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Wake Up To Politics - July 28, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Back to masks
Wake Up To Politics - July 28, 2021

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 468 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,196 days away.

In today’s newsletter: The latest on the CDC’s new masking guidance, your weekly Global Roundup, and more.

The CDC announced on Tuesday that it had updated its guidance to recommend that Americans — including those who are fully vaccinated — resume wearing masks indoors in areas where COVID-19 is quickly spreading.

The new guidance applies to areas that the agency counts as having “substantial or high transmission” of COVID-19, which is about 63% of U.S. counties.

The CDC also recommended that all students in kindergarten through 12th grade wear masks in classrooms, reversing its guidance from earlier this month that fully vaccinated students would not have to do so.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced a change to the agency’s masking guidance on Tuesday. (Greg Nash / Pool)

Why the change? CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the new guidance was necessary because of the spread of the Delta variant, a more infectious strain of coronavirus which has led to rising case counts across the country.

Specifically, Walensky cited new findings that vaccinated people who contract breakthrough infections from the Delta variant have viral loads as high as unvaccinated people, suggesting they are as likely to be able to spread the virus to others. (Previously, vaccinated people were seen as having much less transmissible cases when they did contract the virus, due to lower viral loads.)

But... An administration official told Stat News, which covers health policy, “that health experts do not have studies proving that fully vaccinated people are transmitting the virus.”

Rather, the official said, the guidance is based solely on studies showing the Delta-fueled change in viral loads among vaccinated people.

In this map, red and orange counties are regarded by the CDC as having “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 transmission, respectively, meaning masks are recommended for all residents. (CDC)

The new guidance was already evident in the nation’s capital on Tuesday. At the White House, staff and reporters began wearing masks again, since Washington, D.C., is an area with a “substantial” level of transmission, according to the CDC.

(Just two months ago, the White House celebrated on Instagram that “fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks,” after the CDC updated its guidance to say so.)

Across Pennsylvania Avenue, the attending physician at the Capitol announced a new mask mandate for House members and urged senators to mask up as well. (Masks were not mandated in the Senate because it has many fewer members.)

What’s next: Watch for more vaccine mandates, along the lines of the requirements imposed for government employees in California, New York City, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs earlier this week.

According to CNN, President Biden is planning to unveil a vaccine mandate on Thursday for all federal employees and contractors.

The Rundown

More top stories to know this morning.

Jan 6. investigation: “The House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot held its first hearing on Tuesday, with emotional testimony from four law enforcement officers who defended the building that day. The officers spoke — at times angrily — about the physical and psychological injuries they sustained and gave a rare, first-hand look at the types of attacks they and their fellow officers suffered.” (CBS News)

  • Watch: Here are some key clips from the hearing, via NBC News.
  • Meanwhile... “For months, Republican leaders have downplayed the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. But on Tuesday, ahead of the first hearing of a special committee to investigate the riot, they took their approach to new and misleading extremes, falsely blaming Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the violence.” (New York Times)
Four police officers testify before the January 6 select committee on Tuesday. (Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool / Getty Images)

Texas special election: “Voters in North Texas delivered an upset Tuesday, picking GOP state Rep. Jake Ellzey to fill a vacant House seat over a candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump.”

  • “Ellzey beat fellow Republican Susan Wright, the widow of former Rep. Ron Wright, 53 percent to 47 percent, when the Associated Press called the low-turnout, Republican-vs.-Republican runoff. Though Ellzey was better funded, Wright leaned heavily on her backing from the former president, who often plays kingmaker in Republican primaries.” (Politico)

Biden administration: In a major step against climate change, President Joe Biden is proposing a return to aggressive Obama-era vehicle mileage standards over five years, according to industry and government officials briefed on the plan. He’s then aiming for even tougher anti-pollution rules after that to forcefully reduce greenhouse gas emissions and nudge 40% of U.S. drivers into electric vehicles by decade’s end. (Associated Press)

Policy Roundup: Global

On Wednesdays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Miles Hession offers a roundup on the week’s top international news:

President Kais Saied of Tunisia has been accused of staging a coup after firing his Prime Minister and suspending parliament in response to nationwide protests. The protests were in response to general government disillusionment during a year of economic and social turmoil, which was only intensified after spiking Covid cases were reported in the country. Saied has assumed executive authority in response to the violence, and removed legal protections of members of parliament.

While the protests that broke out during the initial conflict were large, much of the domestic resistance has subsided as many residents have been long-fatigued with the state of Tunisian politics. As the only democratic nation to emerge and survive past the Arab Spring, there is fear about whether this autocratic shift will sink democracy in the country.

