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Four things the government did this week

This week in Washington: new actions on gig workers, conservation, Covid vaccines, and Social Security benefits
Four things the government did this week
Good morning! It’s Friday, October 14, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 25 days away. Election Day 2024 is 753 days away.

A new poll came out this week showing that majorities of Americans are unaware of many of the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, the major climate, health, and tax package recently signed into law. Only 36% of Americans, for example, knew that the package allowed the government to negotiate the prices of some prescription drugs.

This type of thing is exactly what I’m trying to combat at Wake Up To Politics. And to be clear: not to benefit one party or the other. Maybe you hate government drug pricing negotiations, believing it will stymie innovation and lead to fewer drugs being created. Maybe you love it, believing the program will lower costs for seniors. It doesn’t matter to me! I just want you to know about it.

That’s why I take a step back every Friday and report on what the government did this week. Plus, in this morning’s edition, I’ve included a new feature that shows some of the responses to each action — to give you an idea of the best arguments for and against them. (And if you need a refresher on the IRA and drug price negotiations: my piece on that is here.)

If you appreciate the work I’m doing, I hope you’ll consider donating to support WUTP or even setting up a monthly donation, akin to a subscription to another news outlet.

You can also help by directing friends and family to the newly redesigned wakeuptopolitics.com, where they can subscribe for themselves.

(I know the link was broken in yesterday’s newsletter — sorry about that. I still hope you’ll check out the new website and let me know what you think!)

Week in review: What the government got done this week

Congress was out of session all week, so here are four things the executive branch did this week that you should know about:

💼 Gig workers: The Labor Department released a proposed regulation that would reshape the rules for how businesses classify whether their workers are employees or independent contractors. The difference is not a small one: there are a vast array of benefits (minimum wage, medical leave, overtime pay, etc) that companies are required to give their employees but not their contractors.

The current test for deciding which category a worker falls into was set by the Trump administration in January 2021. The proposed rule would rescind that test, creating a new one that is likely to reclassify many “gig workers” as employees by taking into account factors such as how much control the workers have over how they do their jobs.

Once the proposal works its way through the regulatory process, it would likely offer new benefits to millions of workers — from home health care and construction workers to drivers for Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash.

  • The conversation: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said the rule would ensure gig workers “their right to be paid their full, legally earned wages,” while Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) argued that it would “upend the livelihoods” of the workers by forcing them “to become someone else’s employee” and sacrifice their flexibility and independence that comes with being a contractor. Rideshare and food-delivery companies have ardently opposed similar efforts in the past.

🌲 Conservation: President Biden designated Camp Hale, a World War II-era training camp in Colorado, as a national monument. The Antiques Act of 1906 allows the president to designate any federal land as a national monument, thereby protecting it from development; this is Biden’s first creation of a new national monument under the law.

According to the Washington Post, the 53,000-acre expanse is known for its “stunning landscapes” and the habitat it provides for “wildlife including elk, bears, otters, lynxes and migratory songbirds.”

While in Colorado, Biden also announced steps to conserve the Thompson Divide, a 225,000-acre area in the state, by moving to block mining and oil and gas drilling there.

  • The conversation: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) praised the Camp Hale designation as a “victory for Colorado’s environment, our $10 billion outdoor recreation economy, and the legacy of public lands we owe the next generation.” The Republican currently running against him, Joe O’Dea, called it a “usurpation of power,” saying that Congress should have made the decision. The Ute Indian Tribe, whose ancestral home is on the Camp Hale land, said they were not sufficiently consulted and that the move was “an unlawful act of genocide.”
Camp Hale, the nation’s newest national monument. (Brent Flanders)

💉 Vaccines: The FDA and the CDC authorized the updated Covid-19 booster shots for 5- to 11-year-olds. The new shots are known as “bivalent vaccines,” because they combine the original Covid vaccine recipe with new components designed to specifically target the Omicron variant.

  • The conversation: “As a pediatrician, this is welcome news,” Dr. Julie Morita, the executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told USA Today. “It is essential that children remain up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccinations for their own health and potentially to protect more vulnerable adults around them, especially as we head towards a potential surge of cases this winter.”

💸 Social Security benefits: The Social Security Administration announced that benefits for the roughly 70 million Americans on the program will increase by $146 a month in 2023, an 8.7% increase. Social Security payments are adjusted anually to account for changes in the cost of living; this is the largest increase to the benefits since 1981, due to soaring inflation.

  • The conversation: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the move will allow seniors to “get ahead of inflation” and “put more money in their pockets.” Meanwhile, the libertarian Cato Institute called for an update to the formula used by Social Security to calculate the adjustments, saying that the agency relies on “an outdated measure that’s driving up benefit costs.”

What else you should know

The House January 6th committee voted unanimously to subpoena former President Trump at the close of its public hearing on Thursday. “This is a question about accountability to the American people,” chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said. “He is required to answer for his actions.”

According to Fox News, Trump is considering complying with the subpeona and testifying; he promised a response by 8am this morning, but that deadline passed without a statement from the ex-president.

During its hearing, the committee laid out evidence that Trump was aware that he lost the election, even as he publicly leveled false claims of fraud. “I don’t want poeple to know we lost... This is embarrasing,” Trump allegedly told his former chief of staff, according to another aide.

The panel also played never-bef0re-seen footage of congressional leaders during the January 6th attack, captured by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s filmmaker daughter. Watch the footage here, plus additional video obtained by CNN showing Pelosi fuming that she’d “punch” Trump if he came to the Capitol:

In one more piece of Trump news: The Supreme Court rejected the former president’s request for the justices to intervene in the dispute over government documents he kept after leaving office. Trump had asked the justices to reverse a federal appeals court ruling that allowed the Justicce Department to continue using classified documents the FBI seized at Mar-a-Lago as part of its criminal probe into him.

No dissents were noted in the court’s single-sentence order.

Today at a glance

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

AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Biden will travel to Irvine, California, where he’ll deliver remarks on “lowering costs for American families” (3:10 pm). Then he’ll travel to Portland, Oregon, where he’ll participate in a grassroots volunteer event with the Oregon Democrats (7:10 pm).

  • Why is Biden campaigning in Oregon, a reliably blue state? Because the gubernatorial race there has become surprisingly competitive, with Independent candidate Betsy Johnson (a former Democratic state legislator) threatening to take votes away from Tina Kotek, the Democratic nominee. Republican Christine Drazan could become the state’s first GOP governor in 40 years.

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with student leaders to discuss abortion rights (2:30 pm).

First Lady Jill Biden is in Georgia. She’ll host a roundtable with military families at U.S. Army Fort Benning (11:45 am) and then deliver remarks at a campaign event for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams in Atlanta (5 pm).

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Portland.

ON THE HILL: The House (11:30 am) and Senate (11:30 am) will briefly convene for pro forma sessions, during which no legislative business will be conducted. Neither chamber is set to hold any votes until November 14.

IN THE COURTS: The Supreme Court will meet behind closed doors for its weekly conference.

ON THE TRAIL: Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker will meet for their first — and probably only — debate (7 pm).

  • What’s the latest in Georgia? Warnock’s lead in the pivotal race has increased slightly since allegations emerged that Walker paid for a girlfriend’s abortion in 2009. The FiveThirtyEight polling average now shows Warnock at 48% and Walker at 44.2%.

👍 That’s all 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