Joe Biden plans to reopen the Obamacare insurance marketplace, Healthcare.gov, to help with the pandemic. But to finally institute a public option, he’ll need support from Congress.
Meanwhile, the acting chief of the Capitol Police admits to a massive screw-up that allowed a mob to take control of the halls of Congress earlier this month. The threat hasn’t yet passed.
And lastly, state and local officials are pressuring the new administration to make a serious commitment to fighting climate change and mass extinction. Will Biden keep his campaign promise?
THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:
On healthcare, the new White House is aiming for the bronze. The Washington Post reports that President Biden will take executive actions as early as Thursday to reopen federal marketplaces selling Affordable Care Act health plans and to lower recent barriers to joining Medicaid. The orders will be Biden’s first steps since taking office to help Americans gain health insurance, a goal that has taken on added significance as the pandemic has deprived millions of Americans coverage as they have lost jobs in the economic fallout.
Under one order, the Post reports, the online insurance marketplace HealthCare.gov will swiftly reopen for at least a few months. Ordinarily, signing up for coverage there is tightly restricted outside a six-week period late each year. Another part of Biden’s scheduled actions, the individuals said, is intended to reverse Trump-era changes to Medicaid that damaged Americans’ access to the safety-net insurance. The most ambitious parts of Biden’s campaign health-care platform would require Congress to provide consent and money. Those include creating a government insurance option alongside the ACA health plans sold by private insurers. They also include helping poor residents afford ACA coverage if they live in about a dozen states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs.
Federal rules already allow people to qualify for a special enrollment period to buy ACA health plans if their circumstances change in important ways, according to the Post. That includes losing a job. But such exceptions require people to seek permission individually, and many are unaware they can do so. Trump health officials also tightened the rules for qualifying for special enrollment. In contrast, Biden is expected to open enrollment without anyone needing to seek permission. It’s a long way from Medicare for All, but it’s better than nothing.
Capitol Police Chief Apologizes
The search for answers and accountability continues. The acting chief of the Capitol Police apologized to Congress yesterday for the agency’s massive security failures on January 6th, the New York Times reports. She acknowledged during a closed-door briefing that the department knew there was a strong potential for violence, but failed to take adequate steps to prevent what she described as a terrorist attack. Yogananda Pittman, the acting chief of police, also confirmed that the Capitol Police Board, an obscure panel made up of three voting members, had initially declined a request two days earlier for National Guard troops. The board then delayed for more than an hour as the violence unfolded on January 6th before finally agreeing to a plea from the Capitol Police for National Guard troops. Chief Pittman was not the acting chief at the time of the siege. Her predecessor, Steven Sund, resigned after the riot.
Chief Pittman said that her department knew January 6th would be unlike previous protests, according to the Times. She said her department knew that militia groups and white supremacists would descend on Washington. She said they knew some participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons. She added QUOTE We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target. The department prepared in order to meet these challenges, but we did not do enough ENDQUOTE.
Separately, the deployment for the entire Washington, DC National Guard has been extended until March 31st in anticipation of civil disturbance, according to Politico. The timeframe coincides with Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. And his supporters are still issuing threats to lawmakers. What did you expect? They aren’t the type to send flowers.
Officials Demand Climate Action
What about climate action? Hundreds of state and local elected officials are calling on President Biden to lead a speedy, aggressive national effort to combat the climate and extinction crises, HuffPost reports. They want him to protect thirty percent of America’s lands and thirty percent of its waters by 2030. An open letter to the administration from four hundred and fifty officials representing forty-three states comes as Biden’s team works to dismantle Donald Trump’s legacy of rolling back environmental regulations and weakening protections for federal lands and wildlife. Biden also made a campaign promise to establish the thirty percent by 2030 target, which is in line with the United Nations’ plan for protecting biodiversity. The president is expected to issue an executive order on it any day now.
According to HuffPost, the letter, organized by the left-leaning League of Conservation Voters, includes six specific actions that the signatories say should accompany the Thirty by Thirty goal. They include upholding Native American tribal sovereignty and supporting local and private landowner conservation efforts.
New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Biden’s pick to lead the Interior Department, last year led a coalition to set Thirty by Thirty as a national goal, HuffPost reports. At the time, she noted how the the loss of nature – accelerated by climate change – is putting up to one million species on the path to extinction. The Thirty by Thirty initiative has gained momentum at the local level. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order in October making his state the first to pledge to the goal. Lawmakers in other states, including New York and South Carolina, have introduced legislation to establish similar goals. Let’s make it national.
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
Antony Blinken was confirmed by the Senate as secretary of state yesterday. He is a longtime foreign policy aide to Joe Biden who got his start as a State Department employee. Also yesterday, Janet Yellen was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris as Treasury secretary. She is the first woman to hold the office.
Tens of thousands of farmers marched, rode horses and drove tractors into India’s capital yesterday, breaking through police barricades to storm the historic Red Fort, the Associated Press reports. Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons and set up barricades. But protesters, some carrying ceremonial swords, ropes and sticks, overwhelmed police. All this is bad news for the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and his corporate giveaway farm law.
President Biden yesterday ordered the Department of Justice to end its reliance on private prisons, the AP reports. It’s basically a reversion to Obama administration policy. However, the American Civil Liberties Union noted that the order does not end the government’s reliance on privately-run immigration detention centers. Come on, Joe – now’s not the time for half measures.
All but five Republican senators backed Donald Trump yesterday in a key test vote ahead of his forthcoming impeachment trial, the Washington Post reports. Trump’s trial is not scheduled to begin until February 9th, but senators were sworn in for the proceedings yesterday and immediately voted on an objection raised by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul questioning the constitutional basis for the proceedings. Because Trump’s defenders care so much about constitutional norms, right? Sure.
JAN 27, 2021 - AM QUICKIE
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Corey Pein
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn