👋 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 discouraged potential migrants hoping to enter the United States, saying “don’t come […] don’t leave your town or city or community.” More than 13,000 unaccompanied migrant children are currently in U.S. custody and the country is on pace to stop more migrants crossing the border than in the last 20 years. Republicans, meanwhile, have blamed the surge of migrants and unaccompanied minors at the southern border on Biden rescinding Trump’s immigration policies, including a program that returned asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases were being considered. (ABC News / CBS News / CNN / The Guardian / USA Today)
2/ Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified that the U.S.-Mexico “border is secure and the border is not open.” In a hearing held by the House Homeland Security Committee, Mayorkas defended the Biden administration’s approach to creating a “fair and humane” immigration system despite the administration struggling to accommodate a surge of unaccompanied minors at the border. Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, repeatedly called the situation a “crisis” and blamed Biden for mishandling immigration policy. “The situation is undoubtedly difficult,” Mayorkas said. “What the president is committed to and what I am committed to execute is to ensure that we have an immigration system that works and that migration to our country is safe, orderly and humane.” (CNN / Politico / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
3/ The Biden administration limited what Border Patrol can share with the media about the migrant surge at the border. Officials said the restrictions are seen as an unofficial “gag order” that were communicated verbally – not through an official memo. Border Patrol officials were also told to deny all media requests for “ride-alongs” with agents and send all questions from the media to the press office in Washington for approval. (NBC News)
4/ Twenty-one Republican state attorneys general threatened to take action against the Biden administration over $350 billion set aside under coronavirus stimulus relief to help cities, counties, and states pay for the cost of the pandemic. In a seven-page letter, the Republican officials asked Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to clarify a provision in the $1.9 trillion stimulus law that prevents them from using the federal funds to deliberately reduce their revenue through local tax cuts. The law requires repayment if any of the money is spent in violation of that condition. The group claimed that the restrictions “would represent the greatest invasion of state sovereignty by Congress in the history of our Republic” — and they threatened to take “appropriate additional action” in response. (Washington Post / New York Times)
😷 Dept. of “We’re gonna get through this.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~121,003,000; deaths: ~2,676,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~29,594,000; deaths: ~538,000; fully vaccinated: ~11.5%; partially vaccinated: ~22.2%
Health and Human Services is directing $10 billion to increase Covid-19 testing in schools. Another $2.25 billion will support scaled-up testing in underserved populations and $150 million will be allocated to help get Covid-19 treatments to underserved communities. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)
The CDC plans to update Covid-19 guidance for schools to reduce social distancing recommendations from 6 feet to 3 feet. A study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, compared infection rates in Massachusetts public schools with different physical distancing requirements. The research suggests that 3 feet may be as safe as 6 feet if everyone is masked. (CNBC)
Twenty-three out of 31 top posts at the Department of Health and Human Services are held by officials in acting capacities. Approval of Biden’s nominees have been held up in the Senate by Republicans. (New York Times)
5/ Senate Democrats introduced the For the People Act, a comprehensive voting reform and anti-corruption bill that was passed by the House earlier this month. Chuck Schumer said proposals to roll back voting access in several Republican-led states “smack of Jim Crow” and represent a threat to democracy, which would be countered by the legislation. The bill, however, faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it would require at least 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster. Schumer added “everything is on the table […] Failure is not an option.” (Bloomberg / CNBC / CNN / Axios / Washington Post)
6/ Biden suggested that he supports reforming the filibuster after Mitch McConnell threatened to go “scorched earth” if Democrats move all legislation to a simple majority vote in the Senate. “I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster,” Biden said, adding that he preferred a return to the “talking filibuster” (a requirement that a senator holds the floor in order to delay a bill). “It’s getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning.” At least nine Democratic senators, however, have said they aren’t ready to scrap the supermajority requirement for most legislation yet. (ABC News / Politico / New York Times / NPR)
7/ Biden promised that Putin “will pay a price” for his efforts to undermine the 2020 election following a declassified intelligence report that Russian meddled in the election with the aim of “denigrating” Biden’s candidacy. When asked what the consequences would be, Biden replied: “You’ll see shortly.” (CNN / Politico / Reuters / The Guardian)
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