Wake Up To Politics - July 27, 2021 (+)
Good morning! It’s Tuesday, July 27, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 469 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,197 days away.
In today’s newsletter: A preview of today’s blockbuster hearing on the January 6 attack, a look at where infrastructure negotiations stand, a roundup of the latest education news, and much more.
It has been almost seven months since a mob of Trump supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol building and launched a riot that led to five deaths, millions of dollars in damage, and an unprecedented disruption of the democratic process.
In the time since the attack — the most significant at the Capitol since the War of 1812 — hundreds of the rioters have been prosecuted and a handful of congressional committees have probed the day’s security failures.
But lawmakers have yet to initiate a full-scale investigation into the riot and its origins — until today.
The House select committee charged with investigating the January 6 attack will hold its first hearing at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time. The hearing will feature testimony from four police officers — two from the Capitol Police and two from the D.C. police department — who were present during the riot.
According to CNN, the officers will offer “vivid” accounts of their experiences during the attack, which included “being beaten with a flagpole, being the target of racist slurs, being crushed in a door, and being tased by the rioters.”
Per Axios, the hearing will also include “graphic video footage” from Janaury 6, with a montage similar to the one used by Democrats during former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial earlier this year.
This morning’s hearing comes after months of partisan fighting over the makeup of the committee. First, Senate Republicans blocked a plan for a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack. Then, last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) refused to seat two Republican appointees to the select committee, leading House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to withdraw all five of his selections.
There will still be two Republicans participating, however: Pelosi took the rare step of crossing the aisle to appoint Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) to the committee, giving the panel an air of bipartisanship.
Unlike McCarthy’s picks, who were among Trump’s most enthusiastic congressional backers, Cheney and Kinzinger are some of the former president’s fiercest critics within the Republican Party — meaning Trump will have no defenders in today’s hearing room.
Cheney, in particular, is expected to receive a starring role in the hearing. She has been tapped as one of two committee members, along with Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who will deliver an opening statement at the outset of the proceedings — a sign that she will take the role of de facto ranking member on the select committee.
Her participation in the Democratic-led panel has poisoned Cheney’s already fractured relationship with McCarthy. At the beginning of this year, Cheney was one of McCarthy’s top deputies in House Republican leadership. Now, after being removed from her leadership role in May, the GOP scion is openly warring with her party: last week, she even questioned McCarthy’s “commitment to the Constitution” and “the rule of law.”
McCarthy, in turn, referred to Cheney and Kinzinger as “Pelosi Republicans” on Monday, while a growing number of House Republicans are calling for the two dissidents to be stripped of their other committee assignments.
The clash over the January 6 committee has also brought the Pelosi-McCarthy relationship to new lows.
The two leaders, who were never very close to begin with, reportedly got in a screaming match when Pelosi informed McCarthy that she wouldn’t seat his appointees, a move that McCarthy warned would “destroy” the institution of the House.
McCarthy, who spoke with Trump on the day of the Capitol riot, is even seen by some Democrats as a potential witness for the new committee. Thompson, the committee’s chair, told the Wall Street Journal that “anybody who had a conversation with the White House and officials int he White House while the invasion of the Capitol was going on in directly in the investigative sights of the committee.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), another committee member, specifically confirmed that McCarthy may be called to offer testimony. “We will follow the evidence where it leads,” he told ABC News, “so no one is off the table.”
More top stories to know this morning.
Infrastructure. The group of senators negotiating a bipartisan infrastructure package missed another self-imposed deadline on Monday as talks dragged on into another week.
- The lawmakers remain at odds on several issues, including how much money to spend on highways and public transit, whether to use unspent Covid relief funds to pay for the package, and how broadly to enforce the Davis-Bacon Act requirement that federal contractors be paid as much as the “locally prevailing wages” for similar projects.
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned senators on Monday to prepare to “stay in session through the weekend” to vote on the package when it is completed. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), the chief GOP negotiator, said the group is “about 90 percent of the way there.”
Coronavirus. As many Americans continue to balk at the COVID-19 vaccines, some jurisdictions began on Monday to announce mandates for their employees to be vaccinated. California became the first state to require vaccines for its state employees (and all private-sector health care employees), while New York City became the first major city to do the same.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs also announced a vaccine mandate for its frontline health care workers, making it the first federal agency to unveil such a requirement. A group of 57 major medical organizations also released a statement Monday calling for all hospitals to require vaccination for health care workers.
RIP. Former Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) died on Monday at age 77. Enzi, who chaired the Budget and HELP Committees during his 24 years in the Senate, had been hospitalized last week after suffering “serious injuries” in a bicycle accident. He retired from the Senate earlier this year.
- Although an avowed conservative, Enzi was also known for his penchant for consensus-seeking. “His ‘80-20 rule’ called on colleagues to focus on the 80% of an issue where legislators tended to agree and discard the 20% where they didn’t,” the Associated Press noted.
