President’s plan won’t add to our national deficit and no one making under $400,000 per year will see their taxes go up a single penny. It’s fully paid for by ensuring big corporations and the very wealthy pay their fair share,” tweeted the White House on Sunday.

There is disagreement between centrist and progressive Democrats on the shape, price tag and timing of the $3.5tn bill, which can be passed with only Democratic support in the Senate, in partnership with a bipartisan $1tn bill to overhaul the country’s physical infrastructure.

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After his time in government, Colin Powell remained a hugely influential commentator on US politics and public life. Over the years he grew increasingly distanced from his own Republican party, disillusioned by its rightward drift.

In 2008, despite party rivalries, he endorsed Barack Obama for president. When Donald Trump launched his bid for the White House, Powell became one of his leading critics.

He voted against Trump in both 2016 and 2020 and was scathing about leading Republicans who remained silent or actively embraced Trump’s lies.

His excoriating criticism of Trump continued until months before he died – in January he said he was so disgusted by the insurrection of Trump supporters at the US Capitol that he no longer considered himself to be a Republican.

Colin Powell discusses the most important element of leadership in 2011 speech – video

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Colin Powell rose to occupy the top military position in the US government as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff between 1989 and 1993. In that role he presided over military crises including the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the first Gulf war in 1990-91.

But it was in the build up to the contentious invasion of Iraq in 2003 that Powell became a household name. He was the face of the Bush administration’s aggressive attempt to get the world community to back the invasion, based on false claims of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.

In February 2003, as secretary of state, Powell appeared before the UN security council and made categoric claims that the then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had biological weapons and was developing nuclear weapons. He said his intelligence was based in part on accounts of unidentified Iraqi defectors.

The invasion went ahead without UN authorisation. The following year the CIA’s own Iraq Study Group released a report that concluded that Hussein had destroyed the last of the country’s weapons of mass destruction a decade previously.

Powell stepped down as secretary of state in November 2004, following Bush’s re-election. He later insisted to reporters that he had tried to warn Bush of the consequences of invading Iraq, but had supported the president when the decision to proceed was taken.

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Washington mourns the loss of Colin Powell