National News Roundup: Year 5, Week 48 (December 12–18)
I must have read the word ‘omicron’ a hundred times while I was compiling links this week, and I don’t mind telling you, I’m already sick of the word. But it’s going to see a lot of heavy rotation over the next few weeks, so I guess I need to get used to it.
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:
For yet another week, there are a lot of Election Rejection updates to report. Here’s what I have for you:
- Insurrection Updates. This was a bonkers week for insurrection news. A lot of focus is still on Trump’s “paperwork coup,” which highlights the alarming communications leading up to January 6. But this week also saw a five-year sentence for an insurrectionist who threw a fire extinguisher, which is the longest sentence to date. The guy who plays Jimmy Pesto was fired from ‘Bob’s Burgers‘ for participating on January 6. And after yet another judge threw out the latest Trump attempt to block his tax returns, he decided to just sue the New York Attorney General for prosecuting him.
In comparison, things looked distressingly quiet on the Biden Rebuilding front. Here’s what has happened:
- Congressional Updates. This was an uncomfortably quiet week for the Biden administration. There was the debt ceiling bill, which passed without incident at the top of the week. Biden also passed a new climate emissions rule. But his protracted efforts to negotiate a final Build Back Better Act with Joe Manchin proved ultimately unfruitful for another week, as I’ll discuss below, and efforts to negotiate a voting rights deal didn’t go much better. Congress is now on break without a vote on either package, though Chuck Schumer is saying they’ll vote in early January.
Your New Normal:
- Recent Senate Dysfunction. As I alluded to above, this was not a great week for the Build Back Better Act. Though Joe Manchin was in talks with the White House for most of the week, he gave an interview to Fox News on Sunday night indicating that he would not, in fact, vote for the bill. Then a follow-up story surfaced suggesting he’s refusing to follow party lines because he thinks the Child Tax Credit would be used by constituents to buy drugs. A failed package, obviously, would have a lot of implications for climate change, and none of them are good; his stunt also flung egg on the face of an administration with a consistently-dropping approval rating. Needless to say, nobody on the Dem side of the aisle is especially happy with him. Nonetheless, Senate leadership is promising a vote on the bill in early January.
- State of the COVID-19. COVID news is looking bleak, y’all. Case numbers are definitely climbing at an alarming rate, particularly in the Northeast; New York reportedly is experiencing its highest case count of the entire pandemic. We also surpassed 800,000 total U.S. deaths, a stunning milestone after nearly a year of vaccine access. News also broke that this number might be so high in part because Trump deliberately undermined efforts to contain the virus for his own political gain. But the biggest story by far is the omicron variant, which appears to be on everyone’s mind as a major driving force of yet another giant wave of infection. The general consensus is that omicron is much more infectious than earlier variants, but the jury seems split on whether it causes milder symptoms all around or it just looks that way because many places with high infection have high rates of vaccination. This confusion is understandable, because the data suggest that two-dose vaccination alone doesn’t stop the virus from spreading, but it does prevent severe symptoms in most instances. Nonetheless, obviously, boosters are highly recommended for everyone eligible.
- Recent Health Policy Resilience. We did see some promising medical developments this week. The FDA announced that it will permanently lift restrictions on mailing mifepristone, a substance that can be used to terminate pregnancy for up to ten weeks post-conception. And in other pharma news, a federal judge reversed a 4.5 billion Purdue opioid settlement, finding that the bankruptcy court didn’t have authority to make the many, many pending lawsuits go away.
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 dog and his emotional support ball as well as 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 shows to stream you think I’d like!