More news to know:
- “U.S. to end combat mission in Iraq by end of year, Biden announces in meeting with Iraqi prime minister” (USA Today)
- “Trump's impact on the line in Texas special election” (Politico)
- “Biden says long-term effects of covid-19 can be considered a disability under federal civil rights laws” (Washington Post)
Policy Roundup: Education
On Tuesdays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Kirsten Shaw Mettler offers a roundup on the week’s top education news:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released new guidance calling for universal masking in schools. The medical association has advised all schools to open in the fall, but recommends that students, regardless of their vaccination status, wear masks. Their recommendations directly contradict guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which said that vaccinated students and adults can go maskless.
With the rise of the contagious Delta variant, governments across the world are reassessing their mask and social distancing guidelines. The CDC says it has “no plans” to update their recommendations for schools, despite U.S. case increases and the AAP guidance.
The summer school experiment is struggling. In light of pandemic learning loss, the Biden administration invested $1.2 billion on evidence-based summer enrichment programs. Summer school was seen as a way to make up for lost classroom time, but now these programs are facing challenges of brevity, teacher shortages, and vacations.
More education policy headlines, via Kirsten:
- Advocates are calling on President Biden to extend student debt relief.
- Homeschooling rates are surging, even as schools plan to return to in-person learning.
- California became the first state to pass a universal free school lunch program.
What I’m reading and watching.
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What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
→ President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10:15 a.m.
At 2:20 p.m., he will visit the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in McLean, Virginia, where he will deliver remarks to the Intelligence Community workforce to “express his admiration for their work and underscore the importance that our national security of intelligence collection and analysis be free from political interference.”
→ Vice President Kamala Harris will join Biden for his daily intelligence briefing. At 12 p.m., she will deliver remarks virtually to the National Bar Association. At 4:15 p.m., she will host a conversation about voting rights with Native American tribal leaders. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland will also participate.
→ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m.
→ The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. The chamber will vote at 11:30 a.m. to vote on confirmation of Todd Kim, the former solicitor general of the District of Columbia, to be Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.
At 2:15 p.m., senators will take their official group photo for the 117th Congress. Additional roll call votes are possible later in the day.
→ Senate committees will hold hearings on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (9:30 a.m.), homeland security (10 a.m.), the Interior Department budget (10 a.m.), lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic (10 a.m.), ransomware attacks (10 a.m.), pipeline cybersecurity (10 a.m.), cryptocurrencies (10 a.m.), and protecting student loan borrowers (3 p.m).
→ The House will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will begin consideration of H.R. 4502, the “minibus” package combining the appropriation bills for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Agriculture, Rural Development, Energy and Water Development, Financial Services and General Government, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development.
The chamber will hold an hour of debate on the legislation, which comprises seven of the 12 annual appropriation bills, and begin voting on the 229 amendments that have been offered to the package.
The House may also vote under “suspension of the rules” on 17 pieces of legislation postponed from Monday:
- S. 848, the Consider Teachers Act of 2021
- S. 1828, the HAVANA Act of 2021
- H.R. 2278, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to designate the September 11th National Memorial Trail
- H.R. 1029, the Free Veterans from Fees Act
- H.R. 1154, the Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Area Act
- H.R. 2497, the Amache National Historical Site Act
- H.R. 4300, the Alexander Lofgren VIP Act
- S. 325, to amend the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act to extend the deadline for a report by the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children
- S. 272, the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2021
- H.R. 3533, to establish occupational series for Federal positions in software development, software engineering, data science, and data management
- H.R. 3599, the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021
- H.R. 1204, the District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer Salary Home Rule Act
- H.R. 978, the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act
- H.R. 2617, the Performance Enhancement Reform Act
- S. 2382, to authorize the National Cyber Director to accept details from other elements of the Federal Government on nonreimbursable basis
- S. 957, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to ensure that certain medical facilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs have physical locations for the disposal of controlled substances medications
- S. 1910, the Major Medical Facility Authorization Act of 2021
→ The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol will hold its first hearing at 9:30 a.m., featuring testimony from four law enforcement officers who defended the Capitol on January 6: Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of the D.C. Police.
→ Other House committees will hold hearings on central bank digital currencies (10 a.m.), evictions during the pandemic (10:30 a.m.), cyber threats to the U.S. electric grid (2 p.m.), and voting rights (2:30 p.m.).
→ House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will hold a press conference at 8 a.m. ahead of the House select committee hearing on the January 6 attack. He will be joined by the five members he originally named to the select committee.
→ Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, along with other Republican members of the House, will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. outside the Justice Department to protest the prosecutions of January 6 rioters.
→ The Supreme Court is on recess until October.
→ The special runoff election in Texas’ 6th congressional district is today. The race is to fill the seat vacated by the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX), who died of COVID-19 in February. The two candidates in the runoff — both Republicans — are Susan Wright, the late congressman’s widow, and state Rep. Jake Ellzey.
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