Thursday's politics & policy stories

Feb 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Ohio sues Census Bureau over delay in releasing redistricting data

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ohio on Thursday sued the Census Bureau over its decision to delay the release of redistricting data by six months.

Driving the news: Citing the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau announced earlier this month that it will not release the data states use to draw legislative maps until the end of September. The deadline was previously March 31.

House passes Equality Act to boost LGBTQ protections

A protester holds a rainbow flag in Times Square in Oct. 2020. Photo: John Lamparski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The House voted 224-206 on Thursday to pass the Equality Act, which would expand federal protections for LGBTQ people by prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Why it matters: The legislation passed in the House in May 2019, but never reached the Republican-controlled Senate under former President Trump. Democratic leaders believe there is a chance to pass the act into law this year with a 50-50 split in the Senate, but it is uncertain whether enough Republicans will support the bill for it to move forward.

Feb 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Sen. Bennet says public health investment needed to prepare for additional pandemics

The U.S. was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, and it will not be ready for the next pandemic if it does not invest in public health infrastructure, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said at an Axios event on Thursday.

Why it matters: Bennet said President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan is not only needed to pull the country out of the coronavirus pandemic but also to prepare it for new pandemics — and that preparation could include a public health care option in the future.

DHS directing $77 million to combat domestic violent extremism in states, cities

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

For the first time, states and localities will spend at least $77 million of Department of Homeland Security grant money on combatting domestic violent extremism, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced on Thursday.

Why it matters: Domestic terrorism has been on the rise in the U.S., spurred on by growing polarization and the mainstreaming of online conspiracy theories. In the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, Mayorkas has made fighting the problem a "National Priority Area."

Acting Capitol Police chief won't commit to public briefings about Jan. 6

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman on Thursday defended her department's complete lack of press briefings since the Jan. 6 insurrection and refused to commit to holding regular briefings in the future.

What they're saying: Pittman told a House Appropriations subcommittee that the department "has issued a number of press releases" and but is not prioritizing press updates. Capitol Police spokespersons have been highly uncommunicative since the insurrection and have held zero public briefings.

Feb 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate confirms former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as energy secretary

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Senate voted 64-35 on Thursday to confirm former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as secretary of the Department of Energy.

Why it matters: Granholm, only the second woman to head the department, will play a key role in President Biden’s efforts to accelerate the U.S. shift to clean energy and help other countries do the same.

Acting Capitol Police chief: Phone logs show Jan. 6 National Guard approval was delayed

Pittman at a congressional tribute for fallen officer Brian Sicknick. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman testified on Thursday that cellphone records show former USCP chief Steven Sund requested National Guard support from the House sergeant-at-arms as early as 12:58pm on Jan. 6, but he did not receive approval until over an hour later.

Why it matters: Sund and former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving clashed at a Senate hearing on Tuesday over a dispute in the timeline for when Capitol Police requested the National Guard during the Capitol insurrection.

John Frank, author of Denver
Feb 25, 2021 - Axios Denver

Colorado GOP doubles down on Trump's baseless "stolen election" claims

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photos: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle and Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Top leaders in the Colorado Republican Party are doubling down on the baseless idea that voter fraud cost former President Trump the 2020 election.

Why it matters: The Colorado GOP is embracing the same debunked claims of a stolen election that helped propel a mob of Trump supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Bid to boost police oversight falls short, Tampa activists say

A Black Lives Matter protester kneels before Tampa police officers in June. Photo by Gianna Settimi for Axios

Criminal justice reform advocates with Tampa for Justice, the NAACP, and the Greater Tampa Chapter of the ACLU have called on the city council to strengthen the Citizen Review Board to build trust in local police oversight.

Driving the news: The city attorney has drafted an ordinance on this, and the city council will discuss in it a public workshop this morning.

Feb 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Manhattan prosecutors reportedly obtain millions of pages of Trump's tax records

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Manhattan district attorney is now in possession of millions of pages of former President Trump's tax and financial records, CNN first reported, following a Supreme Court ruling that allowed prosecutors to enforce a subpoena after a lengthy legal battle.

Why it matters: Trump fought for years to keep his tax returns out of the public eye and away from prosecutors in New York, who are examining his business in a criminal investigation that was first sparked by hush-money payments made by Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen during the 2016 election.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Feb 25, 2021 - Economy & Business

SEC to push companies to disclose more about climate risks

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Securities and Exchange Commission is planning to push companies to disclose more info about risks that climate change poses to their business — and signaled that tougher policies could be in the offing.

Driving the news: Allison Herren Lee, the regulator's acting chair, said Wednesday that the SEC would bolster its focus on how companies are responding to its 2010 guidance on the topic.

Trump’s blunt weapon: State GOP leaders

Trump supporters rally near Mar-a-Lago on Feb. 15. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President Trump didn't have to punish his critics in Congress — his allies back in the states instantly and eagerly did the dirty work.

Why it matters: Virtually every Republican who supported impeachment was censured back home, or threatened with a primary challenge.

Feb 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The modern way to hire a big-city police chief

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

When it comes to picking a city's top cop, closed-door selection processes have been replaced by highly public exercises where everyone gets to vet the candidates — who must have better community-relations skills than ever.

Why it matters: In the post-George-Floyd era, with policing under utmost scrutiny, the choosing of a police chief has become something akin to an election, with the need to build consensus around a candidate. And the candidate pool has gotten smaller.

California wildfire victims sue former PG&E executives for alleged neglect

PG&E crews repair power lines that were destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 21, 2018 in Paradise, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A trust representing over 80,000 victims of deadly Northern California wildfires ignited by Pacific Gas and Electric's (PG&E) electrical grid filed a lawsuit Wednesday against almost two dozen of its former executives for alleged neglect.

Why it matters: The suit, filed in the San Francisco Superior Court, accuses them of "dereliction of duty" by allegedly failing to ensure the equipment would not kill people.

Updated Feb 25, 2021 - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

Feb 25, 2021 - Health

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy tests positive for the coronavirus

Alaska Gov. Michael Dunleavy at the White House in July 16. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday and is isolating at home with mild symptoms, his office announced.

Details: Dunleavy originally got tested after being identified as a close contact to someone who contracted the virus and returned a negative result Sunday morning, per a statement. He still went into quarantine in his home in Wasilla, just north of Anchorage.

Feb 25, 2021 - Health

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter return to church after receiving COVID-19 vaccines

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter and former President Jimmy Carter in Washington, D.C., U.S., in 2017. Photo: Saul Loeb/Pool via Bloomberg

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter are attending church once again after receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

Driving the news: Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, erupted into applause as Pastor Tony Lowden made the announcement, telling the congregation Wednesday: "Let's welcome them back — they've both had their shots."

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.

Exclusive: Hundreds of kids held in Border Patrol stations

Migrants cross the Rio Bravo to get to El Paso, Texas. Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images

More than 700 children who crossed from Mexico into the United States without their parents were in Border Patrol custody as of Sunday, according to an internal Customs and Border Protection document obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The current backup is yet another sign of a brewing crisis for President Biden — and a worsening dilemma for these vulnerable children. Biden is finding it's easier to talk about preventing warehousing kids at the southern border than solving the problem.

Pompeo plots 2024 power play

Mike Pompeo in Washington on Feb. 12. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Mike Pompeo has quickly reentered the political fray, raising money for Republicans, addressing key political gatherings and joining an advocacy group run by Donald Trump's former lawyer.

Why it matters: The former secretary of state is widely considered a potential 2024 presidential contender. His professional moves this week indicate he's working to keep his name in the headlines and bolster a political brand built largely on foreign policies easily contrasted with the Biden White House.

Feb 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Cheney's take on Trump highlights GOP split about future

Kevin McCarthy and Liz Cheney on Wednesday. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

Rep. Liz Cheney is staking her claim as a new thought leader for the GOP, seizing on her role as the Republicans' Trump critic-in-chief while the party navigates its post-MAGA future.

Why it matters: Cheney is offering the party a more traditional brand of conservatism and serving as the guinea pig for other Republicans eager to break with the former president but wary of the fallout. The emerging question is whether both party factions can win not just primaries but general elections.

Facebook says it will pay news industry $1 billion over 3 years

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Dublin with the tech giant's global affairs vice president Nick Clegg. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images

Facebook announced Wednesday it plans to invest $1 billion to "support the news industry" over the next three years and admits it "erred on the side of over-enforcement" by banning news links in Australia.

Why it matters: Facebook is following in Google's footsteps, after last October the company pledged to pay publishers over $1 billion during the next three years to create and curate high-quality journalism for its Google News Showcase.