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Wake Up To Politics - July 29, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: What the government did this week
Wake Up To Politics - July 29, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Friday, July 29, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 102 days away. Election Day 2024 is 830 days away.

Welcome to the end of another week. As always, every Friday, I like to close the week off by breaking down what the U.S. government did in the past week: what bills passed in Congress, what executive actions were taken, what actually got done.

Why do I do this? Because I think it’s important to not only highlight the problems in Washington — and, trust me, I know there are many — but also the solutions that are being passed and the progress that’s being made.

You’ll notice that every bill I’ll highlight today was passed with bipartisan support, the type of cooperation across party lines that happens all the time behind the scenes in Washington but isn’t always noticed.

I saw a poll recently that said only 24% of Americans were aware that the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year had been enacted into law. My hope is to combat exactly that, and to make sure WUTP readers, at least, are up-to-speed about the consequential, bipartisan bills going through the legislative process.

This week, I got a note that really meant a lot to me and I wanted to share it. A reader wrote in responding to last Friday’s roundup, specifically an item highlighting new Agriculture Department insurance to help farmers practice “double cropping.”

The reader told me that they sent last Friday’s newsletter to a “good friend in Dallas who has tenant farmers on her family's land in Kansas. Neither she nor the tenants were aware of the news you shared. She investigated, and now she has bought this insurance.”

Nothing could mean more for a journalist to hear. My hope with these roundups is to bring issues exactly like that to the fore — things that might not get a lot of media coverage, but that Americans still deserve to know about because they can have huge impacts on their day-to-day lives.

So when you’re looking at today’s newsletter, I hope you’ll think in the back of your mind about how many of the actions highlighted you’ve heard about in other news outlets.

If you’re hearing about most of them for the first time, I hope you’ll consider sharing Wake Up To Politics with friends and family, or clicking here to donate or set up a monthly donation.

Your support goes a long way to making sure I can send out roundups like these, or other coverage I did this week, like this analysis of congressional leadership or this first-hand report on the Republican Party’s future.

Now, let’s dive in:

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

A few notes to help you navigate this piece: it’s split into four categories. The first are bills that have passed both chambers of Congress, which means they now go onto the president’s desk to be signed into law.

The second are executive actions that were taken this week. And then the third and fourth are bills passed by one chamber of Congress, but not the other.

For context on vote breakdowns, the Senate has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans; the House has 220 Democrats and 211 Republicans. To see how your member of Congress voted on a bill, there are links for each roll call.

For context on dollar amounts, the federal budget was about $6.8 trillion in 2021, to give you an idea of the relative size of how much is being spent on each issue highlighted below.

Passed by the House and Senate
— A bipartisan bill that invests $280 billion in new scientific research and revitalizing the U.S. semiconductor industry. The centerpiece of the bill is $52 billion that will go to subsidizing domestic manufacturers of semiconductor chips, which power everything from cars and smartphones to weapons systems and medical equipment.

  • Only 12% of the essential chips are currently made in the U.S., down from 37% in 1990, as the industry has largely moved to Asia. Leaders from both parties have called it a national security imperative to boost U.S. chip manufacturing because of the volatility of supply chains and of the U.S.-China relationship.
  • The remainder of the package will go towards grants for scientific and tech research, in areas such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, also with an eye toward competing with China in new frontiers of technology.
  • “This is one of the most significant long-term-thinking bills we’ve passed in a very long time,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, adding that “future generations will look back on the passage of this bill as a turning point for American leadership in the 21st century.” (Passed 64-33 in the Senate and 243-187 in the House, both this week)— A bipartisan bill aimed at solving cold homicide cases by giving the families of murder victims the right to have their loved one’s case file reviewed if the investigation has gone cold for three years. The measure guarantees that a full re-investigation will take place, using any new technologies or evidence that may have emerged in the intervening years.
  • The measure seeks to address the growing number of homicide cases going unsolved: in 2018, less than 65% of homicide investigations ended in criminal charges. In 1965, it was 90%. (Passed the Senate unanimously this week; previously passed 406-20 by the House in March)
Semiconductor chips power everything from smartphones to weapons systems. (Pixabay)

Executive Branch actions
— Sent a $270 million military aid package to Ukraine, including four rocket launcher systems, 580 kamikaze drones, and 36,000 rounds of ammunition. The aid, which is the 16th round of U.S. assistance for the country since August 2021, comes from a bipartisan package approved by Congress in May.

