Your essential guide to the daily shock and awe in national politics.
Day 115: "Very concerning."
1/ The House Homeland Security Committee agreed to create a bipartisan, independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The legislation would create a 10-person panel – half appointed by Democrats, including the chair, and half by Republicans – to conduct an investigation, make recommendations, and issue a final report by the end of the year. Subpoenas would require bipartisan support. The deal had been stalled for months since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi first proposed a 9/11-type commission, with both House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell concerned about the scope of the investigation. Pelosi wanted the panel to focus only on Jan. 6 and the groups that participated in the riot, but Republicans insisted that the scope include political violence by the far-left during protests against police brutality last year. McCarthy was noncommittal about whether he supports the commission, and in response to being told that the commission would be limited in scope to the Jan. 6 riot, he replied: “That’s very concerning to me.” (NBC News / CNN / Bloomberg / NPR / Washington Post)
2/ House Republicans elected Rep. Elise Stefanik as their new No. 3 leader, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney with a Trump loyalist. The secret-ballot vote came two days after House Republicans removed Cheney from the role following her criticism of Trump and refusal to stay quiet about Trump’s false narrative that the election was stolen. (New York Times / NPR / Politico / ABC News)
3/ The executive director of a top conservative group bragged in a leaked video that her organization had crafted the new voter suppression law in Georgia. During a private meeting in April, Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America (a sister organization of the Heritage Foundation), told the foundation’s donors that her group was also helping craft similar bills for Republican state legislators across the country. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” Anderson said, “or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.” The Georgia law had “eight key provisions that Heritage recommended,” Anderson said, including restricting mail ballot drop boxes, preventing election officials from sending absentee ballot request forms, making it easier for partisan workers to monitor the polls, preventing the collection of mail ballots, and restricting donations from nonprofit groups seeking to aid in election administration. (Mother Jones)
4/ Several Project Veritas operatives were reportedly involved in a secrete plot during the Trump administration to discredit perceived “enemies” of Trump inside the g...
Day 114: "A great day for America."
1/ The CDC said Americans who are fully vaccinated can safely go without masks or physical distancing in most cases, including indoors or in large groups. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky called the updated CDC guidance an “exciting and powerful moment,” which offered the country a renewed hope that a return to pre-pandemic “normalcy” is achievable as more people get vaccinated. Biden, calling it “a great day for America,” added that “It’s been made possible by the extraordinary success we’ve had in vaccinating so many Americans so quickly.” More than 154 million Americans have had at least one shot and 117 million are fully vaccinated – 35% of the population. Under the new guidance, which is based on recent real-world studies from Israel and the U.S., fully vaccinated people can resume domestic travel without needing to get tested before or after, and they do not need to self-quarantine. They also do not need to quarantine following exposure as long as they are asymptomatic. (NBC News / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC / NPR)
2/ Jobless claims fell to a new pandemic low of 473,000 last week. The 2019 pre-pandemic weekly unemployment average, however, was 218,000. At least 13 Republican-led states, meanwhile, are terminating their involvement in federal pandemic-related unemployment programs early, which include the extra $300-a-week payments. (Wall Street Journal / Axios / The Hill)
3/ A Florida politician – and Rep. Matt Gaetz associate – is expected to plead guilty. Joel Greenberg previously pleaded not guilty to several charges, including stalking, wire fraud, and sex trafficking of a minor, but has been cooperating with the Justice Department since last year, providing investigators with information about encounters he and Gaetz had with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex. The investigation into Greenberg spawned the sex-trafficking investigation into Gaetz. Multiple women paid by Greenberg have said they felt pressured to drink, do drugs, and then have sex with him. (Washington Post / Orlando Sentinel / NBC News / Daily Beast)
4/ The Republican, QAnon-supporting congresswoman from Georgia aggressively co...
Day 113: "Ignoring the lie emboldens the liar."
1/ House Republicans removed Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership role because of her criticism of Trump’s repeated lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him and his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Prior to the removal of Cheney as the No. 3 House Republican over her condemnation of Trump’s election lies, Cheney delivered a defiant final speech from the House floor, calling Trump a “threat we have never seen before.” Cheney also warned that Trump “risks inciting further violence” by continuing to push his baseless claims about voter fraud that her fellow Republicans colleagues have echoed. “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that,” Cheney said, adding: “If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy.” Republicans are expected to replace Cheney with Rep. Elise Stefanik, a former moderate turned Trump loyalist who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / USA Today / Bloomberg / Axios)
2/ Trump’s acting attorney general testified that the Justice Department had “no evidence of widespread voter fraud” at the time of the Jan 6. attack on the Capitol. Jeffrey Rosen, however, declined to answer House Oversight Committee questions about whether Trump instructed him to take any action to advance the unfounded claims of election fraud. Meanwhile, Christopher Miller, who was the acting defense secretary on Jan. 6, testified about why it took hours for the National Guard to respond to the Capitol as the mob descended on the Capitol, saying he had worried that sending troops to the Capitol would contribute to perceptions of a “military coup” under Trump. (New York Times / Associated Press / NPR / Wall Street Journal)
3/ More than 100 Republicans threatened to form a third party if the Republican Party doesn’t break with Trump. The signatories, which include former ambassadors, governors, congressional members and Cabinet secretaries, called for the party to return to “principled” leadership, and reject division and conspiracy theories. The statement, which will be released Thursday and includes 13 principles that the signatories want the GOP to embrace, follows House Republicans ousting Liz Cheney. (a href="ht...
