by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Friday, July 15, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 116 days away. Election Day 2024 is 844 days away.
Every Friday, I like to take my political reporter hat off and put my government reporter hat on — and give you an easy-to-understand guide to what Washington actually did in the past week.
My hope is this gives you insight into the actions your leaders are taking that might be impacting your life in ways you didn’t realize. And, of course, every item includes links that will take you straight to the source and let you learn more.
I also hope that this feature is something unique, the kind of nitty-gritty coverage that a lot of other news outlets don’t highlight but that you’ve come to expect from Wake Up To Politics.
If you appreciate this kind of substantive policy coverage, I hope you’ll consider sharing WUTP or donating to support my work. At that link, you can also click the box to make your donation monthly, akin to setting up a monthly subscription to another outlet.
Your support is so appreciated, and truly goes a long way. Most of all, I hope you take some time with this piece today or over the weekend, and learn more about what your elected leaders have been doing on your behalf. After all, that’s what a democracy is all about.
With that, let’s dive in:
Week in review: Here’s what the U.S. government did this week
An issue-by-issue guide to what the president, Congress, and federal agencies got done in the week that was:
🇵🇸 While in the West Bank this morning, President Biden announced $316 million in new aid for Palestinians, including funding for East Jerusalem hospitals, support for Palestinian refugees, and aid for Palestinians struggling with food insecurity.
- Biden also awarded two grants to organizations working to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and debuted an initiative to bring 4G Internet to the West Bank and Gaza.
🇮🇱 During his visit to Israel, Biden and Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid signed the “Jerusalem Declaration,” reaffirming the “unbreakable bonds” between their two countries and jointly committing “never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.
- The U.S. and Israel also announced a new dialogue to find tech-fueled solutions for climate change, pandemics, and the rise of AI.
🇸🇦 Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia is not expected to yield any announcements on oil, but it will feature U.S.-brokered steps to bolster Saudi-Israeli ties, including the opening of Saudi airspace to planes flying to and from Israel and a deal involving two Red Sea islands.
🇨🇺 As part of its efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, the Biden administration also granted authority to American Airlines to resume flights between Miami and five Cuban cities.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stepped up its response to the end of Roe v. Wade, issuing guidance telling hospitals that federal law supersedes any state abortion restrictions and requires abortions to be performed if the mother is in medical danger.
- The administration also issued guidance for pharmacies that federal civil rights law requires them to fill prescriptions for abortion pills.
- Texas has already sued over the hospital guidance, ensuring that it will quickly be tied up in court. The guidance threatens that hospitals could be fined or lose government funding if they don’t comply.
Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) vowed to investigate tech companies if they “misuse” reproductive health data, specifically mentioning digital information on women’s periods or fertility.
The House will vote today on two bills to expand access to abortion. The Women’s Health Protection Act would codify a national right to abortion; the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act would make it illegal for states to block women from crossing state lines to obtain an abortion.
- Both bills are expected to pass the House but not the Senate.
🪖 The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill setting the Defense Department’s budget and policies. The $839 billion package includes a 4.6% pay raise for service members, a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors, and a focus on China and Russia.
- The bill also included an provision to give the D.C. mayor control of the district’s National Guard, which became an issue on January 6th. The package passed with bipartisan support, 329-101; the Senate has its own draft version, which will have to be reconciled with this one.
🎖️ The lower chamber also approved a bill giving health care access to 3.5 million veterans exposed to toxins such as burn pits. The long-sought, bipartisan Honoring our PACT Act passed 342-88; it is the largest expansion in health care for veterans in decades.
- The bill already passed the Senate, 84-14, but bills raising revenue must originate in the House, so it will now go back to the Senate.
💉 The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency authorization for a fourth Covid-19 vaccine, which was developed by Novavax. The government has already secured 3.2 million doses of the shot, which still must be approved by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) but will then be made available for free.
- Public health experts are hopeful that Americans who are suspicious of (or are allergic to) mRNA vaccines might use the Novavax shot, which uses more traditional technology.
