👋 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 signed the $1.9 trillion economic relief package into law – his first major legislative achievement in office. “This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Biden said during signing. The American Rescue Package authorizes a third round of one-time stimulus payments up to $1,400 for most Americans, extends enhanced unemployment benefits, and changes the tax code to benefit families with children. The package also unlocks new federal aid to help schools reopen, aid cities and states with budget shortfalls, provide billions in aid for small businesses, and assists in the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine. The U.S. has officially allocated over $5 trillion in funding for Covid-19 relief. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / ABC News / Bloomberg / The Guardian)
2/ Some Americans could receive coronavirus stimulus checks as soon as this weekend, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “This is, of course, just the first wave,” Psaki said, adding “payments to eligible Americans will continue throughout the course of the next several weeks.” (CNBC)
3/ Biden will address the nation tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern, marking the one-year anniversary of the day the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, and Covid-19 restrictions that forced the U.S. into lockdown. Biden is expected to use his prime-time remarks to “address the American people and talk about what we went through as a nation this past year.” Biden previewed his remarks on Wednesday, saying “I’m going to talk about what comes next […] explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people. There is light at the end of this dark tunnel. But we cannot let our guard down now or assume the victory is inevitable. Together, we’re gonna get through this pandemic and usher in a healthier and more hopeful future.” (ABC News / Bloomberg / CNN)
4/ The U.S. death rate increased 15% last year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic – the deadliest year in recorded U.S. history. Covid-19 killed nearly 400,000 people in the U.S. in 2020, making it the third-leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. (Politico)
😷 Dept. of “We’re gonna get through this pandemic.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~118,358,000; deaths: ~2,626,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~29,207,000; deaths: ~531,000; fully vaccinated: ~10.0%; partially vaccinated: ~19.3%
All living former presidents and first ladies — except the Trumps — appeared in a public service announcement urging Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The Trumps received their coronavirus vaccinations privately at the White House in January, which wasn’t disclosed until recently. (Politico)
Trump issued a statement on presidential letterhead demanding credit for the privately developed coronavirus vaccines, saying “I hope that everyone remembers when they’re getting the Covid-19 (often referred to as the China Virus) Vaccine, that if I wasn’t president, you wouldn’t be getting that beautiful ‘shot’ for 5 years, at best, and probably wouldn’t be getting it at all. I hope everyone remembers!” (ABC News / Washington Post)
5/ More than 3,700 unaccompanied migrant children are in Border Patrol custody. One Homeland Security official described the border facilities as “absolutely” overcrowded, adding several were “severely overcapacity.” Border Patrol apprehended nearly 800 unaccompanied migrant children yesterday – nearly double current 450 daily average. After being taken into custody, unaccompanied children are required by law to be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours. Kids, however, are currently staying in Border Patrol custody more than four days on average. (CNN)
6/ The House passed two bills bills aimed at strengthening the nation’s gun laws. The bills would expand background checks on the purchase or transfer of firearms and close the “Charleston loophole,” which allows gun sales to proceed without a completed background check if three businesses days have passed. The bill, however, faces opposition in the Senate, where it does not currently have the 60 votes needed to advance. (USA Today / NPR / New York Times)
- 84% of voters support universal background checks, while 11% oppose the policy. 77% of Republicans, 82% of independents, and 91% of Democrats approve of universal background checks. (Newsweek)
7/ In a newly released December phone call, Trump pressured Georgia’s Secretary of State chief investigator to find evidence of fraud with absentee-by-mail ballots, telling her that she would be “praised” for overturning results that were in favor of Biden. “Whatever you can do […] it would be — it’s a great thing,” Trump told Frances Watson, adding that “When the right answer comes out, you’ll be praised […] something bad happened.” At the time, Watson was investigating an audit of more than 15,000 signatures in Cobb County, which resulted in no evidence of fraudulent mail-in ballots. The six-minute call was first reported in January and released in full on Wednesday. (Wall Street Journal / NPR / CNN)
- Michael Cohen has met with Manhattan district attorney’s office prosecutors at least seven times related to the investigation into Trump’s taxes and finances. (NBC News)
8/ Former Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said he believes that Trump’s speech on the morning of Jan. 6 caused a mob to violently attack the U.S. Capitol later that day, saying “Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech? I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened.” As the acting defense secretary at the time, Miller was in charge of the military’s response and has since been criticized for the Department of Defense’s slow deployment of the National Guard. While Miller has rejected the criticism, calling the speed of the response normal, he added that political climate at the time as a “constant drumbeat” of “potential illegal, immoral, and unethical activities.” (Vice News)
9/ A bipartisan group of senators introduced the “Sunshine Protection Act of 2021” to make Daylight Saving Time permanent. Sixteen states have passed initiatives to keep DST year-round, but a federal statue is require for the state to enact the change. Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday and ends November 7. (CBS News)
poll/ 30% of Americans say they won’t get a coronavirus vaccine, while 45% say they will, and 22% saying they have already been vaccinated. 49% of Republican men, 47% of Trump supporters, 30% of white men without college degrees, and 38% of white evangelical Christians all say they will not get vaccinated. (NPR)
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