Tuesday's politics & policy stories

Aug 31, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump national security adviser briefs House GOP on Afghanistan

Former national security adviser Robert O'Brien. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former Trump national security adviser Robert O'Brien spoke for over an hour with House Republicans on Tuesday, helping them develop their latest policy offensive on Afghanistan, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: O'Brien has increasingly been working with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to help House Republicans in their effort to regain the majority in 2022.

Aug 31, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House Republicans target Dems on Taliban recognition

Rep. Jim Banks. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The largest block of House Republicans will try to use the annual markup of the federal defense spending bill starting Wednesday to message against any recognition of the Taliban's legitimacy, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: All of their proposed amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act are expected to fail, but it's part of a broader GOP messaging offensive to attack the Biden administration and Democrats over the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Republican members and aides tell Axios.

Social security funds could deplete earlier than expected due to pandemic

People line up outside of the Social Security Administration office in San Francisco. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Social security funds that many Americans rely on for their retirement benefits will be depleted sooner than expected as a result of the pandemic, according to a report published Tuesday by the Treasury Department.

Why it matters: Concerns about social security funding are not new, but the coronavirus pandemic seems to have taken another toll on Americans' finances.

White House: U.S. doesn't see terror threat to homeland from groups in Afghanistan

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing Tuesday that the U.S. does not believe any terrorist group in Afghanistan has the capability to attack the homeland.

Why it matters: President Biden earlier Tuesday defended his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, despite worries that the country could become a hotbed for terrorism.

Aug 31, 2021 - Health

FDA's top vaccine leaders are leaving

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Two of the FDA's top vaccine regulators, Marion Gruber and Phil Krause, are leaving the agency, which was first reported by BioCentury.

Why it matters: The FDA appears to be increasingly rudderless at a crucial time in the pandemic. The agency still has no permanent commissioner and now is losing two highly regarded vaccine experts all while officials weigh full approval of the COVID-19 vaccines for adults, initial authorization for kids, and booster shots for many.

Senate passes bill to expand assistance for Americans returning from Afghanistan

A U.S. Air Force aircraft takes off from the airport in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Aamir Qureshi /AFP via Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that will increase funding available to provide temporary assistance to Americans returning from Afghanistan.

Why it matters: The bill — approved by the House last month — will allocate up to $10 million for fiscal years 2021 and 2022 to provide emergency repatriation assistance to individuals coming from Afghanistan, CNN reports.

15 people charged over alleged fake COVID-19 vaccine card conspiracy in New York

CDC vaccination cards. Photo: Micah Green/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. on Tuesday filed charges against 15 individuals who were allegedly involved in a fake COVID-19 vaccination card conspiracy, the New York County district attorney's office announced.

Driving the news: Jasmine Clifford, 31, who allegedly sold nearly 250 forged COVID-19 vaccination cards over Instagram, was charged with offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, conspiracy in the fifth degree and criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree.

Corporations prepare to lobby against Biden's $3.5 trillion plan

President Biden speaks about his economic plan in February as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen listens. Photo: Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Political groups representing some of the biggest corporations in America — including Disney, Pfizer and ExxonMobil — are preparing a massive lobbying campaign against key pieces of President Biden's economic agenda, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The lobbying blitz could make passing the $3.5 trillion plan — Biden's signature domestic legislation — even more difficult. It already faces an uphill battle in the Senate where Democrats hold a slim majority and cannot lose a single vote.

Virginia governor pardons seven Black men executed in 1951

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaks during an event in Alexandria, Va., on May 28. Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Tuesday posthumously pardoned seven Black men who were executed in 1951 after being tried and convicted by all-white juries for the rape of a white woman.

Why it matters: The pardons seek to address the racial inequities in the use of the death penalty, which has been disproportionately applied to Black people, specifically in the first half of the 20th century, AP reports.

Aug 31, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump wants equity in Jason Miller's social media app

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former President Trump wanted equity in Gettr, the new social media app launched by former Trump aide Jason Miller, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: The former president has yet to join the app, although sources say that conversations about his participation are ongoing. Discussions about equity are likely part of those conversations, and everything is a negotiation point.

Pentagon: Military equipment left at Kabul airport is "unusable"

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby responded Tuesday to a viral video of Taliban fighters inspecting U.S. military equipment inside an evacuated hangar at Kabul's airport, telling CNN that the gear has been "demilitarized" and rendered "unusable."

Why it matters: The Biden administration has faced intense criticism over images of the Taliban seizing billions of dollars worth of U.S. military equipment supplied to the Afghan security forces, which collapsed as the U.S. withdrew from the country.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 31, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Biden is caught between political worlds on climate change

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

These two things both happened Monday: The Health and Human Services Department unveiled its climate office, and the White House promoted efforts to keep gasoline prices in check.

Why it matters: The two moves show how the White House is now operating simultaneously in the old and new world of energy and climate policy.

Aug 31, 2021 - Economy & Business

Why Afghanistan fell off of the media's radar

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Data: Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

The debate over the media's role in Afghanistan's fall is intensifying, as experts look to understand how Americans were so blindsided by the Taliban's rapid rise to power.

Why it matters: "This is the least reported war since at least WWI," says Benjamin Hopkins, a historian of modern South Asia specializing in the history of Afghanistan at George Washington University.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Aug 31, 2021 - Economy & Business

The return of evictions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nearly all American renters can now be evicted, for the first time since March 2020 — and a white-hot housing market is making eviction much more attractive for landlords.

Why it matters: There's an enormous pool of federal money available to protect renters who have fallen behind. But it's not going to stop hundreds of thousands of households from being evicted.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Aug 31, 2021 - World

Last soldier out

How it ended: This image, made through a night-vision scope, shows the final American soldier to depart Afghanistan after America's longest war.

Driving the news: Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who was coordinating the evacuation, boarded a C-17 cargo plane that lifted off from Kabul at 3:29 p.m. ET on Monday.

Aug 31, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Conservative trust in media has cratered

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Star Tribune via Getty Images

The percentage of Republicans who say they trust national news organizations has been cut in half over the past five years, according to a new study from Pew Research Center.

Why it matters: The party's trust in media starting dropping when President Trump took office, but has plummeted much more dramatically in the Biden era.

Axios-Ipsos poll: Vaccine hesitancy may be crumbling

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Data: Axios/Ipsos Poll; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. is showing signs of crumbling, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

  • Fewer adults than ever now say they won't take the shot, and in the past two weeks there has been a sharp increase in the share of parents who plan to get their younger kids vaccinated as soon as it's allowed.

Florida withholds funds from 2 school districts over mask mandates

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida's Department of Education announced Monday it has withheld funds from two districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' order banning mask mandates in schools.

Driving the news: Amid a surge of COVID-19 cases largely driven by the Delta variant, several Florida school districts have implemented mask mandates, despite threats from the Republican governor and state officials to withhold funds for doing so.

Federal judge strikes down Trump-era rule reducing waterways protections

The Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida. Photo: Bruce Bennett via Getty Images

A federal judge on Monday tossed out a Trump administration rule that rolled back protections for streams, marshes and wetlands across the U.S.

Why it matters: Environmental and tribal groups have pushed the court to vacate the rule, which the Biden administration has kept in place while coming up with its own protections policy. The new ruling will expand protections for drinking water supplies for millions of Americans and thousands of wildlife species, per the Washington Post.