🦠 The FDA also cleared the way for 800,000 more monkeypox vaccine doses to ship to the U.S. by the end of the month, following a slow process that has led to LGBT men clamoring to find a shot.
🍼 HHS also coordinated six flights bringing baby formula to the U.S. from overseas. “Operation Fly Formula” has now brought enough formula to fill more than 55 million 8-ounce bottles.
- The House will vote today on the bipartisan Formula Act, which would waive U.S. tariffs on baby formula imports through the end of the year, to further increase supply amid the worsening shortage.
⚖️ President Biden announced 16 new federal judicial nominees in three separate slates. Half were men and half were women, continuing his efforts to diversify the bench. It was the most judges he has ever nominated in a single week as he rushes to fill vacancies before the midterms.
👩🏾⚖️ The Senate also advanced Michelle Childs’ nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in a bipartisan 58-33 vote. A final vote on the onetime Supreme Court candidate is likely next week.
- The D.C. Circuit is known as the “second-highest court in the land” for its role adjudicating disputes involving federal agencies and its status as a stepping stone for Supreme Court justices.
🔫 The Senate confirmed Steven Dettelbach as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), giving the gun-regulating agency its first permanent leader since 2015.
- Dettelbach, who was confirmed 48-46, is a poised to become a key player in enforcing the recent bipartisan gun control bill.
🏦 The Senate filled the last remaining vacancy on the Federal Reserve board, confirming Michael Barr as the agency’s vice chair for supervision in a bipartisan 66-28 vote. The Fed, now fully staffed, plays a key role in combatting inflation.
🏫 The Education Department awarded $198 million in grants to 244 colleges and universities to help them recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Much of the money is required to go directly to students, to aid with housing, tuition, or food insecurity.
- Almost 90% of the funds will go to community colleges or schools that primarily serve minority, rural, or low-income students.
🧑🌾 The Agriculture Department is increasing the availability of insurance for farmers to practice “double cropping,” which involves raising two crops on the same land in one year.
- The goal is for the new insurance to lower the economic risk of the practice — leading to an expansion of the U.S. food supply and hopefully a decrease in food prices.
👮🏻♀️ Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a new director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The new prisons chief, Colette Peters, is a “reform-minded outsider” who will supervise the nation’s largest correctional agency, responsible for housing 150,000 federal offenders.
More news you should know
Congress: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) won’t support any climate provisions or tax increases as part of a party-line economic package, a major blow to Democrats. Manchin now only backs provisions to lower prescription drug prices and extend enhanced Obamacare subsidies.
January 6th probe: A government watchdog is accusing the Secret Service of deleting text messages sent in the two-day period surrounding the Jan. 6 attack. The agency says that the erasures — which came after investigators had requested the messages — were accidental.
Election 2022: Democrats are continuing their risky strategy of meddling in Republican primaries to boost extreme candidates, with NBC News reporting on recent Democratic efforts to help Kari Lake — a leading election denier — win the GOP gubernatorial nod in Arizona.
Election 2024: Former president Donald Trump told New York Magazine he has decided to run again in 2024, while the Washington Post reported that he is eyeing an announcement this September.
What’s going on in politics today
All times Eastern.
President Biden started his day in in the West Bank. Earlier this morning, he delivered remarks announcing the new Palestinian hospital funding, met with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, and visited the Church of the Nativity, one of Christianity’s holiest sites.
Later today, he will travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to meet with King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS). Biden has received extensive criticism for meeting with the crown prince, who ordered the 2018 assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Vice President Kamala Harris has nothing on her schedule.
First Lady Jill Biden is in Massachusetts. She will deliver remarks at the annual convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second-largest teacher’s union in the country, and visit with community college students in Boston.
Later, she will travel to Nantucket, where she will spend the night.
The Senate is out until Monday.
The House will vote on the aforementioned Women’s Health Protection Act, Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, and Formula Act.
The Supreme Court is out until October.
Links to watch for yourself: Biden with Abbas • Biden announcing Palestinian aid • House session
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