National News Roundup: Year 4, Week 10 (March 22–28)
We’ve officially reached the point where the news is All COVID-19, All the Time, and I don’t mind admitting that I’m already heartily sick of it. That said, there’s still a lot of news that definitely needs to be closely tracked, so here we are. I’ll keep folks posted, and I hope everybody is staying safe. I’ve got a stockpile of memes if anybody needs them.
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a voice vote!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Constitutional Crisis Corners:
With another week of COVID-19 crisis under our belts, it’s unsurprising that the Attorney General Overreach this week involves the crisis directly. Here are the details:
- Attorney General Overreach (Again). Improbably, this week’s installment of Attorney General Overreach is actually not about William Barr! Executive branches in Texas, Ohio, and Mississippi all ordered abortion services to cease, claiming the procedure is a “nonessential medical surgery.” Needless to say, women’s health providers didn’t agree, and Planned Parenthood and the ACLU brought a lawsuit on the subject. Today, that lawsuit resulted in an order to keep the clinics open while the merits of the case are decided–an early signal that the District Court judge presiding over the case thinks that Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have a point. Hopefully, this will mean no one’s access is actually removed while the case is decided.
We also saw a bit of other Disregard of Governing Norms crop up during the crisis, though mostly in terms of sheer incompetence. Here’s what I have for you:
- Trump’s Wild COVID-19 Adventures. In the face of the current crisis, trying to predict what 45’s policy plans has become even more of an arcane art than usual. Early in the week, he was still asserting that we should end stay-at-home protocols by Easter, for no better reason than–and I quote–he “just thought it [would be] a beautiful time.” He also stated that he will only aid states if they “treat us well” and “are appreciative” of basic federal response, withholding disaster funding from the three states hit hardest. Then he did a 180 from that cavalier position and started threatening to quarantine New York, but then walked that back the same day. Eventually his leading expert got him to wander into the middle and order another month of social distancing, which will last at least through April 30. (The CDC still urges citizens living in NY and NJ not to travel though.)
- The Blame Game. With everything else going on, you might expect our federal government to be too busy to sling blame at an entire country, but you’d expect wrong! Two House representatives introduced a resolution to blame China for COVID-19 in general, piggy-backing on Trump’s repeated insistence on racism as a crisis strategy. Meanwhile, the administration itself continued the blame game at a United Nations meeting later that week, insisting that China was responsible for the virus. The end result was a stalled U.N. declaration and increased violence against against Asian-Americans, neither of which are a welcome addition to the current crisis.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Goodbye, 2020 Olympics. Japan officially announced this week that it is postponing the 2020 Olympics, given the uncertainty created by the current pandemic. The event is rescheduled to begin July 23, 2021. Though this is an understandable move, it’s also unprecedented, and nobody’s quite sure what it will mean for the next year.
- State of the COVID-19. More states issued stay-at-home orders this week, bringing the total up to 30 states and one district. At the time that I type this, the U.S. leads the world in coronavirus cases, with nearly half of those cases located in New York, and nearly 3,000 people in this country have lost their lives to the pandemic. The FDA has given emergency approval to use antimalarial meds to treat COVID-19 as health centers struggle to get enough personal protective equipment and ventilators in place. Trump has ordered General Motors to start producing the latter–more on that below–and Pornhub has donated 50,000 masks to NYC first responders. Meanwhile, more and more attention is being drawn to the seriously unsafe conditions created for incarcerated populations, who frequently cannot observe any best practices for slowing infection spread. We’re also showing more concern about anticipated increase of domestic violence during stay-at-home orders, which is a very real risk right now.
- Unpacking the CARES Act. Before everything shut down in D.C. area, Congress managed to pass the CARES Act, and Trump signed it into law on Friday evening. (The bill was stalled for quite some time, but it impacts a lot of Americans, and it’s the third in a three-part legislative series.) Steptoe put out a pretty good summary of the whole bill, but the parts that impact most people are likely the individual payments to taxpayers, the expanded unemployment payments (including to independent contractors), the paid family leave, and the small business loans.
- Market Volatility Continues.* Once again, we had a scary week of market volatility, though hopefully the CARES Act will quell some of the storm. The biggest new piece is that over three million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past week, which is a wildly unprecedented number for claims filed–the previous record was 700,000 claims in one week in 1982. The Dow, for its part, had a jump after the Senate passed the CARES Act but dropped again by the end of the week, continuing its overall slump.
- Recent Court Resilience. We do have a couple of good news stories this week! On the court resilience front, the Second Circuit affirmed that Trump cannot block people on Twitter who annoy him. And on the organizing essential workers front, Amazon workers in We had some good court cases this week. In addition to the injunctive relief for Planned Parenthood mentioned above, another District Court judge struck down permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline, concluding that their issuance violated the National Environmental Policy Act. And the First Circuit held that the administration cannot withhold crime prevention funding because it dislikes a jurisdiction’s immigration enforcement practices.
- Workers Strike for Common Good.This week also saw a lot of worker solidarity in the face of extreme circumstances. Both Instacart and Amazon employees have initiated a strike to get hazard pay and safer work conditions. Meanwhile, as General Motors suspends production and cuts paychecks, its workers are trying to persuade the company to comply with Trump’s order and make ventilators to address national shortages. The NNR stands with workers and supports all three of these movements.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this stylin’ hamster pad and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me more pita chips because I keep eating them all!