— Issued guidance affirming that health insurance plans are required to cover free birth control for all Americans under Obamacare. Biden administration officials said that this requirement covered the “full range” of birth control methods — from pills to IUDs — and applied nationwide, no matter the abortion laws in a specific state.  

— Announced $343 million in funding for transit agencies to make subway stations more accessible for Americans with disabilities by updating the 900+ stations without ramps or elevators. The funding comes from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law.

— Announced $280 million in funding to expand access to mental health services in schools. This includes resources for school districts to hire new school psychologists and counselors; in some cases, it will allow schools to hire their first-ever mental health personnel. The money comes from the bipartisan gun control bill passed in June and the bipartisan appropriations package from last year.

— Unveiled a plan to plant 1.2 billion trees across the Western U.S. to counter the toll of forest fires, drought, and other effects of climate change. Funding for the project also comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law.

— Announced a program to allow families in government-assisted housing to use solar power for the first time. The Energy Department hopes that the program will eventually power the homes of 5 million low-income families and allow for 20% savings on their average energy bills.

— Proposed a rule to interpret Obamacare’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination in health care as protecting against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. The regulation, which will go into effect later this year, would overturn a Trump-era rule and also apply the ban to health care discrimination against pregnant people.

Infrastructure bill funds will be used to improve subway station accessibility. (Harry Spink / Unsplash)

Passed by the House
— A bipartisan bill expanding the ability of researchers to study marijuana and its health effects. Such research is currently heavily restricted in the U.S. (Passed 325-95)

— A bipartisan bill funding $10 million in research on the impact Covid-19 cases have on brain function. (Passed 350-69)

— A bipartisan bill creating a new funding source for an initiative striving to cure childhood cancers. The measure would redirect penalties leveled against pharmaceutical companies that illegally bribe foreign governments towards the pediatric disease research initiative.

— A bipartisan bill authorizing $2 million annually for five years to research and spread awareness of heart disease among South Asian Americans. South Asians account for 25% of the world’s population, but 60% of heart disease cases globally. (Passed 237-192)

— A bipartisan bill that allows Medicare recipients to receive care remotely via telehealth services, making a Covid-era flexibility permanent. (Passed 416-12)

— A bipartisan bill to reauthorize a federal program combatting human trafficking for five years. The program is named for Frederick Douglass. (Passed 401-20)

A House-passed bill would permanently allow telehealth service for Medicare recipients. (Intel Free Press)

Passed by the Senate
— A bipartisan bill to improve recycling and composting accessibility in rural communities by creating a pilot Enviromentgrant program at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (Passed unanimously)

— A companion bipartisan bill to require the EPA to collect data on recycling and composting rates across the country and make the statistics publicly available. (Passed unanimously)

— A bipartisan resolution calling on the State Department to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation which would limit U.S. economic ties with the country and come with additional sanctions. Four countries — Cuba, North Korea, Iran — currently have the label. (Passed unanimously)

Two Senate-passed bills would aim to expand recycling access. (Sigmund / Unsplash)

What’s going on in Washington today

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

President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (10:15 am). He has nothing else on his public schedule.

Vice President Harris has nothing on her public schedule.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (1:30 pm).

The Senate is out until Monday.

The House will convene (9 am) and vote on a bill aimed at combatting droughts and wildfires, with steps such as boosting wildfire fighter pay and increasing the fire resiliency of national forests.

The chamber will also vote on a measure prohibiting most private ownership of lions, tigers, leopards, and other big cats. Per Punchbowl News, the chamber may also vote on bills banning assault weapons and bosting police funding, although those plans are up in the air.

The Supreme Court is out until October.

Before I go...

Here’s something fun, in the bipartisan spirit of today’s newsletter:

Last night was the Congressional Baseball Game, an annual event dating back to 1909 in which Democratic and Republican members of Congress face off against each other to raise money for charity.

Republicans won the game in a shut-out, 10-0. It was the GOP’s second straight triumph, after a years-long Democratic winning streak came to an end in 2021 when the party’s star pitcher, Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, was traded to the White House.

Most importantly, $1.7 million was raised for charity.

Here’s a play-by-play 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