Biden welcomes Obama back to the White House
The president will propose a new rule to fix the “family glitch” and sign a new executive order. Plus: The Senate reaches an agreement on $10 billion in additional COVID funding.
President Joe Biden this afternoon will host former President Barack Obama at an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to announce new actions to bolster the Affordable Care Act — also known as “Obamacare” — the signature health care law the two men passed during their first administration in 2010.
Biden will propose a new rule to fix what’s known as the “family glitch,” which currently determines eligibility for a family’s ACA premium assistance on whether the available employer-sponsored insurance is affordable for the employee instead of for the entire family.
If the federal government adopts the new rule, family members of workers who are offered affordable individual coverage but unaffordable family coverage may qualify for premium tax credits to buy ACA coverage.
The White House said it would amount to the most significant administrative action to improve the implementation of the ACA since its enactment, providing relief for almost one million Americans and coverage for an estimated 200,000 uninsured people.
Biden will also sign an executive order to direct federal agencies to take additional actions to make health care more affordable.
The event marks the first time Obama returns to the White House since he left office in 2017. In addition to Biden and Obama speaking, Vice President Kamala Harris will also deliver remarks.
“[Today] is exactly the right time to have the former President come here, given this is one of the proudest accomplishments that they worked on together, they shared together,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday. “And this is an example of building on a success from more than 10 years ago and making it better over time.”
Health care reform was a centerpiece of Obama’s campaign for the presidency in 2007. At the time, an estimated 45 million people were uninsured.
House Democrats preferred more sweeping reforms than those in the Senate so Obama accepted a far less progressive bill than his administration and party would have preferred to secure votes from conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans. (Anyone feeling déjà vu?)
The ACA has proven to be durable in the face of repeated challenges from Republicans to overturn the law for reasons that are often hard to discern other than the fact its moniker includes the words “Obama.”
To date, the administration claims four out of five Americans can find quality coverage for under $10 a month and families are saving $200 every month on their annual premiums. 14.5 million Americans are enrolled in an ACA plan, including six million who newly gained coverage. And nearly 80 million children, pregnant women, seniors, people with disabilities, and other low-income Americans are covered by the ACA’s Medicaid expansion coverage.
“[The ACA] is emblematic of Biden and Obama’s shared view and belief that government can work for the American people,” Psaki said on Monday.
In other words, it’s been the “big fucking deal,” then-Vice President Biden said it would be more than a decade ago.
But a growing number of Democratic lawmakers and voters would prefer a universal Medicare For All health care system over the privatized status quo.
And while the Progressive Caucus — the almost-100-member group that represents the most left-leaning faction of the Democratic Party — supported fixing the family glitch in its agenda of policy recommendations it released last month, today’s actions fall short of the calls to lower the cost of prescription drugs, including EpiPens and HIV/AIDS treatments and reverse the Trump-era efforts to privatize Medicare. (The House last week passed a bill that would cap insulin prices at either $35 a month or 25% of an insurance plan's negotiated price — whichever is lower.)
Obama’s visit will also give Biden and him a chance to catch up over lunch this afternoon, as they used to do on a weekly basis.
“The are real friends, not just Washington friends and so I’m sure they will talk about events in the world as well as their families and personal lives,” Psaki said of the two leaders for whom she’s both worked. “It’s not a relationship of obligation. It’s one where they developed a deep and close friendship through the course of their time serving together — and that has continued.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer announced an agreement on $10 billion in COVID-19 preparedness to purchase vaccines and therapeutics, maintain access to testing and accelerate the work on next-generation vaccine research.
The legislation excludes $5 billion for global health funding that was dropped from the comprehensive government funding bill Congress passed last month.
“The international funding is something I feel is very important and will work to include in separate legislation,” Schumer said in a statement. “We are all more vulnerable to a major breakthrough variant if we do not support the numerous other countries with lower vaccination rates and fewer resources than the United States.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that the agreement should be passed ASAP and would be immediately considered by the House it clears the Senate.
The final total price tag falls far short of the $22.5 billion the White House had originally requested. But Schumer said President Biden supports the package and has asked the Senate and House to pass it so he can sign it into law.
Jen Psaki said the administration runs the risk of not having treatments and tests starting as early as next month.
“Every dollar we requested is essential and we will continue to work with Congress to get all of the funding we need,” she said. “But time is of the essence.”
