👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ Democrats plan to bypass Republicans and approve a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on a party-line basis using budget reconciliation. The process allows some legislation tied to the budget to pass the Senate with a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. Republicans have repeatedly rejected Biden’s plan, which would provide a $1,400 check, increase and extend federal unemployment, provide funds for vaccine distribution, state and local governments, and schools. Press secretary Jen Psaki also ruled out splitting up the package, saying the Biden administration is “not going to do this in a piecemeal way or break apart a big package meant to address the crisis we’re facing.” (Politico / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~101,254,000; deaths: ~2,185,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~25,709,000; deaths: ~432,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
Covid-19 Live Blogs:
Scientists warn the United States is in a “race against new variants” of the coronavirus. A new variant, called P.1, emerged in early December in Brazil. The first confirmed case of P.1 in the U.S. was detected Monday. A separate variant that is thought to have emerged in South Africa has forced Moderna and Pfizer to reformulate their COVID-19 vaccines, creating “booster” shots to make sure the vaccines maintain their efficacies. (NPR / NBC News)
Health officials identified the first U.S. cases of the coronavirus variant that was initially detected in South Africa. The CDC said the variant, known as B. 1.351, has been found in South Carolina. The B. 1.351 variant is considered to be even more worrisome than the B.1.1.7 variant first seen in the United Kingdom. (NPR / Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post)
The New York attorney general accused the state of severely undercounting Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes, saying that the official tally of about 8,500 may be off by as much as 50%. (New York Times / Politico / Axios)
2/ Biden signed two executive actions to expand access to reproductive health care and health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. “There’s nothing new that we’re doing here other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president,” Biden said. “Because by fiat, he changed — made [it] more inaccessible, more expensive and more difficult for people to qualify for either of those two plans.” The order instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to open a special enrollment period for the ACA from Feb. 15 to May 15, giving Americans who lost their employer-based health insurance due to the pandemic an opportunity to sign up for coverage. Biden also issued a presidential memorandum unwinding the so-called Mexico City Policy, which prohibits international non-profits from receiving U.S. funding if they provide abortions, advocate to legalize and expand abortion access, or provide abortion counseling. The memorandum also directs the HHS to “take immediate action to consider” whether to remove regulations under Title X that supports family planning. (NPR / Politico / CBS News / Bloomberg / Washington Post / CNN / New York Times / The Guardian)
3/ The U.S. economy shrank by 3.5% in 2020 – the worst year for economic growth since World War II. It’s the first time the economy has contracted for the year since 2009, when GDP shrank by 2.5%. (Washington Post / New York Times)
4/ Senators are contemplating censuring Trump as an alternative to an impeachment trial, which will likely result in his acquittal as it’s become clear that Democrats won’t find the 17 Republican votes needed for a conviction. Susan Collins and Tim Kaine plan to file a censure resolution that Trump “gave aid and comfort” to the insurrectionists by “repeatedly lying about the election, slandering election officials, pressuring others to come to Washington for a wild event and encouraging them to come up to Congress.” A censure resolution requires only a simple majority vote and could prevent Trump from holding office again. Democratic senators said they’re ready move on to coronavirus pandemic relief, climate legislation, and Biden’s Cabinet confirmations. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Axios / Politico)
5/ After the Trump administration relocated the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to Colorado, more than 87% of staffers either quit or resigned. A total of 287 BLM employees left the job while 41 people moved to the new office in Colorado. About 95% of the more than 9,000 BLM staffers were working outside of Washington before the relocation took place. (Washington Post)
6/ House Republicans appointed a conspiracy theorist – who called school shootings a hoax – to the committee overseeing education. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has openly supported and spread conspiracy theories, including QAnon, for years, wrote on Facebook in 2018 that she agreed that the Parkland massacre that killed 17 students was a “false flag,” and posted a video in 2020 harassing a Parkland survivor, who was visiting Capitol Hill to lobby for gun safety measures. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Greene’s appointment “absolutely appalling” and “beyond the pale,” saying she was “concerned about […] Republican leadership […] willing to overlook, ignore those statements.” Another post showed Greene endorsing executing top Democrats — including Pelosi — in 2018 and 2019. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Politico / NBC News / Bloomberg / NPR)
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