Politics & Policy

Why it matters: President Biden has made the COVID-19 crisis and a post-Trump return to national unity and traditional democratic ideals his top priorities. From vaccinations to stimulus to schools, Biden is seeking bipartisan compromise while showing a willingness to use executive authority and bare Democratic majorities in the U.S. House and Senate to implement his policies. Republican leaders are navigating deep party divisions over if and how to move beyond former President Trump.

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Updated 16 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Military members will be included in Biden's new COVID guidance

Joe Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Members of the military will be required to get vaccinations or face regular testing, social distancing, mask mandates and restrictions on travel for work, the the Pentagon said on Thursday evening.

Why it matters: The policy was announced for federal workers and onsite contractors earlier on Thursday, part of several new Biden initiatives to get more Americans vaccinated and slow the spread of the Delta variant.

Trump's Republican critics rake in cash

Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger during the first Jan. 6 hearing. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Republican critics of Donald Trump have raked in campaign cash this year as their votes to impeach the former president and investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack have put them in the crosshairs of Trump and his allies.

Why it matters: The 2022 midterms won't just determine which party controls Congress. They're also shaping up to be a test of Trump's continued hold on the GOP. The few remaining Republican dissenters in Washington need to put up big fundraising numbers if they hope to stave off a purge.

The Republicans' mixed mandate message

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Republicans have expressed selective rage amid the rise of the Delta variant: They rail against the return of indoor masking but are far less vocal about vaccine requirements.

Why it matters: Masking may help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but the real solution to the pandemic is getting more Americans vaccinated. Increased support for that — including the use of heavier-handed methods like mandates — will only increase its chance of succeeding.

By the numbers: Clocking the House

Data: Brookings Institution, United States Senate; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

Like their Senate colleagues, House members are spending more days in session than past congresses — but far fewer hours per day on average, according to data from the Brookings Institution and the U.S. Senate.

Why it matters: The Senate may have come to an agreement on the bipartisan infrastructure package on Wednesday, but it still faces chaos in the House — and threatens to cut short representatives’ August recess late next month.

Mitch’s Sinema secret

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging his fellow Republicans to buck up Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — a Democrat, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans view Sinema and her moderate Democratic colleague Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as their last line of defense against sweeping progressive laws — ranging from a $3.5 trillion social welfare bill to potentially irreversible structural changes like eliminating the filibuster and adding new states to the union.

1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Infrastructure cap will force fuzzy math

President Biden answers reporters' questions after a speech Thursday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's (D-Ariz.) warning that she’s opposed to a budget reconciliation bill costing $3.5 trillion will force Senate Democrats and the White House to either trim the proposals in it or tinker with how many years they'll run.

Why it matters: Such gamesmanship will be necessary if lawmakers and the Biden administration want to keep the support of progressives and centrists. But it will lead to a bill with costs and durations as uneven as the Manhattan skyline.

Proposed U.S. arms sale to Nigeria delayed over human rights abuses

A protester waves the Nigerian national flag while gathering with other protesters during a demonstration against police brutality. Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. lawmakers are tabling a proposal to sell almost $1 billion in weapons to Nigeria over human rights abuses committed by the government, Reuters reported Thursday.

Why it matters: U.S. officials said Nigerian military forces used "excessive force" on unarmed civilians after opening fire on protesters demonstrating against police brutality last year. Thousands of Nigerians have accused the special police unit SARS, which was later disbanded, of extortion, torture and sexual violence.

12 Republican governors ask Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Twelve Republican governors on Thursday filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, which set a precedent for the constitutional right to abortion.

Why it matters: The governors were writing in support of an upcoming case concerning Mississippi's law that bans the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

AG urges Abbott to rescind restrictions on undocumented migrant travel

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (left) and Attorney General Merrick Garland (right). Photos: Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool and Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday urged Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to immediately rescind restrictions on undocumented migrant travel.

Why it matters: Abbott's order, which bars people from providing ground transportation to migrants detained for illegally crossing the border, gives the state's Department of Public Safety authority to stop and reroute "any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion" of violating the order.

Jill Biden undergoing medical procedure to remove "object" from her left foot

Jill Biden at the Tokyo Games. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

First Lady Jill Biden will undergo a medical procedure Thursday evening to remove an object lodged in her left foot, Reuters reports.

Driving the news: FLOTUS stepped on the object while walking on a beach in Hawaii last week, an official visit she conducted after attending the Tokyo Games, per the Associated Press.

Indie game developer says Facebook rejected his ad

A screenshot of the rejected "Road 96" ad. Image: Yoan Fanise/DigixArt

Indie developer Yoan Fanise says Facebook rejected an ad he attempted to post about his road trip video game earlier this summer, citing restrictions on ads over politics, elections and social issues.

