Welcome back, dear readers! In a moment we’ll get to the news–and I assure you, there’s a lot of it this week–but I also want to take a moment to discuss our trajectory from here. We’ve had a traditional, liberal politician step up to the Presidential plate, and his first few moves have been encouraging. Things are looking up, and we’re all so tired. The temptation is great to write the last four years off as a fever dream and go back to sleep.
But here’s the thing: As much as we may want to claim otherwise, the last four years happened, and the groundwork for them has been building for at least a decade. White supremacy is not gone, and 45’s followers are not gone, and frankly, some of them are still in Congress. We lost four hundred thousand Americans to a pandemic that is far from over. In acknowledgment of these things, I have decided to preserve most of the NNR structure and format moving forward–we’re in a new chapter, but not a new book.
That said, I am also pleased to report the retirement of Constitutional Crisis Corner. It is being replaced by a section on rebuilding efforts, and I’ll also try to throw in action items as appropriate. Our politicians cannot and should not be expected to rebuild without engaged constituents. Please don’t hit that snooze button; there is so much to do–and though I’m not offering legal advice, I’m happy to help you parse it all.
Cleanup In Aisle 45:
At the time that I type this, Tangerine Mussolini has crawled back into a sewer in Florida, but he leaves a lot of slime in his wake. We’ll likely still be dealing with Election Rejection for the foreseeable future as a result, particularly as it relates to impeachment proceedings. Here’s what I have for you:
- Further Updates from the Insurrection. Insurrection consequences continue especially on criminal fronts, and court documents keep revealing new details—many of them disturbing and several involving death threats. At this point, 149 people have been criminally charged, with charges ranging from simple trespass to sedition, and the first indictments have been issued as well. All told, officials are investigating over one hundred and seventy people, and are currently debating whether to charge everyone who was there. Countless people have given FBI tips about their own family members, disgusted by the destruction and multiple deaths caused by the mob, and news is starting to come out that some participants have threatened the lives of said families. With an investigation this big, this story is not going away anytime soon, and we can likely expect more and more details to continue to trickle out from the court proceedings.
- Yet Another Election Plot. Incredibly, we somehow have news of yet another incredibly corrupt election-related plot this week, because the Trump administration specialized in packing scandals into clown cars for four years straight. Before he left office, Trump apparently considered a plan to oust his acting Attorney General so that a new replacement AG could force Georgia to overturn their election results by suing them in the Supreme Court. (I don’t mind telling you, I really hoped his departure from office would mark the end of typing sentences like this.) The Inspector General is now investigating this matter at Senator Schumer’s request, so we may see more news trickle out. Ideally, we will also see consequences.
- Impeachment Update. We also saw more developments on the impeachment front. Nancy Pelosi formally delivered the article of impeachment over to the Senate today, but the Senate has agreed to put off the trial until February 8th to focus on other preliminary matters. (Of course, the Senate already has its own problems, but we’ll talk more about that below.) Both sides are lining up their representation now, though, so we might see a bit more news on this in the intervening couple of weeks.
Sadly, as this week was also the last week of the Trump Administration, I also have some Casual Disregard of Governing Norms for you. Here are the events to know:
- Last-Minute 45 Sketch. I mentioned last week that Donald Trump has essentially been selling pardons, which contextualizes why he pardoned or commuted the sentences of over 140 more people before he left office on Wednesday, including former aide Steve Bannon— who was criminally charged for defrauding Trump’s own base. He also rescinded the lobbying executive order which he signed at the beginning of his presidency–you know, the one that barred former federal employees from becoming lobbyists–as he was leaving the Capitol.
Your New Normal:
- Inauguration Ensues. As I mentioned last week, it remained a strange and scary time as we geared up for inauguration and officials remained vigilant, concerned about potential further attacks that ultimately, thankfully, did not materialize. We limited public access to the Capitol grounds, and in fact, the National Mall was closed along with most major public bridges all week. The many National Guard troops stationed in the complex were vetted to prevent infiltration, and twelve people were removed as a result. The Biden administration ended up moving many celebrations online to try to keep a festive atmosphere against this backdrop, but nonetheless had a poignant outdoor swearing-in ceremony despite the somber circumstances. They hosted the nation’s first COVID memorial on Inauguration Eve, and Vice President Harris was led to the ceremony grounds on Wednesday morning by Officer Eugene Goodman, the gentleman who diverted a mob away from Vice President Pence on the day of the insurrection. President Biden’s inauguration speech also highlighted several issues that he addressed by executive order in his first few days of office. Main highlights of the day include Youth National Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s reading of her phenomenal poem, “The Hill We Climb,” and the truly impressive number of memes about Bernie Sanders’s mittens.
- Electoral Dysfunction. Almost as soon as the three newest Senators were sworn in, the new Senate started having issues. Though Mitch McConnell clearly has no lost love for Trump, he immediately started fighting new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on arrangements for operating rules, saying he wouldn’t agree to anything until Schumer promised not to touch the filibuster via “nuclear option.” McConnell wants this promise because, if they agreed, it would make it virtually impossible to pass any legislation in a 50-50 split Senate. (I should note that this is a particularly bad-faith request because the most recent person to use a nuclear option was Mitch McConnell in 2017, in order to push forward Neil Gorsuch with only 51 votes. So he’s literally saying that nobody can do anything until Schumer promises not to do something that McConnell himself just did.) Some matters have been brought forward despite the lack of process for now, but this will increasingly be a problem as we run out of things that can be done on unanimous consent and/or freshman insurrectionist Josh Hawley gets increasingly obstreperous.
- Confirmation Tango. Despite the issues outlined above, the Senate did manage to confirm several of Biden’s appointments over the past week. On the national security front, Avril Haines, Biden’s pick for head of national intelligence, Avril Haines, was confirmed on Wednesday with broad bipartisan support. Similarly, his pick for Secretary of Defense, retired general Lloyd Austin, was confirmed on Friday in an even more bipartisan vote. And just this evening, his pick for Secretary of Treasury, former Fed chair Janet Yellen, was confirmed as well.
- State of the COVID-19. President Biden has passed several different executive orders regarding the COVID crisis–more about that below–but he has inherited quite a mess, and he cautions that nothing will change the trajectory of the pandemic over the next several months. There are, however, some moderate silver linings; cases are declining by a modest amount as I type this, and studies suggest that existing vaccines will likely at least partially protect against the more contagious UK variant. (Several companies are beginning work on developing further vaccines for the South American variant.) This news comes as pharmaceutical company Merck announces it will focus on therapies instead of finalizing its own attempt at a vaccine.
- And We’re Off! The Biden administration has been truly remarkable in immediately tackling policy abuses from basically their first moment in office, and I don’t mind admitting that I’ve been pretty pleased with many of their priorities. At the time that I type this on Monday evening, there have already been about 35 Presidential proclamations designed to undo or fix Trump-era abuses on a myriad of issues–everything from new COVID protections to additional nutritional and economic supports to fixing the census to countering workplace discriminations to acknowledging climate change to ending military enrollment discrimination to extending environmental protections to creating immigration supports to creating federal employment protections to extending eviction and loan moratoriums. There is a strong emphasis on equity as well as science, and this must have involved a great deal of planning. In addition, President Biden has been cleaning house internally, giving several Trump political appointees a chance to resign and firing some that didn’t exercise that option. The White House also immediately resumed daily press conferences, which will include daily ASL interpreters. It’s a truly impressive amount of work in a one-week period, and a good start for undoing what will likely be a staggering amount of broken government.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m excited for the political trajectory we’re on. In the interest of engaged readership, however, you still deserve dessert links! I hope you enjoy this duck enjoying ice water along with our unquestionably better 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 a better place to put your comments!