👋 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 created a bipartisan commission to study adding seats to the Supreme Court. Biden said the group has 180 days to produce a report on court expansion, term limits, and other “recommendations as to how to reform the court system, because it’s getting out of whack.” The executive order also mandates that the group holds public meetings and take input from a range of stakeholders. Biden previously said he’s “not a fan” of adding additional seats to the Supreme Court in order to alter its ideological balance, which currently has a 6 to 3 conservative tilt. Meanwhile, Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the court’s three liberals, recently warned against expanding the Supreme Court, saying its authority depends on “a trust that the court is guided by legal principle, not politics.” (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / NPR)
2/ The White House released Biden’s $1.52 trillion budget request for 2022, calling for significant increase in spending aimed at fighting poverty and climate change, while keeping defense spending relatively flat. The budget outline would increase overall spending on discretionary programs by $118 billion (about 8% above last year’s levels), while defense spending would see an increase of $12.3 billion (1.7%), and other domestic programs would get a 15.9% boost. Administration officials said the budget request was “complimentary” to Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan. (Washington Post / NPR / Politico / NBC News / Bloomberg / CNN)
3/ Former Trump administration appointees privately celebrated successfully influencing the CDC’s scientific reports on the coronavirus. New documents show that former Health and Human Services senior adviser Paul Alexander shared two examples of the CDC bowing to his pressure and changing language in their scientific reports to more closely align with Trump’s political messages about the pandemic. “Small victory but a victory nonetheless and yippee!!!” Alexander wrote in one email to then-HHS public affairs chief Michael Caputo on Sept. 9, 2020. (Washington Post / CNN)
4/ The CDC said the U.S. is seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases linked to youth sports. Between January and March, Michigan saw 291 cases stemming from youth sports teams, while in Minnesota at least 68 coronavirus cases were linked to participants in both school and club sports activities. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the increases in Michigan and Minnesota were “due, in part, to more highly transmissible variants.” The highly infectious B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., recently became the dominate Covid strain in the U.S. (CNBC / CNN)
- Pfizer requested that the FDA expand the emergency use of its Covid-19 vaccine to adolescents aged 12 to 15. (CNBC)
5/ The White House “border czar” will step down at the end of the month despite the administration struggling to address the flow of immigration from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Roberta Jacobson, the former ambassador to Mexico, said her appointment on the National Security Council as the border coordinator was always intended to last for only about 100 days. Biden tapped Kamala Harris last month to lead the government’s diplomatic efforts with that region. (New York Times)
6/ Matt Gaetz sent accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg $900 in May 2018, who then – using the same app – sent three young women money totaling $900. In the memo field of one of the Venmo payments, Gaetz instructed Greenberg to “hit up____,” using the nickname for one of the girls. The House Ethics Committee announced it was opening an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Gaetz. The House probe comes amid a Department of Justice investigation into Gaetz’s alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl and whether she was paid to travel for sex, which could violate federal sex-trafficking laws. Gaetz, meanwhile, hired two defense lawyers to represent him in the investigations. One of the lawyers represents the Trump Organization in a separate criminal probe. (Daily Beast / Washington Post / CNBC / NBC News / Bloomberg)
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