Wednesday's politics & policy stories

Kentucky governor signs bipartisan bill expanding voting access

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. Photo: Scotty Perry/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Wednesday signed a bipartisan bill that expands voting access in the state.

Why it matters: The legislation, passed by the GOP-controlled legislature, comes as Republicans in other states push for more voting restrictions. Last month, Georgia became the first battleground state to pass a law curbing voting access.

New Mexico eliminates qualified immunity

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in Santa Fe in August 2019. Photo: Steven St John/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed a law Wednesday that eliminates a legal defense known as qualified immunity, making it easier to sue government employees, including police officers, for civil rights violations.

Why it matters: New Mexico is now the third state to eliminate qualified immunity as a national debate unfolds on legal protections for police officers sparked by the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Use-of-force expert: Chauvin used "deadly" force on George Floyd

Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, testified Wednesday that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used "deadly" force on George Floyd and kept his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.

Why it matters: Stiger, a prosecution witness, said the initial force Chauvin used on Floyd was appropriate, but he should have let up when Floyd stopped resisting.

Biden to nominate gun control advocate to lead ATF

Photo: Leigh Vogel/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden will nominate David Chipman, a prominent figure from a gun-control group, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: The agency, which has not had a permanent director since 2015, is seen as a force within the government to combat gun violence. The appointment comes after the U.S. has seen a number of high-profile gun-related tragedies in a short period of time.

Virginia lawmakers approve marijuana legalization

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia lawmakers have approved Gov. Ralph Northam's request to legalize the possession and growth of small amounts of recreational marijuana starting July 1, up from the 2024 timeline that had previously been agreed to.

Why it matters: The move will make Virginia the first southern state, and the 16th in the nation, to legalize recreational marijuana.

Jill Biden outlines next phase of program that supports military families

First lady Jill Biden points to a military service member pictured on a sign as she tours Military One Source center in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: Tom Brenner/AFP via Getty Images

First lady Jill Biden on Wednesday announced the "next chapter" for the decade-old Joining Forces initiative, which supports U.S. military families.

Why it matters: Biden and then-first lady Michelle Obama led the program during the Obama administration. Biden said Wednesday that the relaunch of the initiative will focus on military family employment and entrepreneurship, as well as making sure families can get quality child care when needed.

Women steer global economic recovery

Janet Yellen wears a mask while exiting after swearing in Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, the most senior-ranking Black person in the department's history. Photo: Erin Scott/Bloomberg via Getty Images

One big difference between 2021 and 2009: Many of the world's top economic officials this time around are women.

The big picture: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai are front and center on U.S. efforts, Reuters reports.

Apr 7, 2021 - World

Jordan's king breaks silence, says family rift “nipped in the bud"

King Abdullah II of Jordan gives a joint press conference with the German Chancellor (not in picture) following talks on economic issues and the bilateral relationship of their two countries on September 17, 2019. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / Getty Images

Jordan's King Abdullah II said Wednesday that the attempted "sedition" involving his half-brother had caused him "pain and anger" but has now been quashed, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: His first public statements on the rift inside the royal family, which began last Saturday with several arrests and allegations of a coup plot, seem designed to assure Jordanians that he is firmly in control.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Apr 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Pence signs two-book deal in 2024 ramp-up

Mike Pence departs the Biden inauguration. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former Vice President Mike Pence has signed a two-book deal, with a significant advance, as part of a strategy to be vocal and visible ahead of a possible 2024 presidential race, Axios has learned.

Details: Both books will be published by Simon & Schuster, and are expected to be out within the next few years. Both will emphasize his Christian faith and public service.

DA will not prosecute Georgia lawmaker arrested as Kemp signed voting law

Photo: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

Fulton County's district attorney said she will not prosecute the Georgia lawmaker who was arrested last month when she repeatedly knocked on the door to Gov. Brian Kemp's (R) office after he signed a GOP-sponsored law that would curb voting access in the state, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Flashback: State Rep. Park Cannon (D) was charged with two felonies after she knocked on Kemp's door as he celebrated the law's passage. Footage shows state patrol officers handcuffing the lawmaker and pulling her away from the scene.

Biden has yet to reunite any migrant families separated under Trump

Photo: Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

Not one of the hundreds of migrant families separated from President Trump's zero-tolerance policy has been reunited under President Biden thus far, senior Department of Homeland Security officials confirmed on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Reuniting migrant families was one of Biden's clearest immigration-related promises.

Treasury details Biden's plan to raise $2 trillion through corporate tax hikes

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Treasury Department released details on Wednesday of President Biden's plan to hike corporate taxes over the next 15 years to raise about $2 trillion for his sweeping jobs and infrastructure proposal.

Why it matters: The plan will likely serve as a roadmap as Democrats in Congress craft legislation to enact Biden's $1.9 trillion American Jobs Plan, which seeks to fulfill a range of campaign promises to fix the country’s crumbling infrastructure, slow the growing climate crisis and reduce economic inequality.