Day 112: "A lifeline."
1/ The FDA authorized Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 and up, expanding access to the vaccine for millions of kids ahead of the next school year. The vaccine was 100% effective in preventing Covid-19 in children ages 12-15, similar to the 95% efficacy among adult clinical trial participants. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, meanwhile, urged parents to vaccinate their children, saying “I would encourage all parents to get their children vaccinated.” Pfizer vaccines for children could be administered as soon as Thursday. (ABC News / CBS News / Washington Post)
2/ More than one million people signed up for Affordable Care Act coverage during the special enrollment period that Biden launched in mid-February. “Since it became law more than a decade ago, the Affordable Care Act has been a lifeline for millions of Americans. The pandemic has demonstrated how badly it is needed, and how critical it is that we continue to improve upon it,” Biden said. “Through this opportunity for special enrollment, we have made enormous progress in expanding access to health insurance.” The Trump administration declined to reopen ACA enrollment after the Covid-19 pandemic began. Sign-ups are open through August 15. (CNN / NBC News / The Hill)
3/ Biden said that the White House will “make it clear” that people collecting unemployment benefits under the American Rescue Plan must take a “suitable” job offer or they’ll lose their benefits. As the number of job openings increased to 8.12 million in March – a record high – Republicans and businesses have said that the $300 weekly unemployment benefit is discouraging workers from returning to the labor market. “We’re going to make it clear that anyone collecting unemployment, who was offered a suitable job, must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits,” Biden said, adding: “There are a few Covid-19-related exceptions.” The latest jobs report showed that the U.S. economy added 266,000 jobs in April, short of the one million economists had forecast and a drop-off from the 770,000 jobs added in March. (NPR / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
4/ The Biden administration approved the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm. The Vineyard Wind project calls for up to 84 turbines to be installed off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, creating enough electricity to power 400,000 homes. The White House estimates that the project will also create about 3,600 jobs. (a href="https://www.nyti...
Day 111: "Step up."
1/ The Biden administration announced new protections against discrimination in health care based on gender identity and sexual orientation. “Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.” The move reverses a Trump policy that limited protections for transgender people in health care, which narrowed the legal definition of “sex discrimination” to “the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.” (NPR / New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / Associated Press)
2/ The FBI confirmed that a Russian criminal group was responsible for the ransomware attack that closed a U.S. energy pipeline that transports 45% of the East Coast’s fuel supply. The Colonial Pipeline Company shut down all its operations Friday after Darkside hackers broke into some of its networks. In a statement, Darkside – a relatively new player in the ransomware space and believed to be operated by a Russian cybercrime gang referred to by the same name – said it wasn’t to blame and suggested that an affiliate may have been behind the attack. The group promised to do a better job of screening customers that buy its malware to run ransomware attacks. Biden, meanwhile, is expected to sign an executive order to strengthen cybersecurity for federal agencies and contractors. The Department of Transportation also issued an emergency declaration for 17 states and Washington, D.C., to keep fuel supply lines open. Colonial is using a phased approach to restore the pipeline, and said it may take several more days to recover from the cyberattack. (NBC News / New York Times / Bloomberg / Axios / CBS News / Politico)
3/ Three Republican governors plan to cut enhanced jobless benefits in their states in an effort to force people to return to work. Arkansas, Montana, and South Carolina have targeted the extra $300 in weekly enhanced jobless benefits from the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package as businesses reopen and states lif...
Day 108: "We have a long way to go."
1/ The U.S. economy added 266,000 jobs in April – short of the one million that economists had forecast and a sharp drop-off from the 770,000 jobs added in March. The April unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.1%. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce blamed the weaker-than-expected jobs report on the $300-per-week federal jobless benefit. Biden, however, argued that the disappointing employment numbers are evidence that Congress should pass his $4 trillion infrastructure and jobs package, saying: “Today’s report just underscores, in my view, how vital the actions we’re taking are – checks to people who are hurting, support for small businesses, for child care and school reopening, support to help families put food on the table.” Biden added: “Today there is more evidence our economy is moving in the right direction, but it is clear we have a long way to go.” (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNBC / ABC News / Axios / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News)
2/ Texas legislators approved new, more restrictive state election rules. The bill would make it a felony to provide voters with an application to vote by mail if they hadn’t requested one, empower partisan poll workers, and limit extended early voting hours. The House version of the bill differs significantly from the state Senate version and will go to a conference committee to resolve the differences. The vote in the Texas House came after Florida enacted its own restrictive voting laws. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the legislation live on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” which restricts voting by mail and at drop boxes. (NPR / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)
3/ The Justice Department filed federal criminal charges against Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers in connection with the death of George Floyd. The federal indictment accuses Chauvin – who was recently convicted on state charges of murder and manslaughter, and is now asking for a new trial – of depriving Floyd of his rights to be protected from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer when Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. The other three ex-officers are accused of letting Floyd die by “willfully” failing to stop Chauvin when they saw Floyd “lying on the ground in clear need of medical care.” Separately, Chauvin ...