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What the government did this week

Wake Up To Politics: What the government did this week
What the government did this week

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Friday, August 26, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 74 days away. Election Day 2024 is 802 days away.

As always, I like to close out the week by giving you a glimpse at what your elected leaders did in the past week. The major one this week was student debt relief, of course, but there are a number of less-covered government actions that I want to highlight as well.

Thanks for reading WUTP this week, which was “back-to-school week” here at WUTP headquarters (now located in a brand-new dorm room). If you appreciate the work I’m doing with this newsletter, you can always share the love by recommending it to friends and family (they can subscribe here), donating to support my journalism, setting up a monthly donation, or buying some WUTP merch.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend.

What the government did this week

Both chambers of Congress were out of session all week, so there isn’t much to report on the legislative front — but there are a number of executive actions from throughout the week I want to catch you up on:

🎓 President Biden announced his plan to offer student loan debt relief to approximately 43 million borrowers. Under Biden’s plan, up to $10,000 of federal student loan debt will be erased for all borrowers with an annual income under $125,000 (or $250,000 for married couples).

Americans who received federal Pell Grants to attend college will be eligible for up to $20,000 of federal student to be canceled, as long as they are under the $125,000 income threshold. This is the largest cancellation of student loan debt in U.S. history.

At the same time, Biden announced that the Education Department would move towards changes to its repayment plans for undergraduate student loans, cutting in half the amount that borrowers have to pay each month (from 10% to 5% of their discretionary income) and forgiving loan balances after 10 years of payments (instead of 20 years) for those who borrowed $12,000 or less.

Under the new repayment structure, the government would also cover the borrower’s unpaid monthly interest (even if their payment is $0), so loan balances will not balloon over time. Biden also extended the pandemic-era pause on student loan payments through the end of the year.

🛂 The Department of Homeland Security unveiled a regulation to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Despite its far-reaching impact — shielding more than 600,000 “Dreamers,” immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as minors, from deportation — DACA has operated merely off of a DHS memo since 2012.

This new move would give the program the status of a federal regulation, which the Biden administration hopes will protect it from legal challenges. A federal judge in Texas ruled last year that DACA was illegal, saying that the Obama administration should have followed the federal rulemaking steps Biden is taking now. The new regulation will take effect on October 31.

🛡️ The Defense Department announced a $2.98 billion Ukraine military aid package, the largest tranche of security assistance the U.S. has sent the country yet. The package includes more than 250,000 rounds of ammunition, six surface-to-air missile systems, and new drone systems. The funding comes from the $40 billion bipartisan Ukraine aid package passed by Congress in May.

As the Russia-Ukraine war marked its six-month anniversary, Biden also held phone calls with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and the leaders of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

President Biden announcing his plan for student loan debt relief. (White House)

🔫 A Justice Department rule targeting “ghost guns” went into effect. The rule, which has survived several legal challenges, would require the government to treat “ghost guns” — homemade firearms which are put together through kits and generally can’t be traced — like any other gun.

That means background checks will be required to buy such kits, and they will be required to have serial numbers printed on them to ensure the firearms can be traced.

🚧 A trio of agencies proposed a new regulation to require agreements with unions for all large-scale federal construction projects. Under the proposed rule, the government would have to sign collective bargaining agreements with labor unions before any federal construction project estimated to cost $35 million or more.

The regulation, which must now go through the mandated comments period before taking effect, stems from an executive order signed by Biden in February.

🧪 The White House issued a new policy to wrest open access to federal scientific research. The policy, which won’t take full effect until 2026, will require academic journals to provide free access to scientific papers that are publicly funded — ensuring that such research can no longer be hidden behind a paywall.

President Biden signed an executive order to begin implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act, the bipartisan law providing $280 billion in funding to semiconductor manufacturers and scientific research. Biden’s new order creates a council to coordinate the implementation of the law and sets federal priorities for how the law will be put into effect.

More news you should know

A federal judge ordered the Justice Department to unseal a redacted version of the affidavit used to justify the FBI search warrant for the raid of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The affidavit must be released by noon today.

Two Floridians pleaded guilty to stealing a diary belonging to Ashley Biden, the president’s youngest daughter, and selling it to right-wing group Project Veritas. Federal prosecutors also revealed that the Trump campaign rejected an offer from the duo to buy the diary.

Democrat Mary Peltola is gaining ground in the special election for Alaska’s statewide House seat, as ballots from last week’s vote continue to be tabulated. Cook Political Report is now calling the race a tossup. Votes will continue to be counted until August 31, and then the ranked-choice votes will be tabulated.

The vaccine makers are fighting. Moderna announced this morning that it is suing Pfizer for allegedly copying its patented mRNA technology in their Covid vaccine.

Many Democratic candidates distanced themselves from Biden’s student loan relief plan on Thursday, with several in tough races outright opposing it. Meanwhile, the White House’s official Twitter account targeted Republican lawmakers who criticized the move even after having small business loans forgiven during the pandemic.

Mary Peltola could become the first Alaska Native member of Congress. (Twitter)

Today’s political daybook

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch it.

President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (9:30 am) and then drop by a meeting on abortion access with state and local officials to mark Women’s Equality Day (11 am).

Later in the day, Biden will travel to Wilmington, Delaware, where he will spend the weekend.

Vice President Kamala Harris has nothing on her public schedule. She is in Los Angeles, having arrived there last night from Lihue, Hawaii, where she was vacationing.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (12:45 pm).

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will deliver remarks at the Fed’s annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (10 am). Powell’s remarks will be closely watched for any indication of his views on inflation and interest rates.

The Senate is on recess until September 6. The chamber will briefly convene for a pro forma session (10 am), a quick meeting held only to satisfy the constitutional obligation of meeting every three days. No business will be conducted.

The House is on recess until September 13. The chamber will also hold a brief pro forma session (10 am).

The Supreme Court is on recess until October 3.

Before I go...

Here’s a lighter piece of political news: The star of 1990s sitcom “Boy Meets World” is running for a city council seat in West Hollywood, California.

“I’m a longtime resident, union member, and concerned citizen who believes West Hollywood deserves leaders who will deliver results,” Ben Savage, who played Cory Matthews on the show, says on his campaign website.

Here’s more from The Hill.

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe