Your essential guide to the daily shock and awe in national politics.
Day 246: "Playing with fire."
1/ The House passed legislation to fund the government through Dec. 3 and extend the debt limit until after the 2022 elections in a party-line vote with no Republicans supporting the bill. The fiscal package is needed to avoid a government shutdown and a first-ever default on U.S. debt. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Mitch McConnell has vowed that Republicans won’t support raising the debt ceiling. Without 10 Republicans in support, the bill would fail to advance past the 60-vote filibuster threshold. “This is playing with fire. Playing games with the debt ceiling is playing with fire and putting it on the back of the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said. Failure to raise the debt ceiling could cost the U.S. economy 6 million jobs, wipe out $15 trillion in household wealth, send the unemployment rate to roughly 9% from around 5%, and plunge the country into an immediate recession, according to the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. Congress has to pass a funding plan by Sept. 30 to prevent a shutdown, while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned congressional leaders that the debt ceiling must be raised or suspended by some time in October, when the U.S. will exhaust all of its options to pay its bills. (NBC News / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC)
2/ Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas vowed to complete an investigation into the treatment of Haitian immigrants at the Texas-Mexico border after videos showed mounted Border Patrol agents running down migrants and using their reins as whips. Mayorkas told the House Homeland Security Committee that an undisclosed number of agents have already been placed on administrative duty. House Democrats, meanwhile, demanded that Customs and Border Protection officials brief the Oversight Committee this week about agent conduct, direction they received from supervisors, and disciplinary action being taken. (USA Today / New York Times)
3/ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent hundreds of state-owned vehicles to the southern border to form a “steel wall” to block migrants from crossing the border. Nearly 15,000 Haitians have taken refuge under the border bridge in Del Rio, Tex. while trying to seek asylum. “We effectively […] regained control of the border,” Abbott said. (Washington Post / Axios)
4/ An attorney who worked with Trump’s legal team tried to convince Pence that he could overturn the 2020 presidential election results. In a two-page memo, John Eastman laid out a six-step plan for Pence to overturn the election for Trump, which included throwing out the results from seven states. Under Eastman’s scheme, Pence could then declare Trump the winner with more Electoral College votes, at 232 votes to 222. Eastman and Trump proposed the plan to Pence on Jan. 4 in the Oval Office. A separate internal memo – issued two weeks after the 2020 election – show that the Trump campaig...
Day 244: "Irreparable harm."
1/ House Democrats plan to combine a short-term government spending bill with the suspension of the debt limit in an effort to avert a government shutdown. The stopgap funding bill would last through Dec. 3, 2021, and the debt ceiling would be suspended through Dec. 2022. Mitch McConnell, however, reiterated that Republicans “will not support legislation that raises the debt limit.” The Republican threat is in protest of the Democrats decision to pursue trillions in new spending to overhaul federal healthcare, education, climate, immigration, and tax laws. McConnell called it “an effort to exploit this terrible yet temporary pandemic as a trojan horse for permanent socialism.” Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, warned that “a reckless Republican-forced default could plunge the country into a recession.” Congress has until the end of September to ratify a new spending agreement or risk a shutdown. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen previously warned that, under current conditions, the department will reach its borrowing limit some time in October, which would cause “irreparable harm” to the U.S. economy. The House is expected to vote on the package this week. (Wall Street Journal / The Hill / Politico / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN)
2/ The Senate’s parliamentarian blocked the Democrats’ plan to use the $3.5 trillion social and climate package to provide a path to citizenship for an estimated 8 million immigrants. Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, ruled that the proposal is “by any standard a broad, new immigration policy” and that “changing the law to clear the way to (Legal Permanent Resident) status is tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact.” In a three-page memo to senators, MacDonough noted that under Senate rules, provisions are not allowed in such bills if their budget effect is “merely incidental” to their overall policy impact. (Associated Press / New York Times / Politico / CNN)
3/ More than 675,000 people in the U.S. have died of Covid-19, surpassing the country’s 1918 influenza pandemic death toll. The U.S. accounts for about 14% of total Covid-19 deaths globally despite the widespread availability of vaccines. Roughly 25.3% of eligible Americans (those 12 years and older) remain unvaccinated – or about 72 million people. (CNN / Bloomberg)
4/ The U.S. will lift travel res...
Day 241: "A catastrophic pathway."
1/ An FDA advisory panel rejected a plan to offer Pfizer Covid-19 boosters shots for everyone 16 and older. Members of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted 16 to 2 against approving the booster shot after scrutinizing new data from Israel and questioning whether the data justified boosters for the general population when the current vaccines still offer robust protection against severe Covid-19 disease and hospitalization. The panel, however, recommended booster shots for older Americans and other high-risk groups. The votes are non-binding and the FDA is expected make a final decision on boosters by early next week. An outside advisory panel to the CDC, meanwhile, has scheduled a two-day meeting next week to discuss plans to distribute booster shots in the U.S. (New York Times / CNBC / Associated Press / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Politico / Wall Street Journal / ABC News / CNN)
2/ The United Nations warned that the global average temperature is on track to rise 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. “The world is on a catastrophic pathway,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said. Based on the most recent commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions from 191 countries, if implemented, would result in a 16% increase by 2030 compared with 2010 levels. The latest scientific research suggests that greenhouse gas emissions need to decrease by at least 25% by 2030 to avert the worst impacts of global warming. Guterres warned “there is high risk of failure.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
3/ The Pentagon admitted that the Aug. 29 drone strike in Kabul, which killed 10 civilians, including 7 children, was “a tragic mistake.” Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, apologized for the error, saying the decision was made in an “earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport.” The car was believed to have been carrying explosives in its trunk. “We now assess it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K,” McKenzie said. (Associated Press / Wall Street Journal / a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2021/09/17/drone-strike-kabul-afghani...
