What got done in Washington this week
by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Friday, September 2, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 67 days away. Election Day 2024 is 795 days away.
As always, I’d like to close out the week by taking a look back at the substantive policy action that got done in Washington this week.
I like to do this every week to make sure WUTP is shining a light on the policy progress that is going on behind the scenes, not just the gridlock.
I hope you enjoyed WUTP this week, as I covered topics from the Alaska special election to the shift in expectations for the 2022 midterms.
I was also proud of an analysis piece I wrote on Biden’s new strategy for taking on Trump (and was even prouder when the Associated Press ran a very similar article a few hours later, with almost the same headline).
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What got done in Washington this week
Both chambers of Congress were on recess all week, so this Friday roundup is concentrated on actions that came out of the Executive Branch this week:
Coronavirus. The FDA and CDC signed off on new Covid vaccines designed to target the Omicron subvariants. The new shots are “bivalent vaccines,” meaning they contain a combination of the original Covid vaccine recipe and an Omicron-specific recipe. They are expected to become available next week.
- The authorization extended to Omicron-specific vaccines made by both Moderna and Pfizer; the former has been approved for people 18 and older, the latter has been approved for people 12 years and older. They are the first redesigned Covid vaccines authorized for use in the U.S.
Student loans. The Education Department canceled all remaining federal student loan debt for borrowers who attended Westwood College between 2002 and 2015. The for-profit college was closed in 2016 after the school was found to have defrauded students.
- The new action automatically wiped out $1.5 billion in total debt for 79,000 borrowers. It is just the latest example of the department discharging student loan debt for borrowers who attended fraudulent for-profit colleges; per the Washington Post, the Biden administration has now eliminated $14.5 billion in debt for nearly 1.1 million defrauded borrowers.
Monkeypox. The Health and Human Services Department invested about $11 million to initiate the first U.S.-based manufacturing of the monkeypox vaccine by JYNNEOS. The new funding, which will support a manufacturing facility in Michigan, comes amid a limited supply of the vaccine.
- The White House also announced plans to set aside monkeypox vaccine doses for Louisiana, Georgia, and California — three states where LGBT-focused events are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.
Natural disasters. President Biden signed an emergency declaration to provide federal assistance to Jackson, Mississippi, where recent flooding cut off access to safe drinking water for more than 150,000 residents of the city this week.
- The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), meanwhile, announced $30 million in humanitarian funding to aid Pakistan with its response to severe flooding that has overwhelmed the country this summer.
Economy. Biden is set today to announce the winners of the $1 billion “Build Back Better Regional Challenge,” a regional economic development competition created by the 2021 Covid relief package. Awardees in 21 states will receive between $25 million and $65 million to execute “transformational projects” that will create new jobs in “industries of the future such as clean energy, next-generation manufacturing, and biotechnology.”
- The White House also unveiled the “Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative,” a national network of 200+ employers committed to hiring a total of 10,000 new Registered Apprentices across 40 industries.
More news you should know
Biden’s speech: “President Joe Biden charged in a prime-time address that the ‘extreme ideology’ of Donald Trump and his adherents ‘threatens the very foundation of our republic,’ as he summoned Americans of all stripes to help counter what he sketched as dark forces within the Republican Party trying to subvert democracy.” Associated Press
Jobs report: “The U.S. labor market added 315,000 jobs in August, hitting a 20-month streak in strong job growth that’s powering an economy through ominously high inflation.” Washington Post
Trump probes: “A federal judge signaled on Thursday that she remained open to granting former President Donald J. Trump’s request to appoint an independent arbiter to go through documents the F.B.I. seized from him last month, but stopped short of making a final decision.” New York Times
- “Two former top Trump White House lawyers are expected to appear Friday before a federal grand jury investigating the events surrounding Jan. 6.” ABC News
Today at a glance
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (9 am), hold an event to announce the winners of the “Build Back Better Regional Challenge” (11 am), and have lunch with Vice President Kamala Harris (12 pm).
Later, the president and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Camp David, the presidential retreat, where they will spend the weekend.
Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of Nigeria (2:10 pm), in addition to her lunch with Biden. Harris and Osinbajo will discuss the “climate crisis, upcoming elections in Nigeria, and regional security issues in West Africa,” according to the White House.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will hold a virtual roundtable with LGBT high school students to discuss their back-to-school experiences and the Biden administration’s efforts to “promote equality and protect transgender youth” (3 pm).
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (11:45 am).
The Senate is on recess until September 6. The chamber will briefly convene for a pro forma session (9 am), a quick meeting held only to satisfy the constitutional obligation of meeting every three days. No business will be conducted.
The House is on recess until September 13. The chamber will also hold a brief pro forma session (10 am).
The Supreme Court is on recess until October 3.
Before I go...
Earlier this week, I wrote in this space about NASA’s plans to launch Artemis I, an unmanned rocket that is slated to go to the moon and back.
The mission is part of NASA’s broader Artemis program, which will eventually bring humans to the moon for the first time since the 1970s, including the first woman and the first person of color to land on the moon.
The Artemis program is seen by NASA as an important test of new rocket technology, which could eventually help inform a mission to Mars.
Monday’s scheduled launch of Artemis I was scuttled due to technical problems, but NASA is eyeing Saturday to try again. USA Today has more.
Speaking of outer space, I’ve also used this column to highlight the remarkable images from NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope.
To that end, I wanted to share the telescope’s latest sunning photograph, which depicts the “Phantom Galaxy,” a spiral galaxy 32 million light-years away from Earth:
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