10 more House Democrats join suit against Trump and Giuliani for Capitol riots

Photo: Brent Stirton via Getty Images

Ten more members of Congress have signed onto the NAACP's lawsuit against former President Trump and Rudy Giuliani for allegedly conspiring with extremists to incite the Capitol insurrection.

Why it matters: The lawmakers, who were in the House gallery when pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol on Jan. 6, said in the complaint they feared for their lives. The lawsuit was first filed by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and the NAACP in February.

Gaetz to speak at pro-Trump women's conference amid sex trafficking probe

Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who is currently under federal investigation for possible sex trafficking, is set to speak at a conservative women's conference at former President Trump's Miami golf course on Friday.

What's happening: The Women for America First group will host Gaetz at Trump National Doral golf course, in addition to fellow Florida GOP Reps. Byron Donalds and Kat Cammack.

Stephen Breyer says packing Supreme Court could diminish public trust

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on Tuesday said efforts to expand the court's bench could damage public faith in the institution, stating that Americans rely on "a trust that the court is guided by legal principle, not politics," the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Former President Trump appointed three of the Court's nine justices — likely giving it a conservative bent for decades to come. Some Democrats have proposed expanding the court to balance the playing field.

Watchdog files complaint accusing Cruz of using campaign funds to promote book

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks to the media in Mission, Texas. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A campaign finance watchdog filed two ethics complaints on Wednesday accusing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) of "illegally using campaign funds to promote his book."

Why it matters: Using campaign funds to ask supporters to buy Cruz's book, as the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) alleges, would break the Federal Election Commission's rule barring candidates from using political contributions for personal gain.

Andrew Giuliani says he plans to run for New York governor

Andrew Giuliani in 2010. Photo: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Andrew Giuliani, a former Trump White House staffer and the son of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, told the Washington Examiner he plans to run for governor of New York in 2022.

Why it matters: Despite a flood of sexual misconduct allegations and a federal investigation into his handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is still expected to run for reelection next year. A Cuomo-Giuliani matchup would set up a clash between two of the most prominent political families in New York.

Stephen Miller launches legal group to block Biden agenda in court

Stephen Miller. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Trump White House senior adviser Stephen Miller has formed a new legal group to challenge the Biden administration's policies through lawsuits, Politico first reported.

Why it matters: Miller told the Wall Street Journal Wednesday that any Biden policy that the group, America First Legal, "believes to be illegal" would be "fair game" for litigation, setting up an expansive battlefield for trying to maintain Trump-era policies.

Treasury: Over 156 million stimulus payments sent out since March

Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Treasury has disbursed over 156 million direct payments worth approximately $372 billion since President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, the agency announced Wednesday.

What to watch: The fourth batch of relief checks — over 25 million payments worth more than $36 billion — is due to start appearing in bank accounts on Wednesday, according to the Treasury.

Dimon calls on companies to be policymakers

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. (Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is calling on companies to play a bigger role in the world’s problems, saying today in his annual shareholders letter that the business sector should be a “responsible community citizen."

Why it matters: Corporations are increasingly facing more pressure to take a stand on politically divisive issues.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Apr 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

2024 watch: Mike Pence's next move

Former Vice President Mike Pence today launches Advancing American Freedom, a policy and advocacy organization "to promote the pro-freedom policies of the last four years."

The big picture: After lying low since the inauguration 77 days ago, Pence said the 501(c)(4)'s goals include "promoting traditional conservative values and promoting the successful policies of the Trump administration."

Boehner book excerpt accuses Trump of inciting "bloody insurrection"

Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former House Speaker John Boehner continued his attacks on the modern Republican Party in a new book excerpt obtained the New York Times, accusing former President Trump of inciting "that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons."

Why it matters: Boehner joins Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and other current or former members of the GOP establishment who have directly accused the most popular Republican in the party of inciting the violence of Jan. 6.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Apr 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

America is losing its religion

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New surveys show Americans' membership in communities of worship has declined sharply in recent years, with less than 50% of the country belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque.

Why it matters: The accelerating trend towards a more secular America represents a fundamental change in the national character, one that will have major ramifications for politics and even social cohesion.

Cold snap caused most Texas outages during storm, grid operator says

The U.S. and Texas flags fly in front of high voltage transmission towers in Houston in February. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Weather-related problems were the leading cause of Texas power plants going offline during February's record cold snap that left millions of Texans in the dark, a preliminary report published Tuesday states.

Why it matters: These initial findings from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the flow of electric power in the state, indicate that many facilities were unable to cope with the extreme weather.

2 of Deshaun Watson's accusers go public with sexual misconduct claims

Deshaun Watson in action for the Houston Texans against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium in Houston in January. Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

A woman who went public Tuesday with sexual misconduct allegations against Deshaun Watson said she has filed a criminal complaint with police, the second known criminal complaint made against the Houston Texans quarterback.

Driving the news: Ashley Solis said at a news conference in Houston that she's a "survivor of assault and harassment" and "Watson is my assaulter and my harasser, he assaulted me at my home doing what I love most, massage therapy." Watson has denied any wrongdoing.