Schumer added that many Democrats and Republicans are open to negotiating a second round of funding later this spring. The Senate could also work on a package with more aid for Ukraine and funding to address food insecurity globally.
Pelosi also indicated House Democrats would also work to secure additional funding in future legislation.
“While this agreement represents a strong step that we must enact now, we will continue working to do more to give the administration the resources it needs to keep our families healthy and our communities safe.”
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Today in Politics
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing with Vice President Harris before they speak at the Affordable Care Act event later today. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and other cabinet members will attend.
The House is in and will consider several homeland security and transportation related-bills as well as a resolution reaffirming its support for NATO.
The Senate is in and will continue consideration of President Biden’s executive and judicial nominations.
In the Know
President Biden doubled down on his claim that President Vladimir Putin of Russia is a war criminal. “This guy is brutal,” Biden said on Monday. “And what’s happening in [the Ukrainian city of] Bucha is outrageous and everyone’s seen it.”
The US will push to remove Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The move is in response to Ukraine’s accusation that invading troops massacred civilians in the town of Bucha. (Morgan Chalfant / The Hill)
The US government on Monday seized a 254-foot yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch with close ties to Putin. It was the first seizure by the Biden administration under sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Francisco Ubilla, Aritz Parra and Michael Balsamo / AP News)
The Senate voted to discharge the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court out of the Judiciary Committee. The committee deadlocked in a split party-line vote so an extra vote among the full Senate was required. Senate Democrats will now move to set up a final confirmation vote by the end of the week. (@JudiciaryDems / Twitter)
Related: Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah will support Jackson’s nomination. The two moderates joined Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to all but guarantee Jackson’s confirmation. (Jordain Carney / The Hill)
The White House announced more than 59 million Medicare recipients will now have access to up to eight over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per month. Medicare recipients can already receive free lab-based PCR tests and antigen tests performed by a laboratory when the test is ordered by a physician, non-physician practitioner, pharmacist, or other authorized health care professional.
A suspect was arrested in the Sacramento shooting that left six dead and 12 wounded this past weekend. He was booked on assault and illegal firearm possession charges. (Antonio Planas and Elisha Fieldstadt / NBC News)
Vice President Harris announced an action plan to upgrade public schools with clean-energy solutions, including energy-efficient retrofits, electric school buses, and resilient design. The administration said the plan will save schools and taxpayers money, as public K-12 districts spend roughly $8 billion a year on energy bills — the second-largest expense after teacher salaries.
Related: The Energy Department will administer a $500-million grant program for K-12 public school energy updates. The funds will create cleaner and healthier classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, playgrounds, and gyms where over three million teachers teach and 50 million students spend most of their days.
Democratic Reps. Katie Porter of California, Joe Courtney of Connecticut and Suzanne Bonamici reintroduced legislation to improve support to students experiencing mental health challenges. The bill, titled “The Student Mental Health Rights Act,” would require the Education and Justice Departments to study student mental health and campus policies and issue guidance on how colleges and universities can better comply with federal mental health laws.
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that limiting global warming will be beyond reach without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors. The silver lining: The panel says we have options in all sectors to at least halve emissions by 2030.
Related: Sunrise Movement, a climate advocacy group, used the report to renew its call for a Green New Deal. “This report, and the lobbying by fossil fuels and petrostates to weaken its findings, are a stark reminder of why we must end our dependence on fossil fuels and begin a just transition to a renewable energy economy — one that supports workers over corporations, democracy and the futures of our communities,” Executive Director Varshini Prakash said in a statement.
Food insecurity in households with children declined as school districts implemented programs to offset the loss of school meals due to pandemic-related school closures. Among households with children facing economic insecurity food insecurity fell by about 7 percentage points between the start of the pandemic and the summer of 2021 when the most recent Agriculture Department policy changes were implemented.
The State Department announced a new paid student internship program beginning with the Fall 2022 internship season. The internships are designed to offer experience and insight into the variety of careers available in US international policy and diplomacy programs.
Related: The State Department also announced a new bureau for cyberspace and digital policy. It will include three units — international cyberspace security, international information and communications policy, and digital freedom — and be led by a Senate-confirmed ambassador-at-large.
Road rage violence increased and became more deadly during the pandemic. 62 percent of road rage incidents involving a gun led to an injury or death in 2021, according to data from the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, representing by far the worst year since Everytown began tracking road rage statistics. (Graham Kates / CBS News)
Read All About It
Churches across the state have been engaging in a variety of activities to attempt to make amends for this past: putting up plaques acknowledging that their wealth was created by enslaved labor, staging plays about the role their congregation had in the slave trade, and committing parts of their endowments to reparations funds.
