Here we are — another day, another headline. As we roll out the backlog of articles from our First 100 Days series, please note the dates on which the original articles were written, as some of the contents you come across are bound to be “old news” at this point.
With that said, as always, we will follow the usual format: A look at the president’s potential concerns, active news of the day, the day’s executive actions and an explanation of each. We will also continue to include our customary “controversy alert” marking any topics that have caused a considerable stir in the press on both sides of the aisle.
During the early hours of January 28th, the Biden camp moved amidst the typical West Wing bustle, no doubt discussing the day’s headlines and pressing events, matters of national security, foreign relations, and a spattering of other topics that likely consume the bulk of conversation taking place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
One such topic of conversation may be the media firestorm that continues to rage following Biden’s announcement that nothing the administration does will change the trajectory of the coronavirus outbreak over the course of the next few months. It certainly didn’t take long for media outlets to grab onto the fact that a large part of Biden’s campaign promises hinged upon the administration’s plan for combating and defeating coronavirus, with great emphasis being placed on Covid success during Biden’s first year in office. Unfortunately, following his announcement a few days ago, a number of media outlets have continued to report that the administration has all but abandoned the very promises that many believe got Biden elected in the first place.
Obviously, the administration and Biden’s spokespeople outright deny this claim, stating that the president’s comments were designed not to minimize the administration’s progress, but instead to bring attention to the segments of the population most affected by Covid-19 and to keep Americans diligent in their efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
Since the president’s comments, many of his most outspoken critics have publicly decried his 100 days of mask-wearing challenge, stating that the president himself has confirmed there’s nothing that can be done, which, in turn, negates his mask efforts and proves that his Covid policies are pacifications rather than solutions.
Meanwhile, the president has continued to push forward with his initiative to inoculate 100 million Americans within his first 100 days in office.
Other headlines on The Hill include Senate Democrats’ efforts to reintroduce a bill that would establish Washington DC as the 51st state. A mirroring bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in early January. The bill was introduced by Democratic Congressmember Eleanor Holmes Norton. Norton represents Washington DC as a nonvoting delegate.
Supporters of the bill believe that the 705,000 people who live in Washington DC have been dealt an unfair hand because they don’t have a voting member of Congress. While residents of Washington DC do have a delegate in the House of Representatives, they don’t have representation in the Senate. The population of Washington DC is greater than Vermont and Wyoming and equivalent to the population in Alaska. Each of the comparative states has two senators and one voting member of Congress.
While many people believe that DC residents have no say in the federal government, that sentiment is actually incorrect. The 23rd amendment, which was enacted in 1961, provides DC residents a say in presidential elections. The district is, and has been, treated like a state during presidential elections since the 23rd amendment was put into place. To wit, Washington DC gets three electoral college votes during presidential elections.
As it stands, the discussion to make Washington DC into a state has also started ripples in the pond for Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. If Washington DC becomes a state, the likelihood of Puerto Rico becoming the 52nd US state is that much greater.
There is great controversy surrounding the addition of Washington DC as a state, mostly because it’s arguably unconstitutional. Article 1 section 8 of the United States Constitution says that Congress should be in charge of the seat of government. According to the Constitution, that seat should remain a “District” not exceeding ten square miles.
Not long ago, a bill was passed by the House of Representatives through the application of a sneaky solution to the problem of the Constitutional limits. The bill suggested that the federal district be shrunken to include only the area surrounding the national mall, the White House, and Capitol Hill. This change would make it possible for the remaining portions of the city to become a state. Ergo, we would have the District of Columbia and Washington DC the state. The last time the size of the District of Columbia was changed was way back in the 1840s when one-time areas of DC, land west of the Potomac, rejoined the state of Virginia in a process called retrocession
Obviously, critics of this effort also conclude that creating a state of Washington DC would undoubtedly disrupt the political equilibrium in the United States. The odds are very high that any senators coming out of DC would be Democrats. Adding Senate Democrats to the federal government would, arguably, erase any and all Republican federal authority, potentially marginalizing around half of all US citizens. Critics also believe the only reason Democrats are pushing to make DC a state is for political gain. Many believe that the efforts have nothing to do with the rights of the people and instead have everything to do with tipping the scales of power.
In addition to discussions about coronavirus and political balance, members of Biden’s team likely also discussed foreign matters of concern, including the fact that yet another official from the Zimbabwean cabinet had passed away from Covid-19. In total, four cabinet members from Zimbabwe have passed away from the virus.
The team may have also discussed the new WHO probe into the origins of the pandemic in Wuhan, China. A team of scientists from the World Health Organization finally cleared quarantine in Wuhan to begin their investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. The Chinese government has thus far delayed the effort multiple times.
And finally, among other things, Biden’s advisors may have briefed him on the success of the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, in eradicating coronavirus in her country. New Zealand has largely stamped out the virus and has done so by implementing stringent border controls. Recently, Ardern extended those border controls through the end of 2021. This news is relevant considering the fact that President Biden is facing a growing crisis at the southern border. Tens of thousands of migrants have begun to make their way to the southern border of the United States in response to Biden’s election and, what they perceive to be, his lenient immigration policies. With the massive influx of individuals on the southern border, the United States has also seen a substantial influx of symptomatic and Covid positive individuals seeking asylum or residency in the United States.
