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Wake Up To Politics - May 4, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Can Liz Cheney survive again?
Wake Up To Politics - May 4, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 553 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,281 days away. May the fourth be with you.

Let’s start this Tuesday morning with an exciting announcement:

The WUTP Team continues to grow

Back in February, I announced that Miles Hession and Anna Salvatore would be joining the Wake Up To Politics team to contribute weekly roundups on global news and legal affairs, respectively.

The feedback for these roundups, including in the survey I sent out last week (which you can still take!), has been tremendous. So much so that I’m bringing on some more talented young journalists to report for all of you on additional policy areas that are deserving of more attention.

Here’s the schedule: On Mondays, Philadelphia high school senior Davis Giangiulio will contribute a roundup on economic news. On Tuesdays (starting today), Stanford University sophomore Kirsten Shaw Mettler will be writing about education policy. Miles will continue to tackle global affairs on Wednesdays and Anna will continue to write about legal developments on Thursday. And finally, Harvard University junior Ellen Burstein will cover health care every Friday.

I’m so excited for you to read and learn from these new contributors, as they bring their fresh perspectives on key issues while staying true to the familiar WUTP style of remaining objective and concise. As always, if you have any feedback, don’t hesitate to send me an email.

And if you appreciate the work that the Wake Up To Politics team is doing, it always helps if you are able to make a donation. I’m proud to say that every WUTP writer is compensated for their work; your donations make that possible and we are all so grateful.

Now, today’s top political stories:

Can Liz Cheney survive again?

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the third-ranking House Republican, sparked a firestorm among her colleagues earlier this year when she became one of the 10 GOP representatives to back the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

A group of Trump allies quickly organized a challenge to Cheney’s leadership position as chair of the House Republican Conference, but she emerged triumphant after a conferencewide vote in February. At the time, a supportive speech by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was seen as critical to Cheney’s survival in the secret ballot vote, which she won 145-61.

But Cheney has not let up in criticizing Trump, and her comments seem to have lost her the support of key House Republicans — McCarthy included.

The turning point for the Wyoming firebrand, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was last week’s House GOP retreat in Florida. She and McCarthy repeatedly butted heads in public view during the retreat, over Trump’s continued role in the party and her support for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6 riot at the Capitol.

Asked by reporters toward the end of the retreat if Cheney remained a “good fit” for the conference, McCarthy — who went to bat for her just three months ago — demurred. “That’s a question for the conference,” he replied.

And the conference might provide an answer soon. According to Fox News, another vote on whether Cheney should remain as conference chair could be held as soon as next week — and this one will be harder for her to win. “There is no way that Liz will be conference chair by month’s end,” one McCarthy ally told The Hill.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy reacts as Rep. Liz Cheney speaks at a recent press conference. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Republicans have even begun buzzing about who should take her place: Rep. Jim Banks (R-IL), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee and a top Trump ally, is one lawmaker gunning for the role. According to Axios, many Republicans are looking for a female lawmaker to take her place, such as Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) or Ann Wagner (R-MO). Cheney is the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress; if she is succeeded by a man, the top ranks of GOP leadership on the Hill would be all-male.  

But even with her leadership post in increasing jeopardy, Cheney has doubled down on her criticism of Trump, who remains a popular figure among most congressional Republicans.

According to CNN, she slammed Trump in a recent closed-door speech to donors. “We can’t whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump’s big lie,” she said. “It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.”

And when Trump issued a statement doubling down on his false claims that the election was stolen, Cheney tweeted this rejoinder on Monday: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their backs on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”

Cheney will soon discover whether that is a survivable stance in the current Republican Party. It certainly places her firmly in the party minority: more than half of House Republicans voted to overturn the election in January, and 60% of Republicans said in a Reuters poll last month that they believed the 2020 election had been stolen.

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The Rundown

Some more headlines to know this morning.

