This piece was originally published in the December 8, 2020 edition of CAP Action’s daily newsletter, the Progress Report. Subscribe to the Progress Report here.
“If I can do it, well, so can you.”
— Margaret Keenan, age 90, who was the first U.K. resident to receive Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday morning.
The pandemic is worse than it’s ever been. As of last week, an American was dying every 30 seconds from the coronavirus.
Yet Trump and Mitch McConnell aren’t doing anything to help struggling and sick Americans. It’s a disgrace.
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IN THE NEWS
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a positive report on Pfizer’s vaccine this morning. The report, which said researchers found “no specific safety concerns” with the vaccine, comes just one day before a panel of experts is set to decide whether to grant Pfizer an emergency use authorization for the vaccine. A Yale immunologist told the New York Times that the FDA’s report was the vaccination equivalent of “an A+ report card.”
- On that note, it turns out that the Trump administration already managed to screw up the vaccine rollout. For reasons that are beyond comprehension, Trump reportedly declined to take Pfizer up on an offer this summer to set aside additional doses of the vaccine for the United States if and when it was approved.
- Ironically enough, the revelation last night of Trump’s fumbled opportunity came just hours before the United Kingdom began administering the same vaccine to its residents. Here at home, though, government officials and public health experts have expressed concerns about potential shortages or production delays, further underscoring the importance of securing as many doses as possible.
LOOKING AHEAD: With a vaccine on the horizon, many of us are anxious to know what the future holds. We don’t have all the answers, but here’s a good place to start: This New York Times piece explains why we still need to stay vigilant and wear masks even as we get vaccinated, and this is a must-read piece from the Washington Post that outlines how decades of racism have led to distrust of the medical system among many Black Americans.
- New reporting indicates that McConnell might be open to supporting a pandemic relief bill that includes $1,200 stimulus checks. According to Politico, while McConnell is no fan of direct payments, he isn’t entirely against them being in the final bill if they’re included in whatever deal is otherwise agreed upon. And that’s not entirely unlikely. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy supports including the checks, and Speaker Pelosi would be on board as well.
- Talks of pushing for another round of checks in the relief bill first gained momentum last week when Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) spoke out about the need for direct financial assistance for the millions of Americans who are still struggling to make ends meet.
- Since then, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and a number of others have also insisted that $1,200 checks be included and that the Republican-backed liability shield be removed. Six progressive senators — Sanders, Warren, Markey, Merkley, Wyden, and Gillibrand — penned a letter this afternoon expressing what they want to see in the final bill. You can read the full letter here.
- The idea of direct payments has even garnered some support from across the aisle. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who expressed his preference last week for another round of checks, reportedly urged Trump to reject a bill that doesn’t include them. And it looks like he was successful: This afternoon, the Washington Post reported that Trump is open to signing a bill that includes somewhere between $600 and $2,000 in direct payments to the American people.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
- With the pandemic relief bill still not finalized, a deal to fund the government has been pushed to the back burner. Given the slim chance that leadership comes to an agreement on a long-term funding bill by Friday, it’s looking like a seven-day continuation of the existing budget is the most likely outcome this week. This would give lawmakers another week to work out the details of a longer-term deal, pushing the deadline to December 18.
- The Trump-appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declined to strengthen rules on soot emissions this week. Experts warn that the move will be detrimental to Black, brown, and low-income communities, which are disproportionately likely to be exposed to such pollutants. The decision comes in the wake of growing evidence of a link between soot emissions and higher COVID-19 death rates. Nonetheless, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler ignored warnings from his own agency’s experts, who had urged him to tighten the rule.
- Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) continue to make the case for President-elect Joe Biden to take bold — and better yet, feasible — action on his first day in office. Specifically, they’ve been arguing that Biden can use his executive power to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt. Read their most recent op-ed on the subject in Blavity.
WHAT WE’RE READING