It’s almost Friday! Here’s what’s happening as we await tonight’s final planned hearing of the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection. We'll be back in your inbox on Monday, so have a good weekend!
Biden Tests Positive for Covid: 3 Takeaways
The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden had tested positive for the coronavirus and was experiencing "very mild symptoms."
The White House said Biden had begun taking Paxlovid, the antiviral Covid treatment, and will isolate, canceling a planned Thursday trip to Pennsylvania. In a video posted to Twitter Thursday afternoon Biden said he is doing well and getting a lot of work done. "Keep the faith. It’s going to be okay," he said.
A reminder that the virus is still spreading: "The virus is still infecting almost 1 million people a day worldwide, without accounting for people who are infected and never tested," Bloomberg News reports. "Infections have been on the rise in the US because of more transmissible omicron subvariants like BA.4 and BA.5."
An indication of how far we’ve come: When former President Donald Trump got Covid nearly two years ago "it was the dominant news story for days, with the presidential election just a month away," The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach and Lenny Bernstein write. "Biden’s illness, though a thunderclap of news amid the swelter of summertime Washington, seems less likely to rattle the political world for the simple reason that the virus has become less deadly."
Vaccines and treatments have made the difference, and the strains of the virus that are dominant today, while far more transmissible, may be less virulent. White House Covid response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said that Biden’s risk of serious illness is "dramatically lower" because he’s fully vaccinated and has received two boosters.
Fueling a push for vaccinations and boosters: White House officials sought to use the news to impress upon Americans the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted. "It’s a reminder of the reason that we all work so hard to make sure every American has the same level of protection the president has, that every American has the same level of immunity the president has," Jha said.
Tweet of the Day
From HuffPost political reporter Igor Bobic:
Semiconductor Bill Will Add $79 Billion to the Deficit: CBO
A bipartisan bill that proposes to spend upwards of $250 billion on domestic semiconductor production and development would increase the federal budget deficit by $79 billion over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday.
The bill would reduce tax revenue by $24 billion over a decade, CBO said, while increasing spending by $55 billion. The revenue loss would be driven by a 25% tax credit for semiconductor manufacturing.
The CBO score of the bill comes as no surprise and probably won’t harm the bill’s chances of passing. A final vote in the Senate is expected to occur next week, followed by a vote in the House, where the bill has the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Although the bill looks like it will pass, some fiscally conservative groups remain opposed, in large part due to its effect on the deficit. "There are plenty of options to offset the costs, and doing so would improve the fiscal, inflationary and competitiveness effects" of the bill, Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said in a statement. "But we can’t compete with China by going further into debt with them."
Biden’s $37 Billion Plan to Fight Crime
In his 2023 budget request, President Biden proposes to spend $37 billion on a number of crime-fighting efforts, and on Thursday the White House released new details on what exactly the president wants to do.
According to an outline released by the administration, Biden’s "Safer America Plan" would boost police forces, provide new resources for court systems and community services, and fund anti-violence programs around the country.
Specifically, the plan calls for spending nearly $13 billion over five years to hire and train an additional 100,000 police officers. The funding would also provide about $3 billion to help communities clear case backlogs in their justice systems, with a special emphasis on solving murders and cracking down on gun violence.
Biden also proposes to fund an array of community services through a new 10-year, $15 billion grant program called Accelerating Justice System Reform. The White House says spending more on "mental health and substance use disorder services; crisis responders, violence interrupters, and social workers" will help ease the burden on police and allow them to focus on violent crime. The grants will allow cities and states to develop strategies to reduce violence at the community level, and provides an additional $5 billion to evaluate the effectiveness of different violence-reduction programs.
Yes, but: It’s not clear that any of these proposals will actually happen. "Biden's request is aspirational -- it's for fiscal year 2023, which for the U.S. government begins this October, and it needs to be approved by Congress," say Ben Gittleson, Mason Leib and Morgan Winsor of ABC News. "Presidential administrations past and present often make large, ambitious budget requests as a messaging tool, only to see them not come to fruition or to be whittled down."
A $473 Million Government Software Error
A Treasury Department software flaw resulted in nearly $473 million in uncollected debts owed to dozens of federal agencies, according to an audit released this week by the department's Office of Inspector General.
The defective software was uncovered as the result of an anonymous whistleblower complaint nearly three years ago by an employee at the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The whistleblower told the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) about unpaid fines owed by companies flagged for workplace safety violations.
In its initial investigation, the Treasury Department found that nearly 11,000 debts owed to OSHA had not been collected due to the software issue. Those debts totaled $91.5 million. The audit that followed found the problem to be much larger, spanning some 28 agencies and hundreds of millions of dollars more owed to the government.
"It is certainly gross mismanagement," Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner told The Washington Post. "Although they were aware of the software problem, neither Treasury nor OSHA officials took prompt action to correct it, prompting the whistleblower to come to OSC."
The Treasury Department says that the software error has been corrected. But as of late June, only about $10 million of the money owed to OSHA and $3 million of the $376 million owed to other agencies had been recovered. Treasury also agreed to take other corrective actions and pursue the outstanding debts, the Office of Special Counsel said.
The Post’s Joe Davidson reports that the whistleblower who helped reveal that nearly a half-billion dollars in debts to the government had gone uncollected received only a plaque.
- Biden Contracts Covid as Pandemic Shows Its Staying Power – Bloomberg
- COVID Cases Are Skyrocketing Again. States Have No New Plans – Politico
- Biden World Not Looking to Change Things Up After Covid Infection – Politico
- Bill Aimed at Lowering Medicare Drug Prices Faces Next Test in the Senate – CNN
- Reconciliation Bill Lacks Language Addressing Insulin – American Prospect
- How ‘Build Back Better’ Started, and How It’s Going: a Timeline – Roll Call
- A Recession Alarm Is Ringing on Wall Street – New York Times
- Nurse Burnout Reaches New High as Latest Omicron Variant Surges – Bloomberg
- Jobless Claims Rise Again in Another Sign That Labor Market Is Cooling – CNBC
- ‘The US Is Not Prepared’: Hot Temperatures Stress Transit Systems – Bloomberg
- Amazon to Buy One Medical for $3.9 Billion in Health Care Push – Washington Post
Views and Analysis
- Good-Bye to Biden’s Social-Policy Agenda – Jonathan Chait, New York
- I Was Wrong About Inflation – Paul Krugman, New York Times
- I Was Wrong About Capitalism – David Brooks, New York Times
- Biden’s Covid Diagnosis Is a Wake-Up Call for America – Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg
- No, Biden Shouldn’t Declare a National Emergency on Climate – Henry Olsen, Washington Post
- Declaring a Climate Emergency Is a Step Toward Constitutional Breakdown – Rich Lowry, Politico
- Why Progressive Democrats Are Losing Ground – Perry Bacon Jr., Washington Post
- Can CHIPS+ Cure America’s Economic Cynicism? – Karen Kornbluh, The Hill
- The US Has Lost Its Way on Computer Chips – Ian King, Bloomberg Businessweek
- Biden’s Diagnosis Is a Reminder: We Must Still Make Things Better – Paul Waldman, Washington Post
- Biden’s Covid Diagnosis Shows the Benefits of Avoiding Infection – Philip Bump, Washington Post
- Biden’s Covid Diagnosis Is a Teaching Moment for the Country – Leana S. Wen, Washington Post
- Covid Supply Chain Chaos Is Just a Dress Rehearsal for What’s Next – Stephanie Flanders and Michael Sasso, Bloomberg