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Wake Up To Politics - August 5, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: What the U.S. government did this week
Wake Up To Politics - August 5, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Friday, August 5, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 95 days away. Election Day 2024 is 833 days away.

Congrats on making it to the end of another week. As always, I like to put aisde Friday’s newsletter to give you a rundown of what exactly your leaders here in Washington got done this week.

This was another historic week of bipartisan action. Two major pieces of legislation made their way through the Senate: one that will significantly expand veterans’ health care, and another that will significantly expand America’s military alliances.

Plus, there was a number of less-covered bipartisan bills passed to promote public safety, as well as new executive actions on everything from monkeypox to airline refunds.

Here at WUTP, I believe it’s important to give you a sense of how your elected representatives are spending their time, and to highlight the quiet (and cross-party) progress that’s being made on issues that affect your daily life, sometimes without your even knowing it.

If you appreciate that mission, it’s always appreciated in turn when you share the newsletter with friends or donate to support the newsletter.

You can also use the donate link to set up a monthly contribution — the best way to ensure that I can keep putting the substantial time in that it takes to create these weekly roundups.

Your generosity also helps support other WUTP features that give you a unique look at the players and dynamics driving Washington, such as my pieces this week on a rare policy debate between two senators and on Joe Manchin’s go-to journalist.

Now, let’s look back at the week that was:

Your guide to what the U.S. government did this week

As always, the week’s actions will be split up into categories depending on what stage of the legislative process they’re in.  

For context on vote counts, the Senate has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. The House has 220 Democrats and 210 Republicans. (You can click on a vote tally to see how your member voted.)

For context on amounts of funding, the federal budget was about $6.8 trillion in 2021.

Bills signed into law

💰 Covid-era fraud: Two bills allowing for more time to prosecute individuals who fraudulently obtained Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and economic injury disaster loans (EIDLs) during the pandemic. The measures extend the statute of limitations — the amount of time after the crime is committed that prosecutors can bring charges — for both forms of fraud from 5 years to 10 years.

  • The PPP fraud bill passed the House unanimously in June and the Senate unanimously last week. The EIDL fraud bill passed the House 416-3 in June and the Senate unanimously last week. President Biden will sign both into law today.

🕵️ Homicide investigations: A bill giving family members of homicide victims the right to have their loved one’s case file brought up for review again if the murder investigation has gone cold for more than three years.

  • Passed the House 460-20 in March, passed the Senate unanimously last week, signed by President Biden this week.

🏥 Substance abuse treatment: A bill authorizing the construction of a paved road leading to the only center in California that specifically provides treatment to Native American children suffering from substance abuse disorders. The measure will improve access to the facility, which can currently only be reached by a dilapidated dirt road.

  • Passed the Senate unanimously in May, passed the House 379-41 in July, signed by President Biden this week.

🪙 Commemorative coins: Two bills authorizing the minting of commemorative coins honoring Harriet Tubman’s 200th birthday and the National World War II Memorial.

  • Both passed the House and Senate unanimously last week, signed by President Biden this week.
President Biden will sign two bills cracking down on perpetrators of Covid-era fraud. (Konstantin Evdokimov / Unsplash)

Bills sent to Biden’s desk

🎖️ Veterans health care: A bill expanding health care benefits and access to veterans exposed to toxic substances — such as burn pits — during their military service. The largest expansion to veterans’ health care in decades, the $280 billion measure is poised to expand health care access for 3.5 million vets.

  • Passed the House 342-88 in March, passed the Senate 86-11 this week.

🤝  NATO expansion: A treaty adding Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a significant expansion of the alliance — right onto Russia’s doorstep. The treaty does not require approval by the House, but it does need to be signed by the president and ratified by the rest of NATO’s 30 member states.

  • Ratified by the Senate 95-1-1 this week.

👮 Police mental health: A bill extending disability benefits to public safety officers struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and death benefits to survivors of officers who die by trauma-linked suicides, such as the four officers who took their own lives after responding to January 6th. Such benefits are currently only available to officers who suffer physical — not mental — injuries.

  • Passed the House 402-17 in May, passed the Senate unanimously this week.

🧠 Brain injuries: A bill requiring the Justice Department to establish tools to train first responders on how to handle incidents involving traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and PTSD.

  • Passed the House 400-21 in May, passed the Senate unanimously this week.

🔋 Battery safety: A bill requiring warning labels and child-resistant packaging and compartments for button batteries, the silver, coin-shaped batteries used in many watches, toys, and remote controls. The measure is named “Reese’s Law,” for Reese Hamsmith, an 18-year-old Texas girl who died after swallowing a button battery.