Why it matters: The rejection appears to be the result of an overzealous ad filtering system, raising questions about how a social media giant analyzes submitted content.

Arkansas judge orders state to resume pandemic unemployment benefits

Photo: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A judge in Arkansas ruled Wednesday that the state must resume pandemic unemployment benefits after Gov. Asa Hutchinson halted them, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: The decision could impact 69,000 jobless workers in Arkansas who lost their additional jobless benefits on June 26, AP notes.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress passes $2.1B Capitol security funding bill

U.S. Capitol police officers testify during a House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot on July 27. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via Xinhua

A $2.1 billion Capitol security funding bill is heading to President Biden for his signature after the House and Senate passed the legislation on Thursday.

Why it matters: The legislation provides funding for the Capitol Police, the National Guard and other agencies to cover the costs incurred during the Jan. 6 riot.

Ex-Cardinal McCarrick charged with sexually assaulting teen in 1970s

Theodore McCarrick in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked in 2019, has been charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy in the 1970s, AP reports.

Why it matters: McCarrick is the first cardinal in the U.S. to "ever be criminally charged with a sexual crime against a minor," AP notes, citing Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for the man allegedly abused by McCarrick.

Rep. Cheri Bustos: Communities know what's best to improve social determinants of health

Photo: Axios

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said at at Axios event Thursday that she's calling on local communities to help Congress address "negative social determinants" like food deserts or unsafe housing.

Why it matters: Social determinants are social factors that harm long-term health. Bustos, who introduced the Social Determinants Accelerator Act, wants local communities to tell Congress directly what they need to tackle problems.

Pelosi says Biden lacks "power" to cancel student debt

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday said that President Biden lacks the "power" to cancel large amounts of student loan debt.

Why it matters: Pelosi's statements are in contrast with other top Democrats — including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — who have called for the president to cancel as much as $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower.

The new wave of U.S. Latina writers tackles race and violence

Naima Coster and Kirstin Valdez Quade. Photo: Sylvie Rosokoff/Justin Baker/Getty Images

Contemporary U.S. Latino Literature has grown up since Sandra Cisneros' "House On Mango Street" and Rudolfo Anaya's "Bless Me, Ultima." It's more diverse and doesn't run away from discussing race.

Why it matters: Since the Chicano Renaissance and the Nuyorican Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, more Black Dominican American writers and second-generation Colombian Americans have entered the scene to challenge notions of race, gender and sexuality.

Report: Pandemic aid programs reduce poverty at record level

Unemployed people speak with hiring representatives during a job fair in Beattyville, Kentucky, on July 28. Photo: Jon Cherry/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pandemic-related government aid programs are projected to cut poverty nearly in half this year from pre-pandemic levels, according to a report by the Urban Institute.

Why it matters: The Urban Institute projects the poverty rate will fall to 7.7% this year from 13.9% in 2018, which will amount to the largest reduction in poverty the U.S. has seen in such a small increment of time.

Biden calls on Congress to extend eviction moratorium as deadline looms

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

President Biden called on Congress on Thursday to extend the CDC's national eviction moratorium due to the threat of the Delta variant, after the Supreme Court ruled that the administration couldn't extend it past July 31 without specific legislation.

Why it matters: Millions of tenants across the country face the threat of eviction in the coming days. The moratorium was first implemented in September 2020 and extended several times to prevent a wave of evictions caused by pandemic-related economic decline.

12 hours ago - World

Lawmakers demand NBA players cut ties with Chinese firms accused of "human slavery"

Dwyane Wade. Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Some Republican lawmakers are demanding that NBA players end their endorsement contracts with Chinese sports retailers Anta and Li-Ning, which continue to source cotton from the Xinjiang region, Politico reports.

Why it matters: The U.S. government has warned that businesses with supply chains and investments in Xinjiang — where China has been accused of carrying out a genocide against Uyghur Muslims — run a "high risk" of violating U.S. laws on forced labor.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Dems' tricky climate infrastructure message

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

We now know more about the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure plan — and Democrats' tactical approach to the advancing package that has a suite of climate-related provisions.

Catch up fast: The Senate voted 67-32 to move the $1.2 trillion plan toward debate last night. Per a White House release it includes...

Biden administration outlines goals to slow migration

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a press conference in Guatemala City on June 7. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris has big goals for improving conditions in Central America to help slow migration from the region toward the United States.

Driving the news: Senior administration officials unveiled five sweeping goals during a call on Wednesday: Bettering economic prospects; rooting out corruption; promoting human rights, labor rights, and a free press; preventing gang violence; and combating sexual, gender-based and domestic violence.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
17 hours ago - Economy & Business

Get ready for more debt ceiling drama

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was bliss while it lasted — which was exactly two years. Right now, the U.S. has no limit on the amount of debt it can issue. But that ends on Saturday.

Why it matters: Brace yourself for another round of unedifying posturing and brinkmanship, all of which should result — after a period of entirely unnecessary fiscal contortion — in the debt ceiling being raised (not abolished) sometime this fall.

17 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Biden adviser Donilon touts infrastructure deal

Mike Donilon. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

One of President Biden’s closest advisers, Mike Donilon, believes swing voters want Congress to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, and embrace solutions where the two parties "meet in the middle,” according to a memo first reported by Axios.

Why it matters: While Biden has faced doubters — especially in his own party — about his ability to work with Republicans, a core group of advisers, including Donilon, is convinced the president’s political fortunes rest on his ability to transcend partisanship.

Updated 22 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Whistleblowers: Depression plagues migrant children in border camp

Photo: Adria Malcolm/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Unaccompanied migrant children detained in the U.S. Fort Bliss Army base in Texas live in poor mental and physical conditions, according to a whistleblower complaint submitted to Congress and government watchdogs on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The complaint corroborates reports of migrant children's distress in the camps overseen by the Biden administration. The president has faced criticism for his response to the record surge in unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the southern border.

Former police officer must stay in jail until Capitol riot trial, judge rules

Supporters of former President Trump at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

A former Virginia police officer arrested for allegedly participating in the U.S. Capitol riot must remain in custody until his trial over evidence that he has illegally stockpiled weapons, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Driving the news: U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper, in D.C., said in an order that Thomas Robertson was "further radicalized" after he was charged with breaching the Capitol building — noting that agents found a rifle, pipe-bomb making equipment at his home and evidence that he had purchased 37 guns online since his arrest.

First look: Biden meeting with Democrats on DACA

President Biden walks to the Oval Office on Wednesday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden will meet with 11 Democratic members of Congress at the White House Thursday to discuss the next steps for providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants brought to the U.S. as children, a White House official told Axios.

Why it matters: Congressional Democrats plan to try to pass pathways to citizenship for so-called Dreamers, TPS holders and undocumented essential workers in the upcoming reconciliation package. Biden also has consistently called on Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers.

Conservative media's gold diggers

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

With inflation rising and Congress pumping out massive spending bills, conservative media have focused renewed attention on financial issues — and lent significant airtime to some of the very companies underwriting their shows.

Why it matters: Politics is bleeding into financial advice, and all incentives are to play up impending economic disaster.

Jul 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Infrastructure bills face House chaos

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries arrives for a House vote last month. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The infrastructure agreement cinched Wednesday by senators faces several changes in the House before it — and a companion reconciliation bill — have any chance of becoming law.

Why it matters: The myopic focus on the bipartisan group of Senate negotiators overlooks House progressives and others ready to pounce. They have the ability to quash any deal, given the narrow Democratic margins not only in the Senate but also the House.

By the numbers: Clocking the Senate

Data: Brookings Institution, U.S. Senate; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

Senators are spending more days in session than past congresses — but fewer hours per day on average, according to data from the Brookings Institution and the U.S. Senate.

Why it matters: The Senate pushed to wrap up negotiations on the bipartisan infrastructure package on Wednesday ahead of its longest break of the year. Other lingering work is likely to cut into senators' planned August recess, though.

Jul 29, 2021 - World

First look: Lawmakers form bipartisan Uyghur caucus

Uyghurs of the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement appeared outside the White House last October. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

House lawmakers are forming a bipartisan caucus to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its human rights violations against Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, Axios is first to report.

Why it matters: While the United States economy relies heavily on trade with China, relations between the two global powers are tense. The Chinese Communist Party's human rights violations are at the center of many complications.

Texas Gov. Abbott restricts movement of undocumented migrants

Photo: Tamir Kalifa via Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Wednesday barred people from providing ground transportation to migrants detained by Customs Border Patrol for illegally crossing the border — a move that gives the state's Department of Public Safety (DPS) authority to stop and reroute "any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion" of violating the order.

Why it matters: Abbott cites the recent surge in COVID-19 cases as the basis for the order, though the governor has refused to mandate masks in the state. The move comes amid record crossings at the southern border.

Report: Larry Nassar spent $10,000 on himself in prison, paid victims $300

Larry Nassar. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar spent more than $10,000 on himself while in prison for criminal sexual conduct, paying $300 in restitution towards his victims, per a Wednesday court filing obtained by the Washington Post.

Driving the news: Since being imprisoned in 2018, Nassar received deposits totaling $12,825 into his prison bank account — including two pandemic stimulus checks totaling $2,000. He has paid about $100 per year in court-ordered penalties to his victims, the Post reported.

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