👋 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/ The House passed the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by extending civil rights protections to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Last week Biden called the bill “a critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality and freedom for all.” The same legislation was previously passed by the House in 2019, but blocked in the Republican-led Senate. While Democrats now control the White House, House, and Senate, the measure still faces an uphill fight in the Senate, where it would need 60 votes to break a legislative filibuster. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)
- Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene posted an anti-transgender sign outside of her office, which is directly across the hall from another lawmaker who has a transgender child. Rep. Marie Newman had earlier hung a transgender pride flag next to her door in protest over Greene’s opposition to the Equality Act. (NBC News / CNN)
2/ Biden ended Trump’s ban on legal immigration that had dramatically cut legal immigration to the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic. Last spring, Trump ordered a “pause” on the issuance of green cards and halted certain temporary work visas, saying he needed to protect U.S. jobs amid high unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. Biden said the Trump policy did “not advance the interests of the United States” and had prevented qualified and eligible non-U.S. residents from entering the country. Biden also eliminated Trump’s effort to cut funding for cities he deemed were “permitting anarchy, violence and destruction” following anti-police brutality protests last summer. (NPR / New York Times / NBC News / CBS News / The Guardian /Bloomberg)
- Biden revoked Trump’s executive order that made classical architecture the preferred style for federal buildings in Washington. Trump had called modern federal buildings constructed over the last five decades “undistinguished,” “uninspiring” and “just plain ugly.” Instead, Trump required all new buildings be “beautiful.” (NPR)
3/ The Biden administration reopened a tent facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, to house up to 700 immigrant teenagers after they cross the U.S.-Mexico border unaccompanied by a parent. The facility, closed since July 2019, is reopening because permanent facilities for migrant children have had to cut capacity by 40% because of the coronavirus pandemic. The administration is also planning to reopen a for-profit emergency temporary shelter in Homestead, Florida that once held up to 3,200 children and came under fire in 2019 following reports of sexual abuse, overcrowding, and negligent hiring practices. The administration has maintained that it has to reopen the facilities because of limited capacity at existing facilities during the pandemic and an influx of unaccompanied children. (Washington Post / Associated Press / Vox / NBC News / CNN / New York Times / CBS News)
A federal judge indefinitely blocked the Biden’s administration from enforcing a 100-day moratorium on most deportations. Judge Drew Tipton issued the preliminary injunction sought by Texas, which argued the moratorium violated federal law and risked imposing additional costs on the state. (CBS News)
Lawyers have located the parents of 105 children separated by the Trump administration. The parents of 506 separated migrant children, however, still haven’t been found and 322 of them were likely to have been deported. (NBC News)
4/ A new coronavirus variant is spreading rapidly in New York City and contains a mutation that may weaken the effectiveness of vaccines. The new variant, called B.1.526, first appeared in November, but by mid-February it accounted for about 27% of NYC viral sequences deposited into a database. Meanwhile, a new variant detected in California, which goes by two names, B.1.427 and B.1.429, now makes up more than half of the infections in 44 counties in the state. (New York Times / Washington Post)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~112,869,000; deaths: ~2,505,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~28,398,000; deaths: ~508,000; fully vaccinated: ~6.2%; partially vaccinated: ~13.6%
5/ Another 730,000 people filed for initial unemployment benefits – down from 841,000 the previous week. Continuing claims decreased to a pandemic-era low of 4.42 million, which is significantly higher than the pre-pandemic norm. Although the unemployment rate stands at 6.3%, a broader measure that includes those who have given up on their job searches is closer to 10%. (CNBC / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / Politico)
6/ Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman warned that the same groups involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection want to “blow up the Capitol” and “kill as many members as possible” during Biden’s first official address to Congress. During a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Pittman told lawmakers that over 10,000 pro-Trump rioters came onto the Capitol grounds and that more than 800 of them ended up breaching the building. “Officers were unsure of when to use lethal force on Jan. 6,” Pittman said. “The department will also implement significant training to refresh our officers as to the use of lethal force.” Biden is expected to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress after passing Covid-19 relief. (NBC News / CNN / Bloomberg / New York Times / Washington Post)
7/ Trump’s tax returns and other financial documents were turned over to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Cyrus Vance’s office enforced a subpoena on Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, after the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s request to prevent the millions of pages of records from being handed over as part of an ongoing criminal grand jury investigation. Trump spent nearly 18 months trying to keep the records secret. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / Politico / CBS News / NBC News / CNBC)
8/ The Senate voted 64-35 to confirm Jennifer Granholm as secretary of the Department of Energy. Granholm – the second woman to head the department – is expected to play a major role in Biden’s promises to accelerate and expand the country’s shift renewable energy sources. (Axios)
9/ Postmaster General Louis DeJoy apologized for “unacceptable” mail delays during the holiday season in testimony before the House Oversight Committee, but warned that the postal system is “in a death spiral” and needs legislation to help restore it to financial stability. During testimony, DeJoy told lawmakers he intends to be around “a long time,” saying: “Get used to me.” Shortly after DeJoy testified, however, Biden announced three nominees to the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, which has the power to appoint and replace the postmaster general. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden wants to see leaders who can do a “better job” running USPS. (NPR / ABC News / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News / Bloomberg
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