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Wake Up To Politics - June 15, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: McConnell’s SCOTUS threat
Wake Up To Politics - June 15, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 511 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,239 days away.

The Rundown

What you need to know to start your morning.

Judicial wars. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnnell (R-KY) said Monday that if Republicans take back control of the upper chamber, they would likely block any Biden Supreme Court nominee in 2024. He also did not commit to considering a nominee in 2023: “We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” McConnell said when asked about that possibility in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

  • McConnell’s comments reignited Democratic fears about 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer not retiring while their party holds the Senate majority and resurfaced lingering anger towards the GOP leader for confirming a Supreme Court nominee by President Trump during the 2020 election cycle but refusing to do the same for President Obama in 2016.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made waves with new comments about the Supreme Court. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Coronavirus. Experts are warning about the Delta variant, a new strain of the novel coronavirus that was discovered in India and appears to be more transmissible and cause more severe illness in patients. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told CBS News that the variant is on it’s way to becoming the dominant strain in the United States and “could spike a new epidemic” among the unvaccinated this fall.

  • Meanwhile, a fourth COVID-19 vaccine could receive approval in the coming months. Novavax announced on Monday that trials showed its two-shot vaccine was 90.4% effective. However, the small American company said it may not apply for emergency FDA authorization until the fall.

Trump DOJ. As House Democrats and the Justice Department prepare to investigate secret Trump-era subpoenas for records belonging to journalists and lawmakers, John Demers — who likely played a role in those leak investigations as head of the DOJ’s national security division — announced his departure on Monday. Demers was a holdover from the Trump administration; according to the New York Times, his departure was long-planned.

  • More revelations continue to dribble out about the DOJ under Trump: the House Oversight Committee released a batch of emails this morning that show top Trump aides pressuring the agency to investigate the 2020 election in the former president’s final days in office.
Justice Department official John Demers announced his departure on Monday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Biden administration. President Biden and European Union leaders settled a 17-year feud this morning ahead of a U.S.-EU summit in Brussels. The U.S. and EU have had a long-running trade dispute over European government subsidies to Airbus, an aircraft manufacturer, and American government subsidies to Boeing, its competitor. Each side has imposed billions of dollars in punitive tariffs in response to what they see as unfair subsidies; Biden and his counterparts agreed today to both suspend their tariffs for five years.

  • The Biden team’s promise to be “the most ethically vigorous administration in history” is coming under scrutiny: the Washington Post reported on the ethical challenges posed by Jeff Ricchetti, whose lobbying business has boomed since his brother Steve became a White House counselor. Steve Ricchetti’s children have also seen thier career prospects rise since their father joined the White House: three of them now have Biden administration roles. According to Fox News, several other senior Biden aides have relatives serving in the administration.
White House counselor Steve Ricchetti faces a knot of ethical quandaries. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Policy Roundup: Education

A rotating group of student journalists offers briefings on a range of policy areas. On Tuesdays, Kirsten Shaw Mettler breaks down the week’s top education news:

The Biden administration is attempting to address K-12 school funding inequities. The president’s latest budget proposal includes a $20 billion program for high-poverty schools. The Education Department also released guidance on American Rescue Plan funds, saying that high-poverty schools and districts must be shielded from budget cuts.

The Supreme Court has put off considering the role of race in Harvard admissions. On Monday, the court pushed a decision on whether they will hear an appeal for Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College. The case alleges that Harvard discriminates against Asian American students. Only five years ago, the justices upheld the use of race in admissions at the University of Texas, but now there is a more conservative Supreme Court that may be unfriendly to affirmative action.

The Education Department announced that simplifications to student aid applications will be delayed by a year. In December, Congress passed legislation to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), including reducing the number of questions from 108 to 36. On Friday, the Education Department announced that it will need another year to implement these changes.

A group of Asian Americans protest Harvard’s admission policies. (Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg/Getty)

More education headlines, via Kirsten:

  • Test-optional policies for colleges could persist after the pandemic, as they may increase applications and school diversity.
  • A Dartmouth study claims that rates of anxiety and depression for college students are soaring without signs of slowing down.
  • The American Association of University Professors’ governing council sanctioned six schools for violations, including abandoning tenure and shutting down programs improperly.
  • A number of public colleges and universities are under fire from consumer advocates for promoting high-cost private loans to students in non-degree programs.


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

President Joe Biden is in Brussels, Belgium. At 3:30 a.m., he received his daily intelligence briefing. At 5:15 a.m., he met  with Belgium’s monarch, King Philippe, and prime minister, Alexander De Croo. At 6:25 a.m., he met with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

At 6:50 a.m., Biden participated in a summit with European Union leaders. At 8:40 a.m., he will depart Brussels for Geneva, Switzerland, arriving at 10:15 a.m. Upon his arrival, at 11:30 a.m., Biden will meet with Swiss Confederation President Guy Parmelin.

Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks at 1 p.m. at an event with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on providing small businesses with access to capital. At 4 p.m., she will meet with immigrant women who work in the care economy to mark the 9th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. At 6:30 p.m., she will host a bipartisan group of women for dinner at the vice presidential residence

President Biden meeting with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier this morning. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will vote at 11:30 a.m. on confirmation of Lina Khan to be a member of the Federal Trade Commission, followed by a cloture vote to advance the nomination of Kiran Arjandas Ahuja to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management.

The chamber will then recess until 2:15 p.m. while each party holds their weekly caucus meetings. At 2:30 p.m., the Senate will vote on Ahuja’s confirmation. Khan is a progressive tech critic with support in both parties, while Ahuja has become a flashpoint in the debate over critical race theory due to her past promotion of academics in that school of thought.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on H.R. 6, the House-passed American Dream and Promise Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship to immigrants protected by DACA and other programs.

The Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on improving America’s infrastructure. The mayors of Akron (Ohio), Bozeman (Montana), and Tempe (Arizona) will testify.

The House will convene at 10 a.m. Later in the day, the chamber will vote on 22 pieces of legislation, including several bills related to water pollution, several bills related to veterans programs, and H.R. 3325, which would award Congressional Gold Medals to the U.S. Capitol Police and the other law enforcement agencies that protected the Capitol on January 6.

The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing at 2 p.m. on the January 6 attack. Witnesses will include FBI Director Christopher Wray; Army Gen. Charles Flynn, the brother of former Trump adviser Michael Flynn; Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittma; and Army Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt.

The House Administration Committee will also hold a hearing at 2 p.m. on the January 6 attack. U.S. Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton will testify.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifying before Congress in March. (Graeme Jennings/AP)

The Supreme Court is not scheduled to release any orders or opinions.

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