👋 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/ Biden suggested that anyone in the country who wants a vaccine should be able to get one “by the end of July.” Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said in a task force briefing that “We are on track to have enough vaccine supply for 300 million Americans by the end of July.” The U.S. has averaged 1.64 million doses a day over the last week and about 56.3 million total doses have been administered. If the pace of vaccination stays where it is now, Biden’s initial goal of 100 million Covid-19 vaccine shots in the first 100 days of his presidency would be met in late March – around Day 67 of his presidency. (New York Times / USA Today / The Guardian)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~109,837,000; deaths: ~2,428,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~27,812,000; deaths: ~490,000; vaccinated: ~12.2% of total population
About a third of U.S. military personnel are declining to be vaccinated. About 960,000 members of the military and its contractors have been vaccinated. (New York Times)
2/ Biden clarified that his goal is to open the majority of K-8 schools by the end of his first 100 days in office. When asked to explain what he meant by “open,” Biden said, “I think many of them five days a week. The goal will be five days a week” in person. Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration wants more than 50% of schools to have “some teaching” in person “at least one day a week” – not fully reopened – by the end of April. Kamala Harris, meanwhile, stressed that teachers should be given priority for Covid-19 vaccinations, but wouldn’t say if she believed that teacher vaccinations should be a prerequisite for reopening schools. Dr. Anthony Fauci, however, added that vaccinating all teachers against Covid-19 before reopening schools is a “non-workable” solution. (NPR / NBC News / Politico)
3/ The Biden administration will invest more than $1.6 billion to expand coronavirus testing and genetic sequencing. About $650 million will go toward testing in K-8 schools and homeless shelters, $815 million will increase manufacturing to address shortages in testing supplies, and $200 million will go to increasing genetic sequencing efforts to help track existing and new variants. The White House called the $200 million a “down payment” that would increase the number of virus samples that labs can sequence jumping from around 7,000 to around 25,000 each week. Testing coordinator Carole Johnson, meanwhile, described the $1.6 billion package a “pilot” that will serve as a bridge until Congress passes the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times)
4/ Biden declined to support Democratic proposals to cancel up to $50,000 per borrower in student loan debt, saying “I will not make that happen.” Biden, however, said he was prepared to cancel $10,000 in debt, but anything more than that would require congressional action. Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, and other lawmakers introduced a resolution in early February calling on Biden to use executive action to wipe out up to $50,000 in student loan debt, arguing that the secretary of education has broad administrative authority to cancel the federal debt. In response to Biden’s dismissal to forgiving student debt, Schumer and Warren issued a joint statement saying that action is needed “to immediately deliver much-needed relief to millions of Americans.” “It’s time to act. We will keep fighting,” they added. (NBC News / CNN / Washington Post / Bloomberg)
5/ Economists warn that millions of jobs that have been eliminated by the coronavirus pandemic are permanent and unlikely to come back. A report coming out later this week from the McKinsey Global Institute says that 20% of business travel won’t come back and about 20% of workers could end up working from home indefinitely, which means fewer jobs at hotels, restaurants, and downtown shops. (Washington Post)
poll/ 52% of voters approve of the job Biden is doing as president. In February, 2017, voters gave Trump a 38% approval rating. (Quinnipiac)
The Biden administration will send generators to Texas amid ongoing power outages and freezing weather. Biden also declared a state of emergency in Texas over the weekend. (Axios)
The Pentagon delayed promotions for two female generals over fears that Trump would replace them before leaving office. Then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed to delay their promotion recommendations for Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost of the Air Force and Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson of the Army until after the November elections on the assumption that the Biden administration would be more supportive. Both promotions are expected to go to the White House and then to the Senate for approval within the next few weeks. (New York Times)
Dominion Voting Systems “imminently” plans to sue MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell over his claims about nonexistent election fraud. The suit would make Lindell the third Trump ally sued by Dominion after the company filed $1.3 billion suits against attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani. (Daily Beast)
Trump issued a highly personal statement attacking Mitch McConnell after McConnell voted no on impeachment but said he held Trump “practically and morally responsible” for the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump called McConnell a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack” who “doesn’t have what it takes,” claiming that McConnell cost Republicans the Senate and that senator won his reelection because of his endorsement. “If Republican senators are going to stay with him,” Trump said, “they will not win again.” (New York Times / Politico / NBC News)
Biden said he’s spoken to all former presidents “with one exception.” Trump was the first president in modern history to decline to meet with his successor. After confirming that he hasn’t spoken to Trump, Biden added: “I’m tired of talking about Donald Trump, don’t want to talk about him anymore.” [Editor’s note: Amen.] (CNN / Axios)
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