  • Passed the House unanimously last week, passed the Senate unanimously this week.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (right) with the ambassadors from Finland and Sweden, after the Senate ratified a treaty adding the two countries to NATO. (Schumer’s office)

Bills passed by one chamber

🚓 Public safety: The Senate passed a suite of other measures — all unanimously — boosting public safety funding and training.

  • A bill providing federal grants to pay for the training of law enforcement recruits if they agree to serve for at least four years within five miles of their residence, as a way to encourage more police officers to serve in the communities they hail from.
  • A bill authorizing $90 million in grants over two years for local law enforcement agencies to receive de-escalation training. The training will teach officers to respond more effectively when interacting with people suffering mental or behavioral crises, including by using alternatives to force.
  • A bill directing the Attorney General to propose new programs to help treat and prevent job-related PTSD for public safety officers and 911 dispatchers.
  • A bill authorizing $250 million in grants over five years to support smaller local law enforcement agencies (those that employ fewer than 200 officers).
  • A bill authorizing grants to support training for teachers, students, and school employees on how to prevent, recognize, respond to, and report child sexual abuse.🛣️ Permitting reform: Republicans scored a win with the passage of a resolution to overturn a Biden administration regulation requiring all proposed infrastructure projects be studied for their impact on the climate. Under the Congressional Review Act of 1996, Congress can strike down an Executive Branch regulation — but it requires the resolution to be passed by the House and approved by the president, which is unlikely in this case.
  • Passed the Senate 50-47 this week.
The Senate passed a suite of bills this week boosting police funding and resources. (Wesley McLachlan / Unsplash)

Confirmed by the Senate

🧑🏽‍⚖️ New federal judge: Arizona election lawyer Roopali Desai was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit, becoming the 76th Biden judicial nominee to join the federal bench. She will be the first South Asian judge to sit on the Ninth Circuit.

  • Confirmed by the Senate in a 67-29 vote this week.

🪖 Historic general: Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Langley’s promotion to general was approved as well, making him the first Black four-star general in the Marines’ 246-year history.

  • Confirmed by the Senate unanimously this week.
The Senate confirmed Michael Langley as the first-ever Black four-star Marine Corps general. (Robin Lewis / Marine Corps)

Executive actions

🦠 Monkeypox: The Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency for monkeypox, which allows the government to more quickly access emergency funds to fight the virus and to more quickly make regulatory changes needed in the response.

  • President Biden also appointed FEMA official Robert Fenton as the White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator. CDC official Demetre Daskalakis was named as his deputy.

🤰 Abortion access: Biden signed an executive order directing federal officials to “consider action” to defend the right to travel across state lines to obtain an abortion.

  • In addition, the Justice Department filed its first lawsuit against a state’s abortion laws since the Dobbs decision, arguing that Idaho’s near-total abortion ban violates federal law.

✈️ Airline refunds: The Transportation Department announced a new proposed rule which would require airlines to provide full refunds to customers if their flights are canceled or “significantly changed.” The rule would go into effect later this year, after a public comment period.

🌪️ Climate disasters: The Department of Homeland Security announced $1.1 billion in new funding for climate resilience that will be distributed across the country to increase resilience to floods, droughts, wildfires, and other disasters.

🍼 Baby formula: The Biden administration coordinated three new flights of overseas baby formula, bringing more than 5 million 8-ounce bottle equivalents of formula to the U.S. to combat the ongoing shortage.  

🇺🇦 Russia/Ukraine: The Defense Department announced $50 million in new military aid for Ukraine, while the Treasury Department announced new sanctions on three Russian individuals, including one woman believed to be Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend.

President Biden signing an executive order on abortion this week. (White House)

More news you should know

Congress: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) announced Thursday that she has signed off on the Democratic climate, health care, and tax package, with some small changes. The Senate is scheduled to stay in session over the weekend to advance the bill.

Economy: The U.S. added 528,000 new jobs in July, significantly outpacing expectations, according to the jobs report released this morning. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5% last month, tied for the lowest it has been since 1969.

Election 2022: Former local news anchor Kari Lake was declared as the winner of the Arizona Republican gubernatorial primary. Lake, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has made denying the results of the 2020 election a key centerpiece of her campaign.

Trump-backed Kari Lake has won the Arizona GOP gubernatorial primary. (Gage Skidmore)

And a few more headlines:

What’s going on in Washington today

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

President Joe Biden is isolating at the White House residence as he continues to test positive for Covid. He will virtually receive his daily intelligence briefing (10:30 am) and sign the two aforementioned Covid-era fraud bills into law (1 pm).

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Latina state legislators about protecting abortion rights (3 pm).

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (2 pm).

The Senate is out until Saturday.

The House is out until September 13. The chamber will briefly convene today for a pro forma session (3 pm), but no legislative business will be conducted.

The Supreme Court is on recess until October.

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