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Wake Up To Politics - March 11, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: House sends relief package to Biden
Wake Up To Politics - March 11, 2021

Good morning! It’s Thursday, March 11, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 607 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,335 days away. It has been one year since “the day everything changed.”

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House sends $1.9 trillion relief bill to Biden’s desk

The House passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Wednesday, the final step before Biden can sign the sweeping legislation into law. The chamber voted 220-211 to approve the bill, with Democratic Rep. Jared Golden of Maine joining all Republicans in opposition.

The relief plan, Biden’s first major legislative accomplishment, is also one of the largest economic rescue packages in American history. It will send $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, extend $300 weekly unemployment benefits through September 6, and significantly expand the Child Tax Credit to send $300 a month to millions of parents for one year. The stimulus bill will also infuse hundreds of billions of dollars in funding into state and local governments, small businesses, and coronavirus testing and vaccines, among other provisions.

“This is the most consequential legislation that many of us will ever be a party to,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said at a press conference after shepherding the package through her chamber. According to a study by the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy, the bill is projected to lift 13.1 million Americans out of poverty, reducing the number of impoverished people in the country by one-third. The study projected that the package would reduce child poverty in America by more than half.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sign the coronavirus relief package after the House vote on Wednesday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Biden is slated to sign the bill on Friday, after celebrating its passage in his first primetime address to the nation tonight. The speech will also double as an opportunity to mark the one-year anniversary of coronavirus taking hold in the United States. It was exactly one year ago that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, Tom Hanks tested positive for the virus, and the NBA called off its season.

Then-President Donald Trump also delivered a primetime address one year ago today, announcing a 30-day ban on travel from Europe that has continued to this day. Many of the masking and social distancing restrictions that have been in place in the U.S. ever since would also soon be implemented.

Biden said on Thursday that his own speech tonight will discuss “what we’ve been through as a nation this past year,” offering tribute to the sacrifices many Americans have made and the 500,000 American lives that have been lost.

“But more importantly,” he added, “I’m going to talk about what comes next. I’m going to launch the next phase of the Covid response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people. There is light at the end of this dark tunnel of this past year.”

The Rundown

CONFIRMATIONS: The Senate confirmed three new members of the Biden Cabinet on Wednesday. Judge Merrick Garland was approved as Attorney General in a 70-30 vote, while Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio became Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and North Carolina environmental official Michael Regan became Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in a pair of 66-34 votes. For Garland, who will now inherit a knot of controversial legal issues, the confirmation was a coda on a five-year arc that began with the rejection of his nomination to the Supreme Court two presidencies ago.

CORONAVIRUS: President Biden announced plans on Wednesday for the United States to purchase an additional 100 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, ensuring that the country will have more than enough doses to vaccinate the entire U.S. population.

Merrick Garland received a Senate confirmation vote on Wednesday after a five-year wait. (Stefani Reynolds/New York Times)

CUOMO: A sixth woman has accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) of sexual misconduct. According to the Albany Times Union, the latest allegation comes from an unnamed Cuomo staff member who claims that the governor “aggressively groped her in a sexually charged manner after she had been summoned to the Executive Mansion late last year.” The woman, who is much younger than Cuomo, alleges that she told him to stop as he reached under her blouse and that “it was not the only time that he had touched her” or tried to flirt with her.”

Legal Roundup
by Anna Salvatore

The Equal Rights Amendment suffered a loss in federal court last week. The 1972 proposal, which would ban discrimination on the basis of sex, spent four decades without enough votes to join the Constitution until Virginia voted “yes” last year. But Judge Rudolph Conteras ruled last Friday that Virginia’s vote was too late to count because it “came after both the original and extended deadlines that Congress attached to the ERA.” Now Virginia’s lawyers might appeal to the Supreme Court.

President Biden’s executive orders are facing legal challenges from conservatives. Since entering office, Biden has signed 30 orders on issues ranging from health care to the environment. Two federal judges appointed by former President Trump have rolled back Biden’s policies, with one judge blocking his 100-day pause on deportations and another overturning his eviction moratorium. According to the Wall Street Journal, Biden is expected to soon face other challenges in court.

The Supreme Court will no longer hear a challenge to President Trump’s “public charge” rule, which forbade noncitizens from obtaining a green card if they received government benefits. The Biden Administration stopped enforcing the rule this week; therefore, lawyers argued, there was no longer a need to challenge its legality in court. "The 2019 public charge rule was not in keeping with our nation's values,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them.”

Demonstrators urging Virginia legislators to approve the Equal Rights Amendment last year. (Steve Helper/AP)

More legal headlines, via Anna:

  • The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a student may sue Georgia Gwinnett College for $1 after it restricted his free speech rights. The student says he is seeking to hold Gwinnett accountable rather than profit from the lawsuit.
  • In a sure bid to provoke the Supreme Court, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday that he will sign a bill that bans abortion in nearly all circumstances. “SB6 is in contradiction of binding precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is the intent of the legislation to set the stage for the Supreme Court overturning current case law,” Hutchinson said.
  • The Seventh Circuit refused to enjoin Illinois’s now-expired ban on 10-person gatherings, writing that “elected officials’ responses to a pandemic deserve great latitude.”
  • Immigrant detainees in New Mexico aren’t owed a minimum wage, the Fourth Circuit ruled last Friday. The court reasoned that although the workers were “preparing and serving meals, cleaning the facilities, [and] performing other janitorial tasks,” they were part of a “custodial context” and not a free labor market.
  • Andrea Sahouri, an Iowa journalist who was arrested while covering racial justice protests last summer, was found not guilty on Wednesday. The acquittal ended a rare trial of a reporter in the United States.

Video of the Day

           Four former U.S. presidents unite for a PSA encouraging Americans to take the COVID-19 vaccine.


All times Eastern.

President Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Briefing at 11:30 a.m. Later, at 3:15 p.m., he will receive his weekly economic briefing. At 8:02 p.m., Biden will deliver his first primetime address to the nation, to mark the anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris will join Biden for his intelligence and economic briefings. At 1:45 p.m., she will join a virtual meeting with Americans she has met since taking office to discuss the passage of the coronavirus relief bill. At 5:15 p.m., Harris will ceremonially swear in Merrick Garland as Attorney General.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12:30 p.m.
  • National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will hold the first virtual meeting of the U.S.-Israel Strategic Consultative Group with a delegation led by his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat.The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. and resume consideration of two Biden Cabinet nominees. The chamber will vote at 12 p.m. on the motion to discharge the nomination of Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services and at 1:30 p.m. on the nomination of Deb Haaland to be Secretary of the Interior.

    A motion to discharge is required for Becerra because the Senate Finance Committee split 14-14 along party lines on his nomination; in the case of a tie in committee, the full Senate can discharge the nomination instead. After the nomination is discharged, the Senate can hold the standard cloture and confirmation votes.
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a closed hearing at 10 a.m. on “opportunities and challenges for the United States around the world.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken will testify.

The House will convene at 9 a.m. and resume consideration of two gun control bills, both of which will receive final votes today.

H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, would require a background check for every firearm sale. H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, would close the so-called “Charleston loophole.” The loophole, named because of its use by the 2015 Charleston shooter, allows firearm sales to go ahead if the government does not complete its background check within three days; the bill would expand that timetable to 10 days.

  • The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government will hold a hearing at 2 p.m. on “oversight of the U.S. Postal Service.” Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will testify. The Supreme Court is not in session.

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