👋 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 Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, which will send $1,400 stimulus checks to millions of Americans, extend enhanced unemployment benefits, help schools and colleges reopen, and fund vaccine distribution. One Democrat — Rep. Jared Golden — joined all Republicans in voting against the measure. The House passed a similar version of the bill last month, but had to approve changes made by the Senate after the parliamentarian ruled that the federal minimum wage increase violated the Senate’s rules. “This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation – the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going – a fighting chance,” Biden said in a statement. Nancy Pelosi called the bill a “force for fairness and justice in America,” comparing it to the Affordable Care Act in its significance, and saying “I join President Biden in his promise: help is on the way.” Despite 70% of Americans favoring the package, Republicans argued that the plan was a bloated “laundry list of left-wing priorities that predate the pandemic.” Biden is expected to sign the relief bill Friday, and mark the one-year anniversary of the pandemic in his first prime-time address to the nation Thursday. (New York Times / Washington Post / NPR / Politics / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / The Guardian / ABC News / CBS News / USA Today)
- What’s in the Covid-19 relief package: Stimulus checks, unemployment assistance, aid to states and municipalities, nutrition assistance, housing aid, tax credits for families and workers, optional paid sick and family leave, education and child care funding, health insurance subsidies and Medicaid matching funds, more money for small businesses, and vaccine and testing funds. (CNN)
2/ Biden ordered an additional 100 million doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine. The planned purchase would bring the country’s total vaccine order to 800 million doses – split among three manufacturers – and give the U.S. more than enough supply to vaccinate every adult in the country. Johnson & Johnson, however, is unlikely to deliver the additional 100 million shots in time to speed up vaccinations this spring. (NBC News / Politico)
3/ Thousands of unaccompanied migrant children are being held in U.S. Border Patrol custody for more than four days on average in facilities unfit for minors. Under U.S. law, unaccompanied children have to be turned over within 72 hours to the Department of Health and Human Services. Instead, they’re staying in Customs and Border Protection facilities for 107 hours on average because, in part, the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border is outpacing the availability of proper shelter space for kids. Over the last 21 days, CBP encountered an average of 435 unaccompanied children daily – up from an average of around 340 children. (CNN)
4/ The Senate confirmed Merrick Garland to be the next U.S. attorney general. The 70-30 vote comes five years after Obama nominated Garland to serve on the Supreme Court. The Senate, then under Republican control, refused to consider a hearing or vote. Garland told senators that the attorney general is “not the president’s lawyer,” while noting that he will follow Biden’s lead on policy matters “as long as it is consistent with the law.” He is expected to be sworn in at the Justice Department on Thursday. (Associated Press / Politico / NPR / ABC News / New York Times / Washington Post)
5/ The Senate confirmed Rep. Marcia Fudge as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, making her the first Black woman to lead the agency in more than four decades. Her appointment leaves a vacancy in the House, where Democrats hold a narrow majority. (CNN / Washington Post)
6/ Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin extended the deployment of National Guard members at the U.S. Capitol through May. The number of Guard members will be reduced from about 5,200 to 2,300. Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, called the enhanced security measures at the Capitol an overreaction, “We’ve overdone it. I’m extremely uncomfortable with the fact that my constituents can’t come to the Capitol. There’s all this razor wire around the complex. It reminds me of my last visit to Kabul.” (Washington Post / ABC News / Politico)
7/ An expert on Georgia’s racketeering law was hired to help prosecutors investigating potential efforts by Trump and others to influence the 2020 election. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis engaged John Floyd to serve as a special assistant district attorney to work with her office on any cases involving allegations of racketeering. On Feb. 10, Willis’s office said it had opened a criminal investigation into “potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration.” Willis’s office also confirmed that the investigation includes the Jan. 2 phone call in which Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” him enough votes to overturn the state’s presidential election results. (ABC News)
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