I’ve been asked a few times now whether I really intend to keep going, now that the distasteful Cheeto is out of office; I think folks expect things to calm down and return to “normal” with a grown-up at the helm. But weeks like the one we just had really nicely illustrate why I want to keep going–between the illustrative CPAC theatrics and the current state of Congress, there is still so much to fix.
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:
If CPAC made one thing clear, it’s that Election Rejection isn’t going anywhere, even though half the country is sick to death of it by now. Here’s what I have for you:
- CPAC Machine. The Conservative Political Action Conference happened this past week, and it would have been a golden opportunity to distance the party from the January insurrection attempt–but since this is the modern GOP, the only golden thing to materialize was a literal Trump idol. Between a Nazi stage design, repeated messaging which insisted the election was stolen, and attendee refusals to wear masks, the single biggest takeaways appear to be that the GOP will change nothing about its broken and treasonous party, and Donald Trump is still in charge. A 2024 Trump election campaign remains a very credible threat, and one we should start bracing against now.
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? The administration did reverse several Trump-era policies which froze immigration visas and blamed it on the pandemic. Additionally, the administration announced it will permit families separated under the Zero Tolerance policy to reunite in the United States. But it also reopened tent city facilities where the Trump administration housed unaccompanied minors, which may be illegal under the Flores settlement agreement and definitely isn’t a best practice. This move was also compounded by another injunction on the 100-day deportation ban. All told, not a great week on the immigration front.
- Confirmation Tango (Again). This was quite a week for Senate confirmation process. Early in the week, Tom Vilsack was confirmed again for a reprise of his role as Secretary of Agriculture; shortly after, Jennifer Granholm was confirmed as Secretary of Energy. Meanwhile, Xavier Becerra began his hearing for Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Deb Haaland began hers for Secretary of Interior. Voting on Neera Tanden for the Office of Management and Budget got postponed amid growing opposition. Finally, Merrick Garland advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee after several days of hearing; he will face a floor vote early next week.
- Post Office Updates. In more positive news, President Biden nominated three people to the U.S.P.S. Board of Governors, several of whom are uniquely qualified for the role. The move comes as Postmaster General Dejoy faces questioning about mail delays and other systemic issues, which is an edifying juxtaposition as well as a hopeful sign.
Your New Normal:
- Congressional Updates. Democrats continue to fight about the $15 minimum wage provision in the $1.9T stimulus package after the package itself passed in the House on Friday by a mere seven votes. The Senate parliamentarian has decided that it cannot be included in the Senate version for procedural reasons, and Biden is currently trying to keep the Democrats united enough to pass some version in the near future. House Democrats also passed the Equality Act again this week, which is an LGBT protections bill that was first passed by the House in 2019. Democrats are hoping to advance it to a more receptive Senate than the 2019 version, but it’s a pretty steep climb this time around as well.
- State of the COVID-19. As mentioned above, the House passed the $1.9T COVID relief package, though it has already seen some changes on its way through the senate. Additionally, early studies of vaccination in the U.K. and Israel, two countries with a high per capita vaccination rate, are showing that hospitalizations drop dramatically as vaccinated populations rise. Here in the United States, the CDC is recommending the Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccination, which could be implemented as soon as this week–though its use may have health equity implications, as it’s slightly less effective than the dual-dose vaccines. Speaking of health equity, Texas was also in the news for denying vaccination to undocumented populations, which is counter to both the state’s policy and public health common sense. We also saw a slowing of case drops nationally, and both New York and California are reporting new variants.
- Air Strikes in Syria.* President Biden made the decision this week to launch a military airstrike in Syria, apparently responding to aggression in Iraq. Notably, however, at least one of the Iranian militant groups targeted directly denied involvement in the Iraqi strike, which is unusual for that group (and may suggest they are in fact accurately reporting). Russia is also claiming we didn’t give them adequate warning before bombing a region where they had troops legally stationed. And, of course, Syria remains a highly destabilized region with many displaced people and refugees living there, who presently are not able to migrate here due to restrictive refugee caps still in place. It is important to understand that this type of news has immigration implications as well as foreign affairs implications, and frankly those implications are not awesome.
- Recent State Resilience. We did see a smattering of positive state news from various places this week. New Jersey decriminalized marijuana, making it the fourteenth state in the country to adopt such regulations. A federal judge protected California’s net neutrality law, which clears the way for the state to begin implementing it in the near future. And the Manhattan District Attorney now officially has Trump’s tax returns, which will hopefully result in criminal charges further down the line.
So that’s what I have for this week, and it was kind of bargain-basement but some weeks are like that. For making it through, you deserve these foxes laughing and a more consistently 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 recipes for your favorite cookies!