The president also issued two additional executive actions for January 28.
- President Biden signed an executive order to reopen Obamacare marketplaces in an effort to support his campaign commitment to expand healthcare. The order itself is considered a special sign-up opportunity that is geared toward people who need insurance during the pandemic and is designed to help people who have lost their jobs and their health insurance as a result.
The president assured the American people that he was not initiating any new law (like mandatory participation) or any new aspects of existing law. However, he did assert that his effort would also extend access to Medicaid in light of the pandemic. Biden’s order mandated that federal agencies reconsider rules and policies that may limit Americans’ access to healthcare, as well as take actions that will protect, expedite and strengthen access to healthcare.
As has been the case since its implementation, critics of Biden’s order cite the costly nature of Obamacare as a reason for re-examining the way the government should address healthcare needs in the United States. In fact, as of 2018, Obama’s Affordable Care Act had been dubbed anything but “affordable.” Shockingly, 47% of participants surveyed by the West Health Institute confirmed that they avoided seeing a doctor, having a checkup, or engaging in a dental cleaning because of the high costs associated with the program. Among people ages 18 to 44, that figure jumps to 53%. In 2018, the average ACA insurance plan was around $500 per month for a 30-year-old. That cost represents an increase of 31% over premiums in 2017.
Obamacare ACA Silver Plans for people at 60 years of age are nearly $1200 per month, which would make the most covid-vulnerable demographic also the most expensive to insure.
Critics of Biden’s new order suggested that since premiums for ACA policies are so high, and that most Americans do not qualify for Obamacare subsidies, pushing an open enrollment feels more like a government money-making plot rather than a solution for pandemic strain. They assert that the Biden administration should seek resolution to the healthcare crisis, but also feel ACA insurance is a step backward in that effort.
- President Biden also signed a memorandum to reverse restrictions on abortion access, both domestically and abroad. The action addresses Title-X, as well as reinstates federal funding for foreign abortion providers.
The Trump administration expanded restrictions on abortion access as it pertains to foreign entities. President Trump, an openly pro-life president, mandated that taxpayer-funded family planning clinics were no longer allowed to specifically refer patients for abortions. In 2019, President Trump further supported the Hyde Amendment by requiring that facilities specifically focused on the provision of abortions must remain financially separate from facilities that offer other types of family and reproductive care. Additionally, President Trump enacted requirements that abortion services be provided in a completely different location from other care services.
Biden has made it clear that his team will work to repeal the Hyde Amendment, but the majority of taxpayers (nearly 60%), across all party lines, oppose this effort. In a step toward this effort, Biden’s memorandum rescinds the so-called Mexico City Policy. The Mexico City Policy represents a ban on United States government funding for foreign nonprofits that promote and perform abortions. In essence, the policy is designed to prohibit government funds from paying for abortions in other countries. The policy itself was originally put into place by the Reagan administration and has been repealed and reinstated along party lines ever since. The policy was repealed by the Obama administration before President Trump then reenacted it during his administration. It remained as such until Thursday’s announcement.
Supporters of Biden’s memorandum suggested that his efforts will go a long way toward the prevention of unsafe and illegal abortions and marginalized communities abroad. The theory being that women who desire to have an abortion will still seek an abortion even if it means putting themselves in jeopardy.
Surprisingly, openly Catholic Biden chose to enact the memorandum the night before March for Life. March for Life president Jeanne Mancini called the decision “disturbing.” She went on to say that President Biden’s decisions are in direct opposition to his verbal desire for national unity. Mancini also suggested that the federal government, including the Biden administration, “should work to protect the inherent dignity of all persons, born and unborn.”
On the home front, Biden’s memorandum deals with Title-X. Title-X is a federally funded program that serves about 4 million people each year. The program itself provides contraception, cancer screenings, preventative education and STD testing. It does not provide abortions. However, up until President Trump’s ruling in 2019, Title-X providers could refer patients for abortions, and refer they did. President Trump’s ruling prompted prominant Title-X providers to pull out of the program. Thursday’s executive action will reinstate referral rights to Title-X providers should they choose to re-enter the network.
Andrea Sandusky, the communications director for the National Planning and Reproductive Health Association, believes that the Biden administration will offer some commitment toward repairing the program. In addition to rescinding the ruling, she believes the administration should help encourage long-standing providers to return to the network so services can be restored.
On the flipside, National Right to Life President Carol Tobias lamented Biden’s memorandum. “During the presidential campaign, Joe Biden made it clear that promoting abortion would be a priority in his administration and it would be done at the expense of taxpayers,” said Tobias. Tobias further accused the president of dismantling domestic protections that saved countless lives and putting taxpayer money into the pockets of abortionists.
Stay tuned for more deep-dives as we continue to follow the Biden administration through its first 100 days.