In a new letter to Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer said they must try again to advance a sweeping voting protections in the Freedom to Vote Act. The law is a reaction to Republican states, which had advanced voting restrictions on the back of falsehoods about voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Here’s more from the AP:
If the Republican senators have ideas “on how to improve the legislation, we are prepared to hear them, debate them, and if they are in line with the goals of the legislation, include them in the bill,” Schumer said.
He challenged Republicans not to oppose the measure, blocking it with a filibuster, and “at the very least, vote to open debate.”
A test vote is expected next Wednesday.
Prospects appear dim for the Freedom to Vote Act, a revised effort by Democrats to advance one of their signature legislative efforts this year — protecting and enhancing the nation’s patchwork of state-run election systems. The push for an overhaul comes as Texas and other states are putting in place new voting laws that critics argue are a return to Jim Crow-style restrictions making it difficult to cast ballots, especially in Black and minority communities.
A key Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has led the effort to revise an earlier version of the bill that ran into stiff GOP opposition. He, too, had concerns with its scope. But it is doubtful Manchin’s effort on the now-scaled back bill will win over many Republican supporters.
In the evenly-split 50-50 Senate, Democrats hold only the most slim of majorities. Support from Republicans is needed to reach the 60-vote threshold to advance the bill past the opposition.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has decried the entire effort as a federal takeover of state-run election systems.
A presidential commission to examine whether to add more seats or impose term limits on the nine-justice supreme court is expected to release an early draft report today. President Biden setup the commission in April.
Calls to add members to the court came after Donald Trump was able to confirm three new conservative justices to the court, effectively creating a 6-3 conservative super majority. One seat filled by Trump was a seat left empty during the Obama administration, which the former president was unable to fill because Senate Republicans would not consider Obama’s nomination.
Here’s more on the importance of the court from Reuters, which begins considering major cases this fall:
The Supreme Court during its current term is considering major cases in which its conservative majority could restrict abortion rights and widen gun rights, alarming liberals.
Republicans have opposed the idea of expanding the number of justices, which they call “court packing.” Democrats have said the current makeup of the court no longer represents the will of the U.S. electorate.
The last time court expansion was seriously pursued was in the 1930s by Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt after a conservative court impeded his policies aimed at lifting America out of the Great Depression.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily briefing that the commission will release draft materials on Thursday ahead of a public meeting on Friday, with an eye toward submitting its final report next month.
“They will then form their final report and submit it to the President in mid-November,” Psaki added. “These have not been submitted to the White House for edits or feedback… we’re not going to comment on it – or the President wouldn’t comment on it – until a report is final and he has the chance to review it.”
Covid-19 vaccine doses, boosters or otherwise, are free to the American public because the taxpayers, through the federal government, purchased doses from manufacturers in emergency contracts early in the pandemic.
Similarly, Merck wants to sell its new anti-viral drug which combats Covid-19 to the US government, but at an extraordinary mark-up. The development of the drug was subsidized by taxpayers, and costs $17.74 to produce. Merck wants to charge the US government $712 for the medicine.
This is a common pattern, as The Guardina’s David Sirota writes today.
A study from the National Academy of Sciences tells that story: the federal government spent $100b to subsidize the research on every single one of the 200-plus drugs approved for sale in the United States between 2010 and 2016.
What’s more, Sirota writes, “a new Public Citizen analysis shows that the 20 top-selling medicines generated almost twice as much pharmaceutical industry revenue in the United States as in every other country combined.”
The drugmaker applied this week to the FDA for emergency use authorization, which would likely precede the longer process of seeking full approval for the drug.
Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon is scheduled to appear before the House committee investigating the 6 January riot at the Capitol today. However, his attorney has already said he will not comply, citing executive privilege.
Now, the question is whether the House committee will refer Bannon to the Department of Justice for potential criminal contempt charges related to his refusal to appear.
Also notable, is Bannon has made high-profile public appearances, even as he refuses to appear before the committee. He hosted a rally where former President Trump called in to praise Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and repeat falsehoods about the 2020 election. Youngkin was not present.
“We’re gonna build the wall. We’re going to confront China,” Bannon said to cheers, the Washington Post reported. “We’re putting together a coalition that’s gonna govern for 100 years.”
The event began with the Pledge of Allegiance to a flag present at the Capitol Riot on 6 January, which one speaker called, “the peaceful rally with Donald J Trump”.
Notably, even though Moderna asked the panel to consider whether to give a “booster”, (or third dose) to people aged 18 and older, the panel posted a question considering whether to give it to people aged 65 and older.
That echoes the recommendation the panel gave for Pfizer booster shots. While the panel was initially asked to consider boosters for the general public, and the administration pushed for the same, experts ultimately recommended boosters for a much smaller population of older Americans and people at risk of severe Covid-19.
Independent advisors to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will also consider whether to recommend a “booster”, or third dose, of the Moderna vaccine for people aged 18 and older. On Friday, they will consider whether to recommend a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Experts with the Vaccines and Related Biological Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will consider whether the booster doses are safe and effective at least six months after people completed their first series of two shots. Moderna asked experts to consider giving people a half-dose of their vaccine, in hopes it will trigger fewer side effects than the first series of doses people received.
Covid-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death. The hope is that a third dose, or booster, would even further protect people from Covid-19, as some experts have argued early evidence shows protection from mild to moderate illness wanes.
Notably, there is scientific debate about whether waning immunity to mild and moderate disease will necessarily equate to less protection from hospitalization and death.
Further, the World Health Organization (WHO) has asked wealthy countries to hold off on boosters for one years, until more people globally can get initial doses. Globally, demand far outstrips supply. Africa is the least vaccinated continent, with just 7.3% of the population having received at least one dose.
Good morning and welcome to the Guardian US politics liveblog…
Today we’re watching the House committee investigating the 6 January Capitol attack, where lawmakers have subpoenaed former advisors to the Trump administration.
Legislators are eyeing whether former Trump administration adviser Steve Bannon will continue his game of chicken with lawmakers, a game that could eventually lead to criminal contempt charges if he continues to refuse to testify before the committee and supply them with documents.