National News Roundup: Year 5, Week 21 (June 6–12)
It took me a couple of days to realize why the news felt so weird to me this week, and eventually I put my finger on it–other than some failed shenanigans in Texas, there’s no state news about election rejection this week. That feels particularly jarring after so much coverage, and I don’t for a moment believe we’re out of those woods. But I guess maybe we found a clearing.
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 Joe Manchin!–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:
As I mentioned above, there’s no election rejection news this week, but Biden Rebuilding news is all over the place. Here’s what I have for you this week:
- DoJ Doesn’t Gel. Speaking as a lawyer, and using a technical term, there was a lot of wtfery with the DoJ this week. On the one hand, Attorney Garland announced expansion of a voting rights division of the Department, which is intended to counter state movement in the opposite direction. They also announced that they would be tightening procedural requirements for requesting lawmakers’ records in the wake of news that the Trump administration was seizing data from Democrats as well as their own lawyers for paranoid funsies. But somehow, in the same week, this Garland-led Department also announced that they would 1) defend Trump in a private defamation suit against him–which is not the Department’s intended role, although Biden would benefit from the precedent this creates; 2) promote religious exemptions to recent law prohibiting LGBT discrimination; and 3) move to dismiss lawsuits against Trump over the Lafayette Square tear-gassing. So the news has been… kind of confusing, to say the least.
- Ignoble Immigration Policy. If DOJ news was confusing, immigration news was downright disheartening. The Supreme Court declined to extend a pathway to citizenship to folks fleeing national emergencies, and I could write an entire essay on why I have a problem with this decision but for now I’ll content myself to say that I vociferously disagree with its reasoning. (The House is considering new legislation that would remedy this, but it’s unlikely to be passed in the Senate, and I’ll say more on that below.) And Kamala Harris, who has been tapped to handle the influx of migrants from the Northern Triangle–speaking of El Salvador–employed the groundbreaking and empathetic strategy of traveling to Guatemala to tell asylum seekers, “Don’t come.” This is, in case anyone was unclear on this point, the foreign diplomacy equivalent of showing up at a murder shed and, instead of doing anything, telling the people who are still inside to hang tight and take their chances with Jigsaw.
Your New Normal:
- Administration Environmental Updates.* We actually do have some decent administrative news about the environment this week. The Keystone XL Pipeline project is now officially dead, with project managers concluding that they couldn’t come back from Biden withdrawing approval a few months ago. Biden also moved to restore clean water protections that had been repealed by the Trump administration. And our Secretary of the Interior is recommending restoration of Bear Ears and other national monuments that were being sold for parts during the Trump years.
- Congressional Circus. There’s a fair amount of news out of the Senate and most of it sucks. After Joe Manchin spit on the For the People Act last week, Mitch McConnell went ahead this week and spit on Manchin’s counter-proposal, actually going so far as to make the incredible claim that “there’s no threat to the voting rights law” and so he “thinks the bill is unnecessary.” Just in case you were wondering whether McConnell had half a point, he also followed this up by–and I swear this isn’t satire–saying that he was “highly unlikely” to hold a Senate hearing for a new SCOTUS justice if there’s a vacancy in 2023 or 2024 and he’s back in charge. Meanwhile, Republicans filibustered a bill for pay equity, because of course they did. And infrastructure negotiations were a hot mess for another week, culminating in a tentative deal among ten Senators. That said, since they include the same Senators pushing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, I’m not holding my breath.
- State of the COVID-19. As appears to be the theme of the week, COVID news is–you guessed it–mixed. In vaccination news, studies suggest Novavax’s version is 90% effective, we’re on track to produce a pediatric vaccine by the fall, and the Biden administration has announced that it plans to distribute 500M Pfizer vaccines worldwide. But in the U.S., adult vaccination rates are dropping, and the South is particularly far behind the rest of the country. This is particularly bad because the new and highly-contagious Delta variant is increasingly present in the United States–and though vaccination does protect against it, we’re already seeing a rise in infection rates among unvaccinated populations.
- Pulitzer Citation for Darnella Frazier. Darnella Frazier, who you may recognize as the teen who filmed George Floyd’s murder on her phone and later testified at Derek Chauvin’s trial, received formal recognition of her contributions this week. The Pulitzer Board announced that they are awarding her a special citation for her work, which ‘highlight[ed] the crucial role of citizens’ in journalism. This will in no way undo the trauma that Frazier has experienced from the events of George Floyd’s muder, but it underscores the importance of her actions, and that’s something that she rightfully takes pride in per her own words.
- Bye Bye Bibi. I am personally delighted to share that Benjamin Netanyahu is officially removed from his position as Prime Minister of Israel as of this weekend–a new broad-based coalition government survived a vote of confidence on Sunday evening. The deal involves further shifting of Prime Ministers after two years, and though I’m not particularly excited about Naftali Bennett as the current one, I have considerably more enthusiasm about Yair Lapid stepping in after two years.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I think it was more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this fluffball 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!