👋 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 the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan into law – the largest federal investment in infrastructure in more than a decade. In total, the measure contains $550 billion in new funds to improve the nation’s highways, roads, bridges, ports, rail, pipes, and public transit systems, as well as upgrades to the electrical grid and expanded access to broadband internet. Before signing the legislation, Biden said “we’re finally getting this done” in a nod to Trump, who repeatedly tried and failed to secure a bipartisan infrastructure deal. “My message for the American people is this: America’s moving again, and your life’s going to change for the better.” Trump, meanwhile, said the 13 Republicans who voted for the bill “should be ashamed of themselves” for giving Biden and Democrats a victory. In the House, Democratic leaders expect to vote on the roughly $2 trillion climate, safety net, and tax package this week and send it to the Senate, despite uncertainty over the measure’s cost. The timing of Senate vote, however, is complicated by a Dec. 3 deadline to avoid a government shutdown, address the debt limit, and pass the annual defense policy bill. If the social safety net and climate bill passes the House and Senate, the total increased infrastructure spending as a share of the economy will eclipse Roosevelt’s New Deal. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Bloomberg / ABC News / CNN / CNBC)
2/ Nearly 200 nations reached a climate agreement intended to propel the world toward more urgent climate action, but it falls short of what’s needed to avert a crisis. After two weeks of United Nations COP26 talks, delegates left Glasgow with Earth still on track to blow past the 2015 Paris accord goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. The Glasgow Climate Pact doesn’t reflect the urgency expressed by international scientists in their “code red for humanity” climate report, after delegates agreed to “phase down” the use of coal power (the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions), phase out “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies, and defer more action on reducing fossil fuel emissions to next year. The U.N. Environment Program reported that countries’ current COP26 commitments between now and 2030 would give humanity less than a 20% chance of keeping warming to 1.5 Celsius. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, meanwhile, reported that the world needs to roughly halve emissions over the next decade in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / NPR / Bloomberg / CNN)
3/ A federal court kept its block on the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more workers, saying the Labor Department “grossly exceeds OSHA’s statutory authority.” The order from a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals instructs OSHA to “take no steps to implement or enforce” the federal mandate that all large employers require their workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing starting in January. Lawyers for the Justice and Labor departments, meanwhile, said stopping the mandate from taking effect will only prolong the Covid-19 pandemic and “would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day.” (Politico / Associated Press / New York Times / Washington Post / USA Today)
4/ The Trump administration covered up a 2019 airstrike in Syria that killed 80 people, including women and children. Immediately following the strike, an Air Force lawyer reported the incident as a possible war crime to his chain of command, which required an independent investigation. The military, however, never conducted the investigation into the bombing. Following complaints, the Defense Department’s inspector general office launched an inquiry into the March 18, 2019, strikes, but the report was delayed and ultimately “stripped” of any mention of the bombing. The Baghuz strike – which included a 500-pound bomb and two 2,000-pound bombs – was one of the largest civilian casualties in the war against the Islamic State, but it wasn’t publicly acknowledged by the U.S. military until last week. (New York Times / Reuters)
5/ Former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos dropped her defamation lawsuit against Trump. Zervos sued Trump in 2017 after he denied allegations that he had sexually assaulted her. A judge had recently ordered Trump to sit for a deposition in the case by Dec. 23. Zervos did not give a reason for ending the case, but her attorneys said she “no longer wishes to litigate against the defendant and has secured the right to speak freely about her experience.” Last month, Trump’s lawyer sought to file a counterclaim against Zervos for allegedly “harassing, intimidating, punishing or otherwise maliciously inhibiting” Trump’s free speech rights. (Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)
6/ Steve Bannon surrendered to federal authorities, three days after being indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions from the House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Each count of contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $100,000. Bannon did not enter a plea and was released without bail after surrendering his passport. He is due back in court on Thursday. Following the court appearance, Bannon said his supporters should remained focused on taking on “the illegitimate Biden regime” because “we’re going to go on the offense on this […] Stand by.” Republicans, meanwhile, warned Democrats’ that forcing Bannon to comply paves the way for them to go after Biden’s aides for unspecified reasons if they take back the House in 2022. Separately, Adam Schiff said the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection will “move quickly” to refer Mark Meadows for criminal contempt for not cooperating with its investigation. (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC / CNN / Associated Press)
7/ Republicans have added a net of five seats in the House based on redrawn district maps so far, while Democrats have lost one. Democrats currently hold 221 seats to the Republicans’ 213. So far, 12 states have completed the mapping process, which will continue, state by state, before next year’s midterm elections. In all, GOP-led legislatures and governors will redraw 187 House districts, compared with 75 for Democrats. Republicans need to flip five Democratic-held seats in the 2022 midterm elections to take back the House majority. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
poll/ 41% of Americans approve of Biden’s job performance, with 53% disapproving. In June, Biden’s approval rating stood at 50%. (Washington Post)
poll/ 51% of registered voters say they’d support the Republican candidate in their congressional district if the midterm elections were today, while 41% say they’d support the Democrat. That’s the biggest lead for Republicans since November 1981. (ABC News)
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