👋 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/ After blocking major voting rights legislation for weeks, Sen. Joe Manchin finally outlined a list of changes he wants in a bid for a compromise. Manchin – the only Senate Democrat who is not sponsoring the For the People Act – has opposed the For the People Act, saying it’s too partisan and arguing that changes to voting laws should have bipartisan support. Republicans, however, have uniformly opposed the For the People Act. Manchin’s compromise proposal includes making Election Day a public holiday, providing at least 15 consecutive days of early voting, automatic voter registration through state departments of motor vehicles, and a requirement that states send mail-in absentee ballots to eligible voters if they are unable to vote in person. The proposal also includes voter identification requirements, which Democrats are generally are opposed to. Manchin also reaffirmed that he has not changed his views against eliminating the filibuster, meaning the Manchin version of the election bill would have no chance of passage without 10 Republicans supporting support the legislation. (Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / New York Times / Bloomberg / The Intercept)
2/ The Senate unanimously passed a measure to make Juneteenth, the day that marks the end of slavery in Texas, a federal holiday. The bill now heads to the House, where it is likely to be approved. In July 2020, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson blocked the bill, saying a federal day off would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. (Washington Post / CNN)
3/ The Education Department issued new guidance that the rights of transgender and gay students are protected at school by Title IX, a reversal of the Trump-era guidance that gay and transgender students are not protected by any federal laws. “The Supreme Court has upheld the right for LGBTQ+ people to live and work without fear of harassment, exclusion, and discrimination – and our LGBTQ+ students have the same rights and deserve the same protections. I’m proud to have directed the Office for Civil Rights to enforce Title IX to protect all students from all forms of sex discrimination,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said. “Today, the Department makes clear that all students – including LGBTQ+ students – deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination.” (New York Times / CNN / USA Today)
4/ The Justice Department reversed a Trump-era immigration ruling that limited the possibility of asylum protections in the U.S. for women fleeing from domestic violence in other countries, and some victims of gang violence. Attorney General Merrick Garland vacated the 2018 decision by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to victims of “private violence,” like domestic violence or gangs. (NPR / New York Times)
5/ A federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s temporary suspension of new oil and gas drilling leases on public lands. Judge Terry Doughty said that the power to pause the offshore oil and gas leases “lies solely with Congress” because it was the legislative branch that originally made federal lands and waters available for leasing. The Interior Department said it would “comply with the decision,” suggesting that lease sales to drill in Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico will likely resume for now. In January, Biden signed an executive order that temporarily banned new drilling leases on federal lands and waters, saying he wanted to pause new leases while the Interior Department reviewed the program. (NBC News / New York Times)
6/ The House Judiciary Committee opened an investigation into efforts by the Trump Justice Department to seize data from members of Congress, journalists, and the then-White House counsel. The Department of Justice’s inspector general has also opened a separate inquiry into the data seizures. In the Senate, Democratic leaders have called for former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, criticized the inquiries as unnecessary and accused Democrats of embarking on “politically motivated investigations,” saying “There is no need for a partisan circus here in Congress.” (NPR / The Guardian)
7/ The FBI told the House Oversight Committee that it is pursuing “hundreds of investigations” related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. FBI Director Christopher Wray called the effort “one of the most far-reaching and extensive” investigations in the bureau’s history. (New York Times)
8/ Twenty-one House Republicans voted against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the officers who responded to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. The final vote in the House was 406-21 – nearly doubled the number of Republicans who voted against the initial legislation in March. (CNN / Washington Post)
9/ Biden and Putin described their first in-person summit as “constructive” and “good, positive.” Biden spoke to reporters after meeting for just under four hours, saying he pressed Putin over alleged hacking, human rights abuses, and more. “I did what I came to do,” Biden said, adding: “The bottom line is I told President Putin that we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by.” In a separate, sequential news conference, Putin denied Russia’s involvement in the recent cyberattacks against U.S. institutions, saying the U.S. is the biggest offender, while blaming the U.S. for the deterioration in the U.S.-Russia relationship. Putin added that “there has been no hostility” between the two leaders. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / Politico)
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