👋 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/ Mitch McConnell demanded that Biden pressure congressional Democratic leaders into raising the debt ceiling unilaterally because Republicans will not support the effort to lift the borrowing limit. McConnell wants Democrats to use budget reconciliation to lift the debt ceiling with only 50 votes instead of the normal 60-vote threshold – the same process Democrats are using to advance Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending package. “Since mid-July, Republicans have clearly stated that Democrats will need to raise the debt limit on their own,” McConnell wrote in a letter to Biden. “We have simply warned that since your party wishes to govern alone, it must handle the debt limit alone as well.” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen previously said the government will run out of cash in about two weeks, which could cause a catastrophic debt default. Budget experts, however, say the reconciliation process would take at least two weeks to complete. (Bloomberg / Politico)
2/ Biden accused Republicans of playing “Russian roulette” with the U.S. economy by refusing to join Democrats in raising the debt ceiling. “Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, they are threatening to use their power to prevent us from doing our job,” Biden said, blaming Mitch McConnell and Republicans for what he described as a “meteor headed to crash” the economy. “Frankly, I think it’s hypocritical, dangerous, and disgraceful. Their obstruction and irresponsibility knows no bounds.” Biden added that more than a quarter of U.S. debt – about $8 trillion – was incurred during the “reckless tax and spending policies” of the Trump administration, and that defaulting on the debt “would lead to a self-inflicted wound that takes our economy over a cliff.” Biden called on Republicans to “just get out of the way” and allow Democrats to hold a vote on the debt ceiling this week without “procedural tricks,” because “We are not expecting Republicans to do their part.” When asked whether he could guarantee the U.S. wouldn’t default on the nation’s debt, Biden answered: “No, I can’t. That’s up to Mitch McConnell.” (Washington Post / Bloomberg / Associated Press / Politico / ABC News / New York Times / NBC News / CNBC / CNN)
3/ Chuck Schumer told Senate Democrats he plans to hold a vote this week on a measure to suspend the debt limit until December 2022. “Let me be clear about the task ahead of us,” Schumer said. “We must get a bill to the President’s desk dealing with the debt limit by the end of the week, period.” Mitch McConnell, however, has vowed to block the attempt – again. Schumer threatened to cancel next week’s recess if the legislation doesn’t end up on Biden’s desk. “We do not have the luxury of waiting until October 18th,” Schumer said. “The consequences of even approaching the X Date could be disastrous for our economy and devastating to American families, raising the costs of borrowing for average Americans and hampering our economic recovery over the long-term.“ (Wall Street Journal / Politico)
4/ Democrats will try to pass both the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion investment in social programs by the end of October. The House twice delayed a vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill last week because progressive Democrats vowed to block it unless they also get a vote on the $3.5 trillion package, which Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have objected to as too costly. Manchin wants the legislation limited to $1.5 trillion. Sinema condemned last week’s delayed vote on infrastructure, calling it a “failure” and “deeply disappointing for communities across our country.” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, meanwhile, said progressives were willing to scale back some components of the legislation to reach a compromise, but that Manchin’s request to spend no more than $1.5 trillion is “not going to happen,” adding “that’s too small to get our priorities in […] Remember: What we want to deliver is child care, paid leave, climate change.” Biden told House Democrats that, after negotiations with moderates, he expects the cost to fall to between $1.9 trillion and $2.3 trillion. In a letter to Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer said he wanted to reach a final deal “within a matter of days, not weeks,” noting that Democrats would need time after that to draft the legislation and get it cleared by the Senate parliamentarian. “Not every member will get everything he or she wanted,” he added. “But at the end of the day, we will pass legislation that will dramatically improve the lives of the American people. I believe we are going to do just that in the month of October.” (New York Times / CNBC / Wall Street Journal / The Hill)
5/ The Biden administration revoked a Trump-era rule that barred health clinics that receive federal funds from advising people about ending their pregnancies. The Department of Health and Human Services said the new regulation will restore the federal family planning program to the way it ran under the Obama administration. The new rule will go into effect on Nov. 8. (Associated Press / Washington Post / Axios)
6/ The Supreme Court declined to block New York City’s requirement that public school teachers receive Covid-19 vaccinations. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state will require Covid-19 vaccines for all school children ages 12-17 once the FDA grants full approval – the first state to move forward on mandating vaccines for school children. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, meanwhile, said there’s “no chance” he will mandate the Covid-19 vaccine for students because he believes “mandates only divide us.” (USA Today / ABC News / CBS News)
7/ A whistleblower accused Facebook of contributing to election misinformation and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. While “Facebook has publicized its work to combat misinformation and violent extremism relating to the 2020 election and insurrection,” the whistleblower, Frances Haugen, said. “In reality, Facebook knew its algorithms and platforms promoted this type of harmful content, and it failed to deploy internally recommended or lasting countermeasures.” Haugen said that following the 2020 election, Facebook disbanded its civic integrity team, which was responsible for protecting the democratic process and tackling misinformation. “Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety,” she added. Haugen will testify before Congress this week. (New York Times / Associated Press / NPR / USA Today)
8/ Rudy Giuliani admitted under oath that his “evidence” of voter fraud in the 2020 election came from unvetted posts on Facebook and other social media platforms. Eric Coomer, a former Dominion Voting Systems employee, is suing the Trump campaign and others for defamation for promoting election fraud conspiracy theories that he helped “rig” the election for Biden. According to an Aug. 14 deposition, Giuliani admitted that he got some of his information about Coomer’s alleged role in the nonexistent election fraud from social media, but wasn’t sure if it was Facebook or another platform. “Those social media posts get all one to me,” Giuliani said. (Business Insider / Colorado Sun / MSNBC)
9/ Trump asked a court to force Twitter to restore his social media account while his lawsuit against the social media giant continues. Trump asked a federal district judge for a preliminary injunction, arguing that Twitter was “censoring” him by indefinitely banning him from the platform. Twitter permanently banned Trump on Jan. 8, “due to the risk of further incitement of violence” following the Jan. 6 riot, in which hundreds of Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. (Washington Post)
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