REFUGEES: “President Joe Biden announced Monday he would raise the cap on the number of refugees admitted to the United States to 62,500 for this fiscal year, following criticism last month after he announced he would preserve a Trump-era limit [of 15,000] on that category.” NBC News

CORONAVIRUS: “The Food and Drug Administration is expected by next week to grant expanded emergency use authorization to allow children as young as 12 to receive the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and German firm BioNTech, according to three federal officials familiar with the situation.” Washington Post

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION: “The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday proposed a rule to slash the use of a potent climate-warming gas commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners by 85% over the next 15 years, a move it said will play a big part in U.S. plans to halve its greenhouse gas emissions this decade.” Reuters

RECOMMENDED READS: “Do You Live in a Political Bubble?” New York Times interactive

  • “Millions Are Saying No to the Vaccines. What Are They Thinking?” The Atlantic

Policy Roundup: Education

A weekly glance at education news, by Kirsten Shaw Mettler.

President Biden called for free two-year community college last week. Introduced last Wednesday, the American Families Plan includes significant investment in education, namely $109 billion for free two-year community college and $200 billion for free universal pre-school. Both of these programs would require federal-state funding cooperation, and states could opt-out. Free community college is not a new idea, as community college is already free or low cost in 20 states.

Biden’s proposal comes after community colleges have faced sharp enrollment drops during the pandemic, especially among minority students. The plan also proposes increasing subsidized tuition for minority serving institutions, expanding federal financial aid for low income undergraduates, and boosting child care funding.

Senate Republicans accused the Biden administration of “activist indoctrination.” The Education Department released plans last month to promote antiracist scholarship in American history education, inspired by the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project and scholar Ibram X. Kendi. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other Republican lawmakers penned a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, calling the proposal “radical” and divisive.

Several Republican-controlled states have considered cutting funding to curriculums that include the 1619 Project; former President Donald Trump also created the 1776 Commission in response to the Times project. Historians said the commission distorted the history of American slavery, and President Biden dissolved the program on his first day in office.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the Biden administration of “spoon-feeding students a slanted story.” (AP Photo)

COVID-19 vaccine requirements at universities are falling along political lines. Over 100 colleges are now requiring vaccinations for students attending in-person classes for the fall. These colleges are disproportionately private, selective institutions in Democratic-leaning states. On Thursday, the American College Health Association (ACHA) recommended that colleges require COVID-19 vaccines for the fall. However, the issue has already become politicized, with states like Texas and Florida banning such requirements.

More education policy headlines, via Kirsten:

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Monday regarding transgender sports bans. Over 20 states have recently  introduced bills banning transgender girls from competing on girls’ public high school sports teams.

Last week, Connecticut became the 6th state to remove its religious exemption for schoolchildren vaccination requirements. COVID-19 vaccines are expected to soon be approved for 12- to 15-year-olds.

While some schools debate vaccine mandates, Centner Academy in Miami made national headlines last week for promoting false vaccine conspiracy theories and telling teachers they would have to stay away from students — and possibly even lose their jobs — if they got the vaccine.


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

President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10:15 a.m. Later, he will deliver remarks on the COVID-19 response and vaccinations at 2:30 p.m.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks to the 51st annual Washington Conference on the Americas at 9:35 a.m. She will then travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At 2 p.m., she will visit clean energy laboratories at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. At 2:50 p.m., she will participate in a roundtable discussion on the R&D investments in the American Jobs Plan. Harris will then return to Washington, D.C.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m.

The Senate is not in session.

The House will convene at 10 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.

  • Attorney General Merrick Garland will testify before a House Appropriations subcommittee at a 10 a.m. hearing on the Justice Department budget.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in its final case of the term — Terry v. United States — at 10 a.m.

“The case arises from the War on Drugs in the 1980s, when the government mandated harsh punishments for using crack cocaine,” WUTP legal contributor Anna Salvatore explains. “The question this morning is whether people sentenced for low-level crack offenses in the intervening decades are now eligible for shorter sentences under the First Step Act of 2018, the criminal justice reform package signed by former President Donald Trump.”

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