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Wake Up To Politics - April 23, 2021

Good morning! It’s Friday, April 23, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 564 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,292 days away.

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Friday Roundup

CONGRESS: The Senate approved a bill on Thursday to address the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States since the coronavirus pandemic began. The legislation passed in a 94-1 vote, a rare moment of bipartisanship. The bill would direct the Justice Department to expedite review of Covid-related hate crimes and to issue guidance for states and localities on how to establish online hate crime reporting processes in multiple languages. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) cast the lone “nay” vote on the measure, writing on Twitter that it would turn “the federal government into the speech police.”

  • The House passed a bill on Thursday to grant statehood to Washington, D.C. The measure was approved in a 216-208 vote, along party lines. It now heads to the Senate, where it is not expected to advance with the 60-vote filibuster threshold still intact. The vote on Thursday was the second time in history that the House voted to add Washington, D.C., to the union; the first time was in June of last year.

CORONAVIRUS: The use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine could resume in the United States as soon as this weekend. According to the Washington Post, federal health agencies are leaning toward recommending the vaccine be used once again, but with a warning about a rare complication involving blood clots.

  • Six women had reported the blood clots, out of almost 7 million recipients of the vaccine; according to the New York Times, the FDA is aware of a handful of other reports of clotting, but the agency declined to specify how many. The European Union’s drug regulator also decided earlier this week to allow the J&J shot to continue to be distributed but with a warning on blood clots.
The United States may soon resume use of the J&J coronavirus vaccine. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

INFRASTRUCTURE: A group of Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), released a counter-offer to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan on Thursday. The GOP proposal totals about $568 billion, with the bulk of it — $299 billion — going toward roads and bridges. (Biden’s plan only allocates $115 billion for roads and bridges.) “The GOP plan also dedicates $61 billion to public transit systems, $20 billion to rail, and $65 billion for broadband,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • Democrats quickly rejected the GOP offering, which is about a quarter of the size of Biden’s $2 trillion plan and does not include the “human infrastructure” elements many progressives have emphasized. The Republican proposal would be paid for in part by increasing user fees for electric vehicles; the Biden administration has opposed user fees and has instead proposed an increase in the corporate tax rate.

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Ask Gabe

Q: What is court packing in regard to the Supreme Court? — Julie from St. Louis, MO

A: Court packing generally refers to attempts by one party to add seats to the Supreme Court, in order to increase the number of justices on the court appointed by a president of that party. The size of the Supreme Court can be changed by an act of Congress, but has remained at nine justice since 1869. The most notable attempt at court packing since then was in 1937, when President Franklin Roosevelt was facing conservative opposition on the court to his New Deal programs.

Roosevelt proposed adding one justice for each incumbent who remained on the court after the age of 70 years and six months, with a maximum court size of 15 justices. The plan was roundly rejected by both parties (it was defeated 70-20 in the Senate) and since then, court packing has generally been looked at unfavorably. However, some Democrats have recently tried to revive the idea: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and other lawmakers introduced a bill last week that would establish 13 seats on the court, allowing President Biden to appoint four new justices. (A recent poll found the idea has 26% support among the American electorate.)

It is worth noting that — much like the word “infrastructure” — there has been some controversy around the term lately, as Democrats have sought to redefine it in defense of their proposals. Nadler, for example, has said it was Senate Republicans who packed the court by confirming Justice Amy Coney Barrett during an election year but refusing to do the same for Obama nominee Merrick Garland. However, this is not historically how the term has been used.

A 1937 cartoon lampooning FDR’s court packing proposal. It was published with the caption, “Do we want a ventriloquist act in the Supreme Court?” (Getty Images)


All times Eastern.

President Joe Biden will deliver remarks and  participate in the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate session on “the economic opportunities of climate action” at 9:15 a.m. Then, at 11 a.m., he will receive his daily intelligence briefing. At 1:45 p.m., he will receive his weekly economic breeding. At 2:45 p.m., he will participate in a virtual conference with Defense Department senior leaders.

Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to New Hampshire. At 11:55 a.m., she will hold a listening session on the American Jobs Plan’s investments in broadband at New Hampshire Electric Cooperative in Plymouth. At 2 p.m., she will tour IBEW Local 490 in Concord. At 2:40 p.m., she will deliver remarks on the American Jobs Plan’s investments in workforce development and infrastructure.

First Lady Jill Biden will visit Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation. At 11:20 a.m., she will attend a listening session with Navajo students at Hunters Point Board School in St. Michaels, Arizona, and then visit a nearby vaccination site.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 11:30 p.m. She will be joined by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

U.S. public health officials will hold a press briefing on COVID-19 response at 11 a.m. The briefers will include White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will hold a meeting at 11 a.m. to discuss the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

The House and Senate are not in session.

The Supreme Court will release orders at 9:30 a.m. The justices will also meet for their weekly conference.

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