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Wake Up To Politics - April 13, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Three flashpoints from America in 2021
Wake Up To Politics - April 13, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 574 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,302 days away.

Three flashpoints from America in 2021

The year 2020 — rife with a divisive election, a global pandemic, and racial unrest — famously “tested us beyond measure.” But, so far, 2021 has been nearly as turbulent, with many of the crises from last year spilling over into this one. Here are three events from the past 24 hours that epitomize the simultaneous tribulations America faces in 2021:

U.S. agencies are calling for a pause in distribution of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine. The CDC and FDA made the recommendation in a joint statement released this morning after six cases were reported of Americans developing a rare blood clot within two weeks of receiving the single-dose J&J vaccine. All six cases were women between the ages of 18 and 48; one of the women has died and another is in critical condition.

More than 6 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S. so far, so the blood clots have been reported in less than one in 1 million people who have received the shot. However, the nation’s two premier health agencies said they were recommending the pause “out of an abundance of caution” until an FDA investigation into the blood clots is complete.

This new development comes at an especially uncertain time for the pandemic in America, with vaccinations rising — but at the same time as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are too, especially a new set of worrisome variants. The suspension of the J&J shots — which have been particularly used in low-income and rural communities, due to its easier administration —  will provide another blow to America’s attempts to bring the ongoing pandemic under control.

(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Protests broke out in Minneapolis after a 20-year-old Black man was shot and killed by a police officer. Daunte Wright was fatally shot by Officer Kim Potter on Sunday in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, after being pulled over for a traffic violation. The local police chief told reporters on Monday that Potter “had the intention to deploy [her] Taser but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet” accidentally; she has been placed on administrative leave.

A second night of protests took place in the Minneapolis area on Monday, leading to about 40 arrests from curfew violations, rioting, and other infractions. The outcry was only exacerbated by the fact that the police shooting took place in the midst of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed last May.

Floyd’s death sparked a racial reckoning that pulsated around the nation this past summer; Wright’s death this week, also at the hands of a police officer, came as a fresh reminder of the issues surrounding race and policing that continue to plague the United States.

(Joshua Rashaad McFadden/New York Times)

A student suspect was killed after instigating a school shooting in Knoxville, Tennessee. Police responded to a call of an armed student holed up in a bathroom at a Knoxville high school on Monday. The student fired his weapon when the officers entered the bathroom; one officer was wounded before the student was shot and killed by return fire from the police.

It was just the latest incident of gun violence that has rocked the U.S. in recent weeks, after mass shootings in Georgia, Colorado, California, and elsewhere. Mass shootings in public places, such as schools, had become less frequent in 2020 as the pandemic kept most people at home for long stretches of time. But the latest string of shootings show that the pause was only temporary, as the recent incidents have taken place in schools, supermarkets, spas, and office buildings — a sign that America’s gun violence “epidemic” is returning as the coronavirus pandemic is receding.

(Saul Young/The News Sentinel/Associated Press)

Together, these three flashpoints amount to a nation that remains in crisis on a variety of fronts. Later in the week, I’ll look at these issues — and others facing the country — from a political angle, breaking down the pieces of legislation being proposed in response and how likely they are to make their way through Congress.

The Rundown

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION: “President Biden is preparing to nominate Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus to be commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, selecting a critic of the Trump administration’s immigration policies to run the country’s largest federal law enforcement agency as it contends with the biggest increase in migrants arriving at the southwest border in two decades.” Washington Post

  • “President Joe Biden has picked Christine Wormuth to be the next secretary of the Army, the White House announced Monday, making her the first woman to hold the position if confirmed by the Senate.” CNNECONOMY: “The U.S. budget deficit grew to a record $1.7 trillion in the first half of the fiscal year as a third round of stimulus payments sent federal spending soaring last month. The budget gap, broadened by the Covid-19 pandemic and related shutdowns that sent the economy into a tailspin starting in March 2020, is now more than double what it was for the same period a year ago, the Treasury Department said Monday.” Wall Street Journal

    BORDER: “The Biden administration has struck an agreement with Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to temporarily surge security forces to their borders in an effort to reduce the tide of migration to the U.S. border.” Associated Press

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All times Eastern.

President Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Then, at 11 a.m., he will travel to the Capitol to pay his respects to the late Capitol Police Officer William Evans, who was killed in the line of duty earlier this month. At 2 p.m., Biden will meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in the Oval Office.

Vice President Kamala Harris will hold a roundtable on Black maternal health at 12:30 p.m. Later, she will join the CBC meeting at 2 p.m. and pay her respects to Officer Evans at the Capitol at 4 p.m.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are in Brussels, Belgium, for meetings with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12:30 p.m.

The FDA and CDC will hold a joint press briefing at 10 a.m. on their recommendation for  a pause in administration of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine amid a probe into six cases of blood clotting.  

The Senate will convene at 12 p.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of the nomination of Polly Trottenberg, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation. The Senate will then recess from 12:30 to 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings.

At 2:15 p.m., the chamber will vote on Trottenberg’s confirmation, followed by a cloture vote to advance the nomination of Wendy Sherman to be Deputy Secretary of State. Sherman served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs during the Obama administration. Additional roll call votes are possible later in the day.

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the 2021 tax filing season and the “21st century IRS,” featuring testimony from IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “the legacy of racial discrimination in housing” at 10 a.m., followed by a hearing on “the student debt burden and its impact on racial justice, borrowers, and the economy” at 2:30 p.m. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) will testify at the latter session.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on “the state of travel and tourism during COVID-19” at 3 p.m.

The House will convene at 7 p.m. The chamber will begin voting at around 7:15 p.m. on the Senate version of H.R. 1868, which would avert the automatic spending cuts to Medicare and other programs triggered by the American Rescue Plan due to the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010. The measure passed the Senate in a 90-2 vote last month.

Democratic congressional leaders will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would increase Justice Department oversight of coronavirus-related hate crimes against Asian-Americans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will participate, along with the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Reps. Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Grace Meng (D-NY).

— The late Capitol Police Officer William Evans will lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol. A ceremonial arrival for his remains will be held at 10:30 a.m., followed by a tribute ceremony at 11 a.m., a viewing period from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., and a ceremonial departure at 6:30 p.m. Pelosi and Schumer will speak at the tribute and attend the departure ceremony.

Comedian Jon Stewart will speak at a press conference at the Capitol on the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act, which would provide VA benefits to service members who have illnesses due to exposure to burn pits and other toxins. The bill’s sponsors, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), will also participate.

The Supreme Court is not in session.

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