The House convenes the first Medicare for All hearing of the current Congress
Members soon will take up weed reform and the costs of insulin too. Plus: Magazine workers organize a union and TikTok launches a new media library.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello. Good Tuesday afternoon. Lots of headlines from this morning’s news cycle, so I’m back with another update:
Russia committed to drastically reducing military activity near the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv and a port city in the northern part of the country Vladimir Putin invaded a month ago.
The move was made to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Miriam Berger, Adela Suliman and Mary Ilyushina at WaPo report.
The Post also reports that an adviser to Putin said the negotiations were constructive and that Russia is taking steps to de-escalate the conflict, a claim we’ve heard before and should be taken with a grain of salt. The adviser seemed to signal an openness to Putin and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine meeting in person if the two countries sign a peace agreement.
President Joe Biden convened a call with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy and Boris Johnson to discuss the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. The leaders spoke for 53 minutes but it’s unclear if they discussed the status of the peace negotiations.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized a second COVID-19 booster for people age 50 and older and certain immunocompromised individuals. The agency said new data suggests that an additional boost of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine improves protection against severe COVID-19 when taken at least four months after their previous booster. Read the FDA’s full announcement
— The Omicron BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19 is now the dominant strain in the US, representing an estimated 54.9 percent of all new infections last week, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported by Brenda Goodman at CNN.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said last week during a briefing with reporters that BA.2, which is more contagious but less severe than Omicron, was the cause 35 percent of all new cases.
The subvariant is spreading most in the Northeast, accounting for 70 percent of all new cases. BA.2 is responsible for more than a third of infections in the South and Mountain West, which are seeing the fewest cases in the US.
The House Oversight Committee is currently holding the first hearing of the current Congress on universal health care coverage.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus said that the hearing is the next step in building necessary momentum and education on the need for Medicare for All.
“Americans deserve a health care system that guarantees health and medical services to all,” Democratic Rep. Cori Bush said in a statement. “Congress must implement a system that prioritizes people over profits, humanity over greed, and compassion over exploitation.”
While the Biden administration has favored policies that improve the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, 55 percent of voters said they support Medicare for All, including almost eight in 10 Democrats, according to a Mar. 2021 Morning Consult poll. Seven in 10 voters endorse a public option that would allow people to buy health coverage either from a government-run program or from private insurers, up five points from 2020.
Supporters of a single-payer, government-administered program argue it would provide health care benefits for immigrants, equitable gender and LGBTQ+ inclusive coverage, lower costs for premiums and prescription drugs, and abortion and reproductive health coverage.
Critics characterize Medicare for All as a government takeover that would provide less choice and flexibility for Americans who receive private insurance through their employers.
“The path ahead is tough, but Medicare for All is necessary, popular, and most importantly will save thousands of lives,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement. “I’m going to continue fighting to make it the law of the land.”
— Rep. Angie Craig will introduce the Affordable Insulin Now Act, which will cap monthly costs for the drug at $35 per month, around a third of the current average cost of the drug.
The Biden administration included provisions to lower prescription drug prices in his Build Back Better agenda (remember that?!), which could have passed without Republican support in the Senate.
For Rep. Craig’s bill to make it to Biden’s desk, it will need at least 10 votes from Senate Republicans.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries confirmed the House will vote on a bill to decriminalize weed this week.
“Americans across the political spectrum, particularly younger Americans, recognize that now is the time for cannabis reform,” Jeffries said during his weekly press conference. “It will be good for public safety, good for racial, social and economic justice.”
The bill is titled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) (MORE Act) and it, in addition to decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, would allow people with cannabis-related convictions to have their records expunged and require federal courts to conduct re-sentencing hearings for those still under supervision for cannabis-related offenses.
The MORE Act would also remove weed from the Controlled Substances Act and empower states with the sole authority to determine cannabis policy. (Marijuana is currently in the same class as heroin and ecstasy.)
And as I wrote last summer, marijuana products would be taxed 5 percent to fund three grant programs to invest in communities affected by the country’s racist decades-long war on drugs, loans for small marijuana businesses and programs to minimize barriers to licensing.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker sent a letter to their colleagues earlier this year requesting ideas and feedback on its own legislation to decriminalize weed.
Meanwhile, Amazon announced last year that the company would no only test for marijuana for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation and would instead treat it the same as alcohol use. CEO Dave Clark called on Congress to pass the MORE Act.
President Biden currently opposes weed decriminalization.
Related: “We’re a less creative nation because we still stigmatize weed”
More than 350 employees signed a letter to managers at Condé Nast — the publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ and now-defunct Lucky (my former employer) — requesting the company voluntarily recognize their union, Elahe Izadi at WaPo reports.
The union would organize under the NewsGuild of New York and cover more than 500 editorial, production video workers across 11 publications. Organizers say nearly 80 percent of eligible workers have indicated support.
TikTok introduced TikTok Library, a new in-app tool for creators to integrate clips from their favorite shows, GIFs, memes and other entertainment content into their videos and start or participate in their own trends. The company said Library will be populated with exciting and entertaining content from GIPHY to start. Learn how to use the Library
President Biden this afternoon will sign into law the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. He and Vice President Kamala Harris will speak. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend.
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Errol Louis in conversation with Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on contemporary politics:
“I have the utmost respect and confidence in the president, but I just felt like we called two different plays on this one,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I think that there is a sense among more senior members of Congress, who have been around in different political times, that we can get back to this time of buddy-buddy and backslapping and we’ll cut a deal and go into a room with some bourbon and some smoke and you’ll come out and work something out. I think there’s a real nostalgia and belief that that time still exists or that we can get back to that.”
But those days, she says, have been over for a long time. And the fact that Biden and others don’t realize it, she says, could spell disaster in the fall’s elections. With Biden’s low approval numbers and the historic tendency of the president’s party to lose, on average, 26 House seats in the midterms, the Democrats face an uphill battle to keep control of Congress — a situation that requires firing up the party’s progressive base, Ocasio-Cortez said.
“We need to acknowledge that this isn’t just about middle of the road, an increasingly narrow band of independent voters. This is really about the collapse of support among young people, among the Democratic base, who are feeling that they worked overtime to get this president elected and aren’t necessarily being seen,” she said.