Jan 13, 2023 - Podcasts

A lying congressman and a 2024 Senate race already underway

Lots of news in Washington this week. California's 2024 Senate race is heating up before Sen. Dianne Feinstein even announces if she'll step down. And New York Rep. George Santos is being called on to resign.

  • Plus, why pediatricians are struggling to treat patients.
  • And, what do MLK's words mean to you?

Guests: Axios' Eugene Scott, Russell Contreras and American Academy of Pediatrics' Dr. Jason Terk.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday the 13th. Yup.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: why pediatricians are struggling to treat patients. Plus, what do MLK’s words mean to you? But first, classified documents, a lying congressman, and a 2024 Senate race already underway…the week in politics is our One Big Thing.

NIALA: Lots of news in Washington this week, California's 2024 Senate race is heating up before Senator Diane Feinstein even announces if she's going to be stepping down. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel yesterday to investigate President Biden's handling of classified documents and New York representative George Santos is being called upon to resign.

GEORGE SANTOS: I will not resign. I will be continuing to hold my office elected by the people.

NIALA: Here to discuss all of this for our Friday politics State of Play is Axios’ Eugene Scott. Hi Eugene. Welcome to Axios and welcome to the pod.

EUGENE SCOTT: Glad to be here.

NIALA: Eugene, George Santos is under fire right now. Nassau County Republican Party Chairman said he's “disgraced the House of Representatives.” Can you remind us what we know about George Santos and will he be forced to resign?

EUGENE: Well, George Santos is a Republican who was elected to Congress to represent a district, outside of New York City, this past fall. And it's become clear that he's been dishonest by a growing number of topics ranging from how his mother died to where he went to high school. And so, Republicans are really frustrated with who he has presented himself to be. So, people on both sides of the aisle are incredibly frustrated with Santos who he is and who he presented himself to be. And the conversation about whether or not he can represent his constituents is one that is not dying down anytime.

NIALA:I guess the question is, can he be forced to resign?

EUGENE: It's just pressure right now, there are a couple of investigations he's found himself in. And depending on whether or not he has proven to have done anything illegal, that part will perhaps determine what he can actually be forced to do or not.

NIALA: Also on Capitol Hill, Representative Barbara Lee is planning to run for the Senate and Representative Katie Porter has already announced her bid. Eugene, what are your sources telling you about how this California race is already shaping up? And we should point out, even though Senator Feinstein hasn't confirmed whether or not she's going to be running again.

EUGENE: Well, liberal voters in California, especially progressive voters are looking for someone new. Feinstein is 89 years old, and there's been concerns about whether or not her politics align with where the left in California currently are. And you have individuals like Katie Porter and Barbara Lee who have popular followings in the state and their voters would like to see them have more prominence in the Democratic Party.

NIALA: Doesn't it seem early for this to be happening or no?

EUGENE: Next year's 2024, the fundraising has to start now and quite frankly it's probably already started quietly for both of these individuals.

NIALA: Another really big story this week, Eugene, two sets of classified documents from President Biden's days in the Obama administration were found outside of the White House. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to investigate, do we know what happens next here?

EUGENE: Well, the investigation is just beginning that special counsel Robert Hur has just been appointed. And it's important to know that as of now, there's been no indication of criminal wrongdoing. But, what will happen in the future is not clear right now. But, the Biden White House has been incredibly vocal about how they've been cooperating with the Justice Department in every step of the manner. And trying to distinguish themselves from Trump who has found himself in a similar situation.

NIALA: Finally, Eugene, we are at risk of hitting our debt ceiling if Congress fails to increase the government's borrowing limit in time. Is this something we should be worrying about right now?

EUGENE: It's certainly something worth paying attention to. Republican leaders have not been very vocal about whether or not the, you know, debt ceiling will rise. But, there's concern about spending, and whether or not, you know, the government will be able to pay its debts, if the debt ceiling is not risen.

NIALA: Eugene Scott is Axios’ Senior Politics Reporter. Thanks to Eugene.

