National News Roundup: Year 5, Week 8
I’m probably jinxing myself by typing this, but as I draft this on Monday afternoon we appear to have sighted that mythical beast known as a slow news week. I haven’t really seen these in the last four years, so I’m throwing an impromptu desk party over here. The light switch rave is off the chain.
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 stimulus payment!–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:
Even during a slow news week there are still updates on Election Rejection, though they’re mostly about how many people are being charged by the DOJ right now. Here’s what I have for you:
- Insurrection Redux. The Justice Department has signaled they are still planning to charge many more people, including many members of the militia-style organization known as the Oath Keepers organization, which has also slowed down their proceedings. In the meantime, however, they have charged two individuals who fatally assaulted a police officer with chemical weapons. And in related news, outlets began reporting new information about additional pressuring phone calls Trump placed to Georgia officials, trying to make them find voter fraud so that he could justify challenging the election results. Against this backdrop, it’s not really surprising that his acting Secretary of Defense publicly opined that Trump caused the insurrection, even if he wasn’t sure if Trump was aware of it.
We are continuing to track two main stories on the Biden Rebuilding fronts as well. Here’s what has happened in the past week:
- Dismantling the Deportation Machine? We did get some positive news on immigration fronts this week, but it remains mixed overall. The Biden Administration has officially ended a Trump-era rule that penalized legal applicants for being low income, and they also will stop deporting people who step forward as sponsors for unaccompanied minors. However, the administration is still struggling to meet the needs of unaccompanied minors, who are coming to the U.S. in unprecedented numbers, and is holding them longer than legally permissible. Outlets are reporting that the administration will begin housing unaccompanied boys in the Dallas convention center, and FEMA has been sent to the border to respond to the large number of people emigrating. They also made it clear that they are not ending family detention, and several application process issues remain as well.
- Confirmation Tango (continued). Despite Tom Cotton’s nonsense, Merrick Garland was confirmed as Attorney General this week by 70–30 vote. Additionally, the Senate confirmed Marcia Fudge as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; she will be the first Black woman to lead the department in over 40 years. We also saw Michael Regan confirmed as new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Deb Haaland was confirmed as the first Native American Secretary of Interior.
Your New Normal:
- Congressional Updates. The biggest Congressional update of the week is the good news below, but we also saw some other interesting bills. A group of bipartisan senators have proposed a bill called the Sunshine Protection Bill of 2021, which proposes permanent daylight saving time. And the House passed new responsible gun ownership laws which restructure background checks to make them more comprehensive.
- State of the COVID-19. We have a surprising amount of positive COVID-related news this week. President Biden gave a prime-time address on Thursday to discuss his planning. Some of the highlights: 1) Urging all states to make the vaccine available to all adults by May 1; 2) Aiming for July 4th celebrations in person; and 3) Streamlining vaccination processes in several different ways, including centralized registration, more vaccination sites, and expanding pharmacy vaccination. He also announced plans for the U.S. to purchase another 100 million doses of the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which presumably will help achieve Thursday’s stated goals. In related vaccine eligibility news, Alaska has made its doses available to adolescents age 16 and older, and teachers are now eligible in all 50 states. Case numbers also continue to drop nationally.
- Recent Legislative Resilience. We finally have an American Rescue Act as I type this! The final version in the Senate passed last Saturday in a 51–50 vote entirely along party lines, and it passed in the House on Wednesday. Then it was signed into law by President Biden on Thursday afternoon. In addition to the much-covered provisions about stimulus payments, unemployment supports, small business supports, and education and child supports, the final version includes a provision expanding the Affordable Care Act market as well as some increased taxes for businesses.
So that’s what I have for this week, and it was a bit lighter than many weeks but I’m okay with that. For making it through, you deserve this rebounding cat 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 warm weather like we had last week!