National News Roundup: Year 5, Week 15 (April 25 — May 1)
Happy belated May Day, readers, whatever that term means to you! (To me, it is International Workers’ Day, but this year it was also a record number of other things, so don’t let me structure your experience.)
Standard standing reminders still 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 labor law!–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!
Cleanup in Aisle 45:
We’re pretty light on Election Rejection stories this week, but we do have a Terrible State Du Semaine. Here’s what I have for you:
- Voter Suppression Law Redux (Florida Edition). This week, it’s Florida passing the crappy law designed to suppress voting, and as you might imagine from the Florida Man State, it’s pretty bad. Among other things, it limits mail-in voting and drop boxes, it restricts distribution of food and water to people in line, and it encourages bipartisan ‘observers’ with a lengthy history of use for voter intimidation. Florida is particularly noteworthy because it’s the first swing state where Trump won and they’re passing a law like this anyway.
We also continue to track stories on the Biden Rebuilding fronts as well, which are a bit more varied than usual. Here’s what has happened in the past week:
- Around the Hill in 100 Days. This was a fairly interesting and at least moderately positive week for the Biden administration on a number of other topics, many of which he showcased in his address to Congress on Wednesday night. In labor news, he ordered a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors, the latest in an increasing number of union-friendly policies he highlighted in his address. But the comprehensive package he unveiled as part of his Wednesday address included many other provisions as well, largely pertaining to education and public benefits. And in health news, Biden’s FDA moved to ban menthol cigarettes, a move that has been proposed many times but lawmakers have been historically reluctant to do.
- Dismantling the Deportation Machine? Immigration news remains a bit mixed, though mixed is a step up from previous updates. Both Biden and Harris appear to be struggling to grapple with immigration policy tasks, but there was very modest progress in reuniting families separated at the border. Additionally, Biden did officially raise the refugee cap to 62,000 people by executive order this week. On that last point, I would be remiss if I didn’t do some unpacking, so I want to give you a bit more context. While 62,000 is obviously much better than the historically low 15,000 that Trump set in his final year, and was Biden’s original goal, outside of Trump’s unconscionable numbers it is the lowest cap in thirty years–even the Dubbya years generally had a cap of 70,000 people per year. (Trump does deserve the lion’s share of the blame for this, as he had only admitted 1,000 refugees in the first fiscal quarter of 2021, but I want to make sure folks reading this understand that 62,000 is not a high number–it just seems comparably high because Trump’s cap was in the sub-basement.)
Your New Normal:
- Congressional Updates Again. There was at least a bit of news other than Biden’s big speech on Capitol Hill. The DC statehood bill that passed in the House last week is already hitting roadblocks in the Senate, where Joe Manchin is indeed Joe Manchining all over it. But the Senate did overwhelmingly vote to pass a bill to increase funding for water infrastructure, and they also voted to restore methane emission regulations from the Obama era.
- State of the COVID-19. There was plenty of positive COVID news this week: 1) The CDC announced this week that fully vaccinated people can skip wearing masks outside except in crowds; 2) People apparently still want the Johnson and Johnson shot despite its pause; 3) COVID cases are dropping within the U.S.; 4) Studies show the vaccine helps seniors; 5) the FDA is expected to authorize a Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12–15 as soon as next week. That said, the bad news this week is pretty bad: 1) Studies suggest indoor social distancing might not be effective; 2) Experts now believe that the U.S. can’t achieve herd immunity because of vaccine hesitancy; 3) COVID spread in India is an international crisis and the U.S. is limiting travel there starting this week; and 4) Unsurprisingly the mask requirement for travel is remaining in effect against that backdrop.
- Black Lives Still Matter. The situation in Elizabeth City, North Carolina remains bad in the week after police shot Andrew Brown, Jr while serving a warrant. A judgeruled thatbody-camera footage would not be released to the public, which coincided with an 8pm curfew in apparent response to protest. The FBI has opened an investigation into police activity there in response.
- What Giuliani Warrants. It’s not really good news per se, but I’m currently enjoying the fact that a warrant was issued and executed to search Rudy Giuliani’s house this week. The warrant was part of an ongoing investigation into Giuliani’s dealings with Ukraine, which apparently have been on the FBI’s radar since 2019. Outlets are also starting to report that Alan Dershowitz is representing Giuliani and trying to get Trump to testify in the investigation, so that should be interesting to say the least.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve CIA Otter and a more consistently improved government. I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved 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 hours of sleep!