EUGENE: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: In a moment – pediatricians’ hunt for antibiotics for their patients.


Why pediatricians are struggling to treat patients

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Earlier this week we talked about the national shortage of children's Tylenol and Motrin due to a spike in demand. Well we heard from many of you parents that these are not the only medications in short supply right now: other meds like antibiotics are harder to find in the midst of this tripledemic.

One of our listeners, Dr. Jason Terk, a pediatrician in northern Texas and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, he reached out to tell us these shortages are having a big impact on his practice…so we invited him to tell us more…hi, Dr. Terk. Welcome to Axios Today.

DR TERK: Thank you very much. I'm glad to be here.

NIALA : What kinda medication shortages are you seeing in your practice and how long has this been going on?

DR TERK: Well, we're seeing shortages of really basic things that we need to use to treat common childhood illnesses such as ear infections and sinus infections, and skin and soft tissue infections. Things like amoxicillin and some basic cephalosporin antibiotics like Cephalexin. And some shortages of Augmentin, which is another form of amoxicillin that adds another drug to it. It's made it really, really difficult for us to find these basic medications that we need to treat common childhood illnesses that we see.

NIALA : So how are you and your staff dealing with this? Are you spending a lot of time trying to track down medication?

DR TERK: Yes. A lot of our bandwidth in the last couple of months has been about calling around to different pharmacies to try to source these important medications for our patients and then rerouting prescriptions to wherever we can find them. In the midst of the tripledemic that we've been experiencing, that's bandwidth that we don't necessarily have free to do.

NIALA: So when we're thinking about antibiotics, what do you do if you don't have access to amoxicillin ?

DR TERK: Well, there have been situations in which we've had to go to other antibiotics, which are not first line antibiotics because they're broader spectrum medications, which we don't like to use for straightforward conditions. Because it increases the risk of resistance later on. And there are downstream effects that may affect the entire community as a result. And so it's super important that we maintain the supply of these important tools, and invest in the infrastructure needed to keep them available.

NIALA : From your vantage point as a pediatrician, do you think we're doing enough on that front?

DR TERK: The evidence would suggest that we are not. Unfortunately there's not a lot of financial incentive for manufacturers to invest in the infrastructure needed to do this. There isn't any indications right now that the bottlenecks and supply chain and the challenges with sourcing raw materials and getting the market situated in such a way that this doesn't continue to be a problem. There's no evidence to say that that's changing dramatically right now, but there are people that are working on it and I'm hopeful that things will turn around.

NIALA : Dr. Jason Terk is a pediatrician in North Texas and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Thank you for taking the time to join us Dr. Terk. We appreciate it.

DR TERK: Thank you so much.

What do MLK’s words mean to you

NIALA: Before we go today: every Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we hear words from MLK’s 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech repeated by people from every corner of American politics. But as we approach the holiday this year, civil rights advocates say Dr. King’s words are once again being cherry-picked, distorting his message, reports Axios’ Race and Justice reporter Russell Contreras.

RUSSELL CONTRERAS: I spoke to USC’s Sociologist Hajar Yazdiha, and she has just written a book about Dr. King. She mentions that our collective memory has frozen Dr. King in these safe spaces. We keep him at a moment where I have a dream and that he's talking about a colorblind society, and if we lock him there, our collective memory kind of romanticizes the civil rights movement.

NIALA: We’ll have more about this when we’re back on Tuesday after the holiday, and we want to know: what are you thinking about as we head into the MLK weekend? Do you or your family reflect on Reverend Dr. King’s words? What do they mean to you? Send us a text or a voice memo at 202-918-4893.

And that’s it for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief. And special thanks as always to Axios’ co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Niala Boodhoo – Margaret Talev and Erica Pandey will be in for me next week. Until then, stay safe, enjoy your holiday weekend and we’re back with the news on Tuesday.

In the latest series of Wondery’s podcast “Business Wars,” a scandal upends the art world. Auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s put their legacies at risk and nearly destroyed themselves in the process. Listen to “Business Wars” on Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcasts.

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