With everything happening, and the focus on fixing things, it has been easy to forget just how much bigger the GOP is than simply Trump. The current crisis in Texas really brings home just how wide that abdication from good governance goes, and it’s an unpleasant but important reminder. I’ve included some ways to help in the roundup this week, in case you want to be a better human being than Ted Cruz.
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 power grid!–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 after the impeachment acquittal, we still saw some Election Rejection news–we’ll likely keep seeing it weekly as investigations into the Capitol assault continue. Here’s what I have for you:
- Impeachment Aftermath. After the impeachment process created a very clear account of January 6, the House chair of Homeland Security and the NAACP immediately brought a civil suit against Trump for his role in the insurrection. It’s not yet clear whether these materials will also be used to criminally charge Trump, but it’s certainly a strong possibility, especially because the Department of Justice appears to be investigating Roger Stone’s involvement. Additionally, President Biden has signaled that he would be open to creating a commission to investigate as Nancy Pelosi wants to do, and today Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland signaled that investigating the insurrection would be a high priority for him–but more on that last part below.
- Investigation of Capitol Police. Speaking of investigation, news also broke this week that 29 members of the Capitol Police force are being investigated for their role on the ground during the insurrection. Additionally, six officers have already been suspended on the basis of those investigations. This is, of course, in addition to the individuals with military and FBI ties who are already being investigated for their role.
We also saw a bit of movement on the Biden Rebuilding fronts. Here’s what has happened in the past week:
- Dismantling the Deportation Machine (cont). President Biden continued momentum on immigration reform this week, issuing new guidance for ICE officers that requires them to prioritize people already convicted of dangerous felonies. Members of Congress petitioned the President to halt deportation to Cameroon entirely, as those deportations are inherently unsafe. Biden also sponsored an immigration bill in Congress that facilitates family-based immigration and creates new pathways to citizenship. It is worth noting that many advocates–including myself–think that these proposed changes fall short of fully protecting immigrant health during the pandemic, but the bill is hopefully the beginning of a much longer conversation.
- Confirmation Tango (Again). We also had more confirmation news this week, and with the easy confirmations over, we’re starting to move onto some interesting ground. Today marked the beginning of Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing, though this time for Attorney General rather than a Supreme Court vacancy. In his first day, Garland indicated he would prioritize prosecuting white supremacy and protecting American democracy. Meanwhile, Biden’s pick for budget chief, Neera Tanden, has now been opposed by both Democrat-lite Joe Manchin and slightly-more-bipartisan-than-average Republicans Susan Collins and Mitt Romney due to her history of tweeting things about Republicans.
- Policy Resets to Celebrate. We have a few more resets to celebrate this week which seem worth noting here–the biggest one is that the United States has officially rejoined the Paris agreement after Trump dragged us out last year. But we also officially reopened ACA enrollment this week, bringing the marketplace into alignment with President Biden’s executive order last month.
Your New Normal:
- Other Congressional Updates. Democrats revealed the full bill text of their proposed stimulus bill on Friday, which does include a provision increasing the minimum wage to $15 despite Biden’s private comments that it won’t pass. Meanwhile, President Biden also announced plans today for a more tailored PPP program which will actually prioritize small businesses, which the previous incarnation was notorious for not doing. And House Democrats introduced a bill which would prohibit LGBT discrimination as an amendment to existing civil rights laws.
- State of the COVID-19. As has become the norm, there were a lot of COVID ups and downs this week. Our country officially crossed the threshold of 500,000 deaths, a number representing more American losses than both World Wars and the Vietnam War combined and more than a fifth of all deaths worldwide. We also saw confirmation that the South African variant can re-infect people who had previously been infected with a different variant, and that Pfizer and Moderna have reduced effectiveness against it. Between this and the UK variant, which has been confirmed to be deadlier than the early strains, experts are very concerned about spread in the United States. Yet infection numbers are still dropping nationally, and a study in Israel suggests vaccination can drive infection rates down dramatically. In other vaccination news, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for distribution, but may be suspended in some places because it is less effective against the South African variant. Additionally, vaccination efforts have been slowed in some places due to storms caused by the polar vortex, which I’ll talk more about momentarily.
- Crisis in Texas. As an unprecedented winter storm swept through the middle of the country this week, physical and political conditions in Texas created cascading failures the state’s unique power grid. On Monday, millions of homes lost power and heat throughout the state, and over 14,000 households across Texas are still without power as I type this a full week later. As power was being fixed, millions of homes went under boil water notice as pipes began having issues as well–and several of those homes still had no power with which to boil their water. Compounding things further, heat prices skyrocketed at the same time, resulting in some Texans receiving heating bills as high as $17,000. At this point, over fifty people have died, due to the extreme conditions, fires, or carbon monoxide poisoning. President Biden declared a state of emergency earlier in the week, mobilizing FEMA and sending emergency generators as well. Mutual aid has been providing a lot of support in the short-term, and several politicians and public figures are fundraising to help; both of those links can connect you to ways to support folks on the ground. Note, however, that this group of mobilized politicians does not include current Senator Ted Cruz, who instead fled to Cancun and threw his daughters and his dog under the bus on his way there, or former governor and U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who suggested that the crisis was a necessary sacrifice for Republican ideals.
- Recent Court Resilience. We saw some interesting and promising court news this week. On the national stage, the Supreme Court declined to shield Trump’s tax returns from state subpoena, clearing the way for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr to prosecute him for financial fraud. They also declined to hear a case challenging Pennsylvania’s election results. It’s interesting to note, by the way, that the three justices appointed by Trump all signed onto these decisions–the only person to dissent in either case was Clarence Thomas. And in other happy state law news this week, Virginia officially became the first Southern state to ban the death penalty.
So that’s what I have for this week, and it was more specific than normal but still more than enough. In the interest of engaged readership, however, you still deserve dessert links! I hope you enjoy Gritty snowboarding in Lake Tahoe 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 more animal videos!