👋 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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Day 41: "The most powerful and heartbreaking example of the cruelty that preceded this administration."
1/ The House passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package in a 219 to 212 vote. The measure would provide $1,400 payments to millions of Americans, speed up vaccine distribution and testing, and extend unemployment aid through the summer. More than a dozen House Republicans skipped the vote, saying they can’t attend “due to the ongoing public health emergency.” Those members, however, were scheduled to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando. The Senate will take up the measure this week, which currently includes hiking the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The bill, however, is unlikely to receive support from Senate Republicans. Federal jobless aid expires on March 14. (Politico / CNN / USA Today)
2/ Senate Democrats and the White House abandoned efforts to include a $15 minimum wage increase in order to move Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package forward before current supplemental unemployment benefits expire on March 14. Senior Democratic lawmakers briefly considered new tax penalties on big companies that don’t pay at least $15 an hour, but dropped the plan after it became clear that getting all 50 Senate Democrats to agree on the specifics would risk missing the deadline for extending unemployment benefits. The tax idea was floated after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the increase in the federal minimum wage would violate the chamber’s rules. A group of 23 progressive lawmakers urged Biden to keep his campaign promise to raise the minimum wage and overrule the Senate parliamentarian. The White House, however, declined to overrule the parliamentarian, saying “that’s not an action we intend to take.” Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, meanwhile, have both said they do not support increasing the minimum wage to $15 as part of the coronavirus relief package. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration would work with “members of Congress, with their staffs, about the best vehicle moving forward. But we don’t have a clear answer on what that looks like at this point.” (Washington Post / Bloomberg / Politico / CNN / ABC News / Business Insider / Wall Street Journal)
3/ The FDA authorized Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. Johnson & Johnson’s initial supply will be limited to 3.9 million doses – expected to ship this week – with about 800,000 going directly to pharmacies. An estimated 20 million doses are expected by the end of March and 100 million doses by the end of June. (ABC News / NPR / New York Times / Washington Post)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~114,351,000; deaths: ~2,537,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~28,649,000; deaths: ~515,000; fully vaccinated: ~7.7%; partially vaccinated: ~15.3%
Biden will not consider sharing U.S. coronavirus vaccine supply with Mexico if Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador asked. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden “has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are accessible to every American. That is our focus.” (Politico)
4/ The Biden administration’s task force for reuniting migrant families separated by the Trump administration will allow those families to reunite and settle in either in the U.S. or their county of origin. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the separation of more than 5,500 migrant families under the Trump administration “the most powerful and heartbreaking example of the cruelty that preceded this administration.” Approximately 105 families have been reunited so far. (Politico / NBC News)
6/ The Biden administration won’t release the visitors logs of attendees to virtual meetings, which is the primary meeting form during the coronavirus pandemic. “Virtual meetings will not be subject to release — in the same way that previous administrations didn’t release phone logs — but we’re planning on regularly releasing the attendee lists for in-person meetings at the White House,” an official said. Before the inauguration, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House would release its visitor logs and that Biden wants to bring “truth and transparency back” to the White House. In 2017, three organizations sued Trump for not releasing White House visitor logs and the Secret Service agreed to stop erasing the visitors logs following Freedom of Information Act requests at the time. (Politico)
7/ Republicans, conservative activists, and media personalities have repeatedly pushed false and fictional narratives about what happened on Jan. 6, in order to rewrite the story that a mob – incited by Trump – breached the United States Capitol to keep Trump in power through violence. For nearly two months, a campaign by pro-Trump groups has tried to minimize the insurrection by advancing baseless claims that antifa provocateurs were to blame for the violence on Jan. 6; that a few troublemakers spoiled the protest; and that the riot wasn’t a big deal. And, at a Senate hearing last week, Sen. Ron Johnson repeated the falsehood that “fake Trump protesters” fomented the violence. Democrats, meanwhile, have called for more investigations of the attacks – including Trump’s role – and negotiations continue over creating an outside commission. (Washington Post / New York Times)
8/ Trump attacked Biden’s tenure as president in his first public appearance since leaving office, calling it “the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history.” Trump started his 90-minute address – which began more than an hour late – by asking the Conservative Political Action Conference crowd: “Do you miss me?” before reviving his false claims of election fraud and attacking the Supreme Court for not siding with him, saying, the justices “should be ashamed of themselves for what they’ve done to our country [they] didn’t have the guts or the courage to do anything about it.” Trump said that he is “not starting a new party,” but suggested he may run again in 2024, saying: “Who knows? I may even decide to beat them for a third time.” Trump also named every Republican who supported his second impeachment and called for them to be ousted. 95% of conference attendees said the GOP should continue to embrace Trump’s policy ideas, and 68% of attendees said Trump should run again in 2024. (NPR / New York Times / NBC News / ABC News / CNN / Politico)
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