👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ Biden signed a short-term spending bill to keep the government running through Dec. 3. The House initially passed a funding bill last week on a party-line vote of 220-211, which Senate Republicans then blocked on Monday because it included an extension of the debt ceiling. The Senate and House, however, finally approved the funding legislation after Democrats stripped out the provision to suspend the debt ceiling, which lawmakers still need to address before Oct. 18 in order to prevent a default on the more than $28 trillion in U.S. debt. The stopgap funding bill also provides emergency aid to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees and aid to help communities rebuild from hurricanes, wildfires, and other recent natural disasters. (Politico / New York Times / CNBC / NBC News)
2/ Biden met privately with House Democrats in an effort to salvage both the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan and the $3.5 trillion social spending and climate change package. Nancy Pelosi has twice delayed a vote this week on the $1.2 trillion plan because progressive Democrats have vowed to vote it down unless they also get a vote on the $3.5 trillion package, which two moderate Democratic senators have objected to as too costly. During the meeting, Biden told members that the vote on infrastructure “ain’t going to happen” until Democrats agree on the second bill, adding that a bill smaller than $3.5 trillion “can make historic investments.” Democratic leaders and the White House have proposed a $2.3 trillion compromise deal to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. But Manchin has insisted that he won’t support anything larger than $1.5 trillion in social spending – less than half of what progressives have sought. Sinema, meanwhile, left Washington for a “medical appointment” and scheduled fundraiser in Arizona. “We’re going to get this done,” Biden said after meeting with Democrats. But when pressed on a timeline, Biden replied: “It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t whether it’s in six minutes, six days, or six weeks – we’re going to get it done.” It was not clear when Pelosi would schedule a vote on the infrastructure bill. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / ABC News / CNN / CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press)
3/ A federal judge questioned Texas’s defense of the nation’s most restrictive abortion law following the Justice Department’s emergency request to block the controversial law. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman asked why the state went “to such great lengths” to create a “very unusual” law aimed at hindering judicial review if it’s “so confident in the constitutionality of the limitations on a woman’s access to abortion.” Following the nearly three-hour hearing, Pitman did not say when he would rule, but said he would give the matter “careful consideration” and “get to work” on an order. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press / NPR)
4/ Brett Kavanaugh tested positive for the coronavirus. Kavanaugh has no symptoms and has been fully vaccinated since January. The Supreme Court begins its new term Monday, when it will hear oral arguments in the courtroom for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. It is not clear how Kavanaugh’s positive test might affect his participation. (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
5/ An experimental Covid-19 pill reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly half in a clinical trial. Merck plans to seek emergency use authorization of molnupiravir in the U.S., and has already begun producing the drug, which must be taken twice a day for five days. Earlier this year, the company agreed to supply the U.S. with around 1.7 million courses of molnupiravir if it receives emergency use authorization or full approval from the FDA. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)
6/ A Texas judge ruled that right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is legally responsible for all damages caused by his false claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a “giant hoax.” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued default judgments against Jones and his website Infowars for not complying with court orders to provide documents and evidence supporting his claims that the shooting was a “false flag” operation carried out by “crisis actors.” A jury will now be convened to determine how much Jones owes the plaintiffs stemming from a pair of 2018 lawsuits brought against him by the families of two children killed in the 2012 massacre. (HuffPost / CNN / CNBC / Washington Post)
7/ Starting today, the U.S. Postal Service will begin slowing mail service. About 40% of first-class mail will now see slower delivery under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s restructuring plan to cut costs. Letters and other first-claim mail could take up to five days to reach their destinations instead of the previous three-day delivery standard. (CBS News / CNN / Washington Post)
poll/ 50% of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 49% disapprove. In August, 54% approved, and 59% in July. (Associated Press)
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