👋 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/ The House will vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill tonight after abandoning an agreement with progressive Democrats to first vote on a separate $1.75 trillion education, healthcare, and climate package. Party leaders began the day hoping to hold a vote on the social spending legislation, followed by a vote on the infrastructure legislation. A small group of moderates, however, refused to support the $1.75 trillion social safety net, climate, and tax package without a cost analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which could take a week or more. The opposition forced Speaker Nancy Pelosi to change course, announcing that the House would vote first on the infrastructure bill, which already passed the Senate, and then take a procedural vote to begin debate on the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better bill, with hopes of passing it by Thanksgiving. Progressives, however, rejected Pelosi’s move to vote on infrastructure without the broader social spending plan, saying “If our six colleagues still want to wait” for the CBO review, “we would agree to give them that time — after which point we can vote on both bills together.” Pelosi, however, said the bipartisan infrastructure bill was too important to put off any longer and that she believes a “large number” of progressives actually plan to support the bill. “The agenda that we are advancing is transformative and historic, hence challenging,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democrats outlining the new plan. Pelosi can’t afford to lose more than three votes, unless some Republicans vote for the infrastructure bill. Earlier in the day, Biden called on House members to advance both bills, which total nearly $3 trillion in investments in infrastructure, social policy, and climate programs. “I’m asking every member of the House of Representatives to vote yes on both these bills right now,” Biden said. “Send the infrastructure bill to my desk, send the Build Back Better bill to the Senate. Let’s build on incredible economic progress, build on what we’ve already done because this will be such a boost when it occurs.” When asked whether she had the votes to pass the infrastructure bill, Pelosi replied: “We’ll see, won’t we?” (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Bloomberg / NBC News)
2/ The attorneys general in 11 states sued the Biden administration to stop new rules requiring workers at companies with at least 100 employees be vaccinated against Covid-19 or tested weekly. Under the new requirements, which apply to an estimated 84 million workers, employers have until Jan. 4 to make sure their workers are either vaccinated or produce a negative test weekly. Workers who remain unvaccinated must wear a mask at work, and employers aren’t required to provide or pay for the tests. A second rule requires about 17 million health care workers to be vaccinated, but with no option for weekly testing in lieu of vaccination. Employers could face penalties of up to nearly $14,000 per violation. (Wall Street Journal / CNN / NPR / Reuters)
3/ The American economy added 531,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate declined to 4.6% — a new pandemic-era low but still well above the pre-pandemic jobless rate of 3.5%. The U.S. has recovered about 80% of the jobs lost at the depth of the recession in 2020. (Axios / New York Times / Associated Press)
4/ Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% in a clinical trial, making it the second pill to show efficacy against Covid-19. The drug also appears to be more effective than the Merck antiviral pill, which already received authorization in the U.K. and is currently awaiting federal authorization in the U.S. Both oral medicines attack the coronavirus by interfering with its ability to replicate itself. (NPR / Washington Post / New York Times)
5/ The Biden administration sued Texas over the state’s restrictive voting law, alleging that it disenfranchises eligible voters and that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB1 into law in Sept., which banned 24-hour and drive-thru voting, imposed new hurdles on mail-in ballots, and empowered partisan poll watchers. “Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “The Justice Department will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society.” The law is set to got into effect Dec. 2. (New York Times / NPR / Washington Post / CNN)
6/ A federal judge questioned Trump’s effort to block the congressional Jan. 6 select committee from obtaining his White House records, expressing skepticism that a former president can overrule his successor’s decision to release them to investigators. “There is only one executive,” District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan said, noting that a former president has no authority over either branch of government. Chutkan added, however, that she might curb some “unbelievably broad” requests for records, which go back as far as April 2020, about Trump’s activities leading up to the attack on the Capitol. (Politico / CNN / Washington Post / The Hill)
- Timeline of the coup: How Trump tried to weaponize the Justice Department to overturn the 2020 election. (CNN)
7/ A former Trump Justice Department official refused to answer the Jan. 6 select committee’s questions about Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election. Despite being subpoenaed last month to compel his testimony, Jeffrey Clark claimed he couldn’t provide testimony until the courts resolved Trump’s lawsuit challenging the Jan. 6 select committee’s access to his White House records. Clark cited potential executive and attorney-client privilege to justify his client’s refusal to cooperate. The Jan. 6 committee’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson, said Clark’s refusal to testify could lead to a referral to the Justice Department for contempt of Congress. (Politico / CNN)
8/ An analyst who contributed research to a 2016 dossier that detailed alleged ties between Trump and Russia was arrested as part of a probe by special counsel John Durham. In a 39-page indictment, a grand jury accused Igor Danchenko of five counts of making false statements to the FBI about his sources in the so-called Steele dossier, which detailed alleged ties between Trump and Russia. The dossier was also part of the basis for a secret FBI warrant to tap the phone of former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page as the FBI investigated possible ties between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russia. Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham in 2019 to investigate the origins and handling of the Russia investigation for any wrongdoing. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC)
9/ The Manhattan district attorney convened a second grand jury to consider charges in their investigation of the Trump Organization. Both District Attorney Cyrus Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James previously indicated that they were examining whether the Trump Organization manipulated the value of its assets to get favorable loan rates or to lower his taxes. An earlier grand jury returned felony indictments against two Trump companies and Trump’s longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, charging them with tax evasion. (Washington Post)
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