Day 239: "Democracy can be sloppy."
1/ The Justice Department asked a federal judge to block enforcement of a new Texas law that effectively bans almost all abortions. The Justice Department argued that the state adopted the law, which took effect this month after the Supreme Court refused to block its enforcement, “gravely and irreparably impaired women’s ability to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion across the State.” The 45-page emergency motion comes after the Biden administration sued Texas last week, asserting that the law – which allows private citizens to file civil lawsuits against anyone who helps a woman terminate her pregnancy – was passed in “open defiance of the Constitution.” (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Reuters)
2/ The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called China twice in the final months of the Trump administration to reassure them that Trump had no plans to attack China, according to “Peril,” a new book by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. “Things may look unsteady,” Gen. Mark Milley told his counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of China, on Jan. 8 – two days after Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol to try to stop the certification of his election loss. “But that’s the nature of democracy, General Li. We are 100% steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.” Milley was also reportedly so concerned that Trump could “go rogue” that he convened a secret meeting later that day with senior military officials to remind them that “the strict procedures are explicitly designed to avoid inadvertent mistakes or accident or nefarious, unintentional, illegal, immoral, unethical launching of the world’s most dangerous weapons.” He added: “And I’m part of that procedure.” Following the revelations, Trump called for “Dumbass” Milley to be “arrested” for “treason.” The White House, meanwhile, said Biden has “complete confidence” in Milley. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)
3/ A federal judge denied Trump’s request to stop E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against him from moving forward. The ruling allows for the case to proceed as an appeals court weighs whether Trump is immune from the suit. Carroll alleges Trump assaulted her in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in 1995 or 1996 and then defamed her by calling her a liar when she went public with her claims in 2019. Trump and the Justice Department have argued Trump can’t be sued because the comments were made while he was president. (Bloomberg / a href="https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/15/poli...
Day 237: "There's no way."
1/ House Democrats outlined their proposed tax increases on corporations and wealthy people to help offset the costs of Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic plan. The House Ways and Means Committee plan calls for raising the corporate tax rate to 26.5% from 21%, a 3-percentage-point surcharge on individual income above $5 million, and raising the capital gains tax from 20% to 25%. White House spokesman Andrew Bates said the proposal “meets two core goals the President laid out at the beginning of this process: it does not raise taxes on Americans earning under $400,000 and it repeals the core elements of the Trump tax giveaways for the wealthy and corporations that have done nothing to strengthen our country’s economic health.” (Wall Street Journal / Politico / CNBC / Bloomberg)
2/ Joe Manchin – again – said he will not support the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package to expand the nation’s social safety net, which includes investments in climate change, health care, taxes, and education. “I cannot support $3.5 trillion,” Manchin said, citing his opposition to the proposed increase in the corporate tax rate. Chuck Schumer “will not have my vote on the 3.5,” Manchin said, adding “there’s no way” Congress can meet the Sept. 27 deadline set by Nancy Pelosi for passage. Manchin added: “It’s going to be $1, $1.5 [trillion]. We don’t know where it’s going to be. It’s not going to be at $3.5 [trillion], I can assure you.” Democrats need all 50 votes to pass the budget reconciliation package. Kyrsten Sinema, another moderate Democrat, has also expressed concern over the cost of the bill. (CNN / ABC News / Associated Press / USA Today / Bloomberg / Politico / NBC News)
3/ A group of leading U.S. and international scientists suggested that Covid-19 vaccine booster shots are “not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic.” The international group of scientists, which include some at the FDA and the WHO, concluded that “boosting” the vaccinated population doesn’t outweigh the benefit of using those doses to immunize the billions of unvaccinated people worldwide. “None of the studies has provided credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease,” the authors wrote, noting there could be side-effects if boosters are introduced too soon or too broadly. The group did, however, say that booster shots may eventually be needed for the general population if vaccine-induced immunity wanes or a new variant emerges that can evade the body’s immune response. Several recent studies published by the CDC suggest that the vaccines hold steady against sever...
Day 234: "Your refusal has cost all of us."
1/ The Justice Department sued Texas over its restrictive new abortion law, saying it was enacted “in open defiance of the Constitution.” The new anti-abortion law – the nation’s most restrictive – bans the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy and deputizes private citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman terminate her pregnancy. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Texas law’s “unprecedented” design seeks “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights by thwarting judicial review for as long as possible.” The Justice Department is seeking a preliminary injunction to prohibit enforcement of the Texas law while litigation continues, as well as a permanent order that the Texas ban is invalid and unenforceable. “It is settled constitutional law that ‘a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability,’” the lawsuit said. “But Texas has done just that.” Last week, the Supreme Court declined to block the Texas law, known as Senate Bill 8, but didn’t rule on whether it was constitutional. The law took effect Sept. 1, effectively ending most abortions in the state, with no exceptions for rape or incest. (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / CNN / Bloomberg / CNBC)
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer criticized the court’s refusal to block the Texas abortion statute, saying the unsigned opinion last week “was very, very, very wrong — I’ll add one more very.” (NBC News / Washington Post)
2/ Biden ordered all businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face weekly testing. Biden also signed an executive order mandating vaccines for federal workers and contractors without an option for regular testing. “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” Biden said, appealing to the roughly 80 million Americans who are eligible for shots but remain unvaccinated. “Your refusal has cost all of us.” The new requirements could apply to as many as 100 million Americans – about two-thirds of the American workforce. Businesses that ignore the mandate could face up to $14,000 per violation. Republican governors and the RNC, meanwhile, threatened to sue the administration over the vaccine mandates for businesses and federal workers. Biden replied: “Have at it.” (Washington Post / a...
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