This comes more than a decade after a 2006 resolution by the General Convention in which the national leadership of the Episcopal Church — which is 90 percent white — called on churches to study how they benefited from slavery. Since then, Episcopal dioceses in Georgia, Texas, Maryland and Virginia have begun similar programs.
Other predominantly white denominations, including the Presbyterian Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, also passed resolutions (in 2004 and 2019, respectively) to study the denominations’ role in slavery and have begun the process of determining how to make reparations.
Derek Thompson on the rise of the 9 p.m. work hour:
People might be working longer hours for several reasons. At home, work is especially leaky: Leisure bleeds into labor (reading TMZ during a Zoom meeting) and work seeps into leisure (answering emails at the dinner table).
Home and work used to have stronger geographical and technological boundaries: We left our house, drove to an office or factory, and then returned home, leaving the tools of work behind. Today, most knowledge work is basically just communication, which makes it indistinguishable from a lot of leisure. Chat with a colleague, or a friend; call a client, or a sibling: The biggest difference between these activities is the person on the other end of the horn. As work becomes more like life, it also becomes more of life.
Something else is pushing work into our evenings: White-collar work has become a bonanza of meetings. In the first months of the pandemic, Microsoft saw online meetings soar as offices shut down. By the end of 2020, the number of meetings had doubled. In 2021, it just kept growing. This year it’s hit an all-time high.
Francesca Fontana on why more young adults are buying life insurance:
More younger adults have been looking for life insurance since the pandemic began. Applications for life-insurance policies jumped 3.9% year-over-year in 2020 in the U.S., according to MIB Group’s Life Index—the biggest annual increase in records going back to 2012. Applications were up nearly 8% in 2020 among people under age 45. In 2021, applications rose 3.4%, with the most growth coming from those ages 31 to 50.
One source of the increased interest in life insurance was people whose jobs exposed them to Covid-19 before vaccines became available—service workers, first responders, teachers, healthcare workers—says Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO and co-founder of Policygenius, an online insurance broker. But the effects of the pandemic made many people of all kinds consider their mortality and re-evaluate their finances.
Dave Jamieson on how Amazon workers beat the union-busters at their own game:
They created flyers identifying the most prolific union busters in the warehouse, listing where they’re based (typically far away), and how much money they had earned on union-busting campaigns. They would put stacks of the flyers in break rooms throughout the facility so everyone would see them and know how much Amazon was spending to fly anti-union consultants in from around the country.
The consultants sometimes concealed the names on their visitor badges, so [Connor Spence, a tier 1 associate at the Staten Island warehouse] urged union supporters to try to figure them out through chit-chat. When one consultant named David refused to divulge his last name, Spence found it on a warehouse list of third-party vendors: David Acosta.
“We turned the internal systems against them in ways even some managers wouldn’t know how to do,” Spence said.
Timothy Noah on when homes make more money than their owners do:
This is an appalling development. Inanimate objects should not bring home bigger paychecks than human beings. Home prices surged last year, but this displacement coincided with a labor shortage; had labor been more plentiful in 2021, houses would have outearned people by even more. Lest you think this some fluky statistic warped by grotesque housing prices in San Francisco and New York City, houses outearned humans in no fewer than 25 of the 38 major metropolitan areas Zillow surveyed. It happened in Nashville. It happened in Albuquerque. It happened in San Antonio.
Margaret Renkl on Gen Z and email:
All they have known is what email has devolved into: reply-all responses to bulk messages, shipping notifications, fund-raising pleas, systemwide reminders and, of course, spam. Email is now just a way to be at the beck and call of anyone, and any robot, with an internet connection.
True, the real problem is the other notifications, all more urgent than anything that arrives in an inbox. Our phones vibrate incessantly with alerts that make us feel bad in a dozen different ways. The planet is on fire. Nuclear war may be imminent. A calamity that happened to someone we don’t know feels personal because it is happening in real time. All day long, tragedy after distant tragedy arrives to break our hearts. The whole world is right there, buzzing in our pockets.
Of all the available online depressants, email is the easiest to ignore, but digital natives never paid attention in the first place. For them, email isn’t annoying. It simply doesn’t exist.
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