National News Roundup: Year 5, Week 16 (May 2–8)
Another week, another holding pattern, dear readers. As I type this, things are coming closer and closer to a head on regarding S. 1, the For the People Act; we’re expecting a mark-up on the Senate floor tomorrow. It remains a great idea to reach out to your senators, whether you live in a progressive area or not–less progressive senators can use the nudge and more progressive senators can use the numbers in negotiation! And as I’ll get to below, the state push for voter suppression is intense, and federal legislation can make a real difference for folks living in those states.
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 phone record!–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:
This is a more active week on Election Rejection, as I alluded to earlier. Here’s what I have for you:
- Voter Suppression Law Redux (Florida Edition again). The terrible Florida bill that I forecast last week is now official, as Desantis signed it into law today. Meanwhile, the state voter suppression fight is moving to Texas, which didn’t flip in the 2020 election either. Meanwhile, the bonkers Arizona recount that is somehow moving forward in May 2021 has garnered significant attention, mostly because it might be a civil rights violation.
- Russia Investigation Redux. We also had more 45 in the spotlight this week than in other recent weeks (for a variety of reasons). There was a messed-up story about 45’s Justice Department obtaining journalists’ phone records as they investigated collusion with Russia, which definitely does not sound like an abuse of power at all. And speaking of the Russia investigation, Judge Amy Berman Jackson–whom you may remember as the judge who had to deal with the neverending flood of Roger Stone trial nonsense–issued an irate opinion which ordered the release of Mueller’s full memorandum summarizing the Russia investigation findings. The order also had many choice words to say about then-Attorney General William Barr’s decision to withhold it; my favorite is the part where she notes that the ethics watchdog organization that filed the suit “had never laid eyes on the document [in question, but] its summary was considerably more accurate than the one supplied by [Trump’s administration].”
- Facebook Follies. An improbably large chunk of the country spent this week tracking the saga of whether 45 would be let out of Facebook Jail, despite all signs indicating that he learned absolutely nothing from the past five months’ ban. Facebook’s Oversight Committee appears to have concluded that he’s still kicked off for now, but they left their options open regardless. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m keeping that Make America Kittens Again extension active just in case.
Your New Normal
- Congressional Updates Again. As the Senate moves closer to deciding whether to protect voting rights, the House is bizarrely preoccupied with whether or not to eject Liz Cheney from her role as House Republican Conference Chair due to her apparently unacceptable adherence to objective reality regarding the 2020 election. (The fact that even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is starting to back away slowly from her is definitely its own message.) Meanwhile, in response to a sluggish economy and, presumably, Biden’s relief plans, Republican governors in a few states are cutting COVID federal unemployment benefits to try to force workers to return.
- State of the COVID-19. On the one hand, vaccine redistribution has become necessary, in part because some states have too much vaccine hesitancy to need additional doses, though vaccine hesitancy among populations of color has lessened somewhat as rollout continued. Additionally, a federal judge struck down the CDC eviction moratorium despite the sluggish job growth mentioned above, reasoning that the moratorium was beyond the scope of the CDC’s authority. (I personally don’t agree with the reasoning of the opinion at all, and am unsurprised that the Justice Department is already appealing this decision.) But on the other hand, the Biden administration agreed to support a WTO push to waive patents for COVID-19 vaccines, making it easier to distribute to countries that badly need support. President Biden believes the country can reach 70% adult vaccination by July, despite the vaccine hesitancy in some parts of the country, and is planning his next stages accordingly. Europe is on track to reach roughly 70% vaccination in July as well. And Pfizer is officially authorized to vaccinate adolescents aged 12 and older as of today, which is a huge relief for many families in the United States.
- American Violence Updates. This was a truly horrific week for police brutality and American violence in general. In Arkansas, new DNA evidence has been released that potentially exonerates an inmate already executed in 2017. In Atlanta, the police officer that shot Rayshard Brooks has been reinstated to his job. In Chicago, a man intentionally drove his car into a group of picnickers while yelling anti-Asian slurs. And there were a stunning ten mass shootings over the weekend, though the most attention is being directed towards Colorado, where a man killed six people at a birthday party before shooting himself as well. It’s hard for many of us to make sense of this ongoing violence, but it remains a stark reminder that our country still has so much work to do.
- Transgender Health Protections. The Biden administration announced this week that it is reinstating protections for transgender patients in healthcare settings, shielding individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The decision is being framed as implementing a recent Supreme Court decision that states that both are protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, it can also reasonably be viewed as a rejection of conservative policy regarding the “freedom” of providers to refuse to treat people because they don’t like them. Frankly–and here I speak as a health professional–I think that it’s incredibly important to reject that line of thought, so I’m really pleased to see the Biden Administration take these steps.
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 doggo’s reunion with his human 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 good tunes to listen to while drafting!