Foreign troops have entered Northern Mozambique for the first time to quell a growing Islamic insurgency. The presence of foreign soldiers from Rwanda, Botswana, and other countries in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province marked a new phase in the conflict as violence intensified in the region. Local Islamic extremist organizations, some with links to ISIS and Al-Qaeda, have ramped up attacks after a coordinated assault on the town of Palma in Cabo Delgado.

More foreign troops are set to join Mozambican forces as the government continues to struggle to reassert sovereignty in the affected regions, impacting lucrative national projects. Experts remain concerned about an uptick of Islamic extremism and the success of Islamic extremist groups in Sub-Saharan Africa, with Mozambique’s conflict with the militants seen as an important bellwether for the region.

Anti-government protests in Tunisia earlier this week. (Zoubeir Souissi / Reuters)

Najib Mikati has been named Prime Minister-designate of Lebanon after the resignation of interim Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Hariri resigned after months of political deadlock while an acute crisis continued to swell in the country. Lebanon’s previous government resigned after public outcry from a devastating explosion that killed more than 200 in Beirut. Additionally, an economic crash that the World Bank described as one of the “most severe crisis episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century,” a weaker response to the pandemic, and electricity shortages have launched the country into a severe emergency.

While Mikati has been criticized for previous scandals, he is widely seen as a consensus pick who will be embarking on his third stint as Prime Minister. Lebanon has been without a government and cabinet for a year.

More global headlines:


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)

White House

President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9:30 a.m., before traveling to Lower Macungie Township, Pennsylvania, at 10:55 a.m.

At 12 p.m., he will arrive in Pennsylvania. At 1:25 p.m., he will visit the Mack Trucks manufacturing facility in Lower Macungie Township. At 2 p.m., he will deliver remarks at the facility announcing a new requirement that 60% of the components in products bought with taxpayer dollars be made in the United States. (Currently, the threshold is 55%. The regulation will also raise the threshold over time, eventually reaching 75% by 2029.)

At 3:20 p.m., he will depart Pennsylvania, arriving back at the White House at 4:25 p.m.

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Lower Macungie Township.

U.S. Senate

The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. The chamber will hold a cloture vote at 11:30 a.m. to advance the nomination of Gwynne Wilcox to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

If cloture is invoked on Wilcox, the Senate will hold up to two hours of debate, followed by a vote on her confirmation. The chamber will then hold a cloture vote on the nomination of David Prouty to be a member of the NLRB. If cloture is invoked, the Senate will hold up to two hours of debate before voting on his confirmation.

Senate committees will hold hearings on overcrowding in national parks (10 a.m.), water infrastructure (10 a.m.), retirement legislation (10 a.m.), America’s food supply chain (2:30 p.m.), and U.S. trade and investment in Africa (2:30 p.m.).

Biden promoting his “Buy American” policies, which he will speak about today, during the campaign. (Patrick Semansky / AP)

U.S. House

The House will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will consider three of the 12 annual appropriations bills: H.R. 4505, which would fund the Departments of Commerce and Justice, as well as science agencies; H.R. 4373, which would fund the Department of State and foreign operations; and H.R. 4346, which would found the legislative branch.

The chamber may also vote under “suspension of the rules” on up to 15 pieces of legislation:

  1. S. 848, the Consider Teachers Act of 2021
  2. S. 1828, the HAVANA Act of 2021
  3. H.R. 2278, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to designate the September 11th National Memorial Trail
  4. H.R. 1029, the Free Veterans from Fees Act
  5. H.R. 1154, the Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Area Act
  6. H.R. 2497, the Amache National Historical Site Act
  7. H.R. 4300, the Alexander Lofgren VIP Act
  8. 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
  9. S. 272, the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2021
  10. H.R. 3533, to establish occupational series for Federal positions in software development, software engineering, data science, and data management
  11. H.R. 3599, the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021
  12. H.R. 1204, the District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer Salary Home Rule Act
  13. H.R. 978, the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act
  14. H.R. 2617, the Performance Enhancement Reform Act
  15. S. 2382, to authorize the National Cyber Director to accept details from other elements of the Federal Government on nonreimbursable basis House committees will hold hearings on the state of the beef supply chain (10 a.m.), oversight of the bankruptcy code (10 a.m.), federal nutrition programs for young children (10:15 a.m.), modernizing consumer protection (10:30 a.m.), and election subversion (12 p.m.).


    The Supreme Court is on recess until October.

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