On Thursday, with the delta variant of the virus driving soaring cases, unvaccinated Americans filling hospital beds and the inoculation campaign seemingly stalled, Biden announced new restrictions to fight the disease.
And, in a stark shift from the hopeful tones he sounded just months ago, the president betrayed considerable personal frustration with those who aren’t getting their shot(s).
My colleagues Annie Linskey, John Wagner and Seung Min Kim reported:
“[A]ll federal employees and on-site contractors will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be required to wear masks and undergo repeated testing, an order that will affect millions of workers and is designed to be a model for other employers.
The new policy, a major change in the White House strategy against covid-19, reflects a heightened concern within the West Wing about the raging delta variant, which is driving up infections and hospitalizations throughout large swaths of the country, at the same time that vaccination rates have stalled.
The administration hopes that the new directive will have a ripple effect and persuade an array of state and local governments, as well as private companies, to push their workers and customers harder to become vaccinated.”
At least as notable as Biden’s effort to impose new rules was his very public frustration with Americans who have yet to receive a vaccine that is widely available, remarkably effective, and overwhelmingly safe.
“America is divided between the majority of eligible people who are vaccinated and those who are not,” the president said. “And I understand that many of you in the majority are frustrated with the consequences of the failure of the minority to get vaccinated.”
“I think you're going to find the patience of businesses and the patience of a lot of other people running thin,” he added. “Because the fact is, if you had high vaccination rates, we wouldn't be in the spot right now.”
Partisan politics shape that divide.
Polls show about 3 in 10 Americans — mostly self-identified Republicans — say they won’t get vaccinated. And the loudest voices denouncing mask mandates and pressure to get vaccines have come from the right.
In his remarks, Biden reached out to Republicans, praising Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for his vaccine advocacy and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who bluntly declared last week “it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks.”
“The vaccine was developed and authorized under a Republican administration, and has been distributed and administered under a Democratic administration,” Biden said. “The vaccines are safe, highly effective. There's nothing political about them.”
But the politics of Biden’s announcement are complicated. As my colleague Eli Rosenberg reported, some unions — including traditional Democratic allies — have signaled resistance.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and the American Postal Workers Union have opposed vaccine mandates, Eli noted.
And “[t]he American Federation of Teachers, which represents nearly 200,000 health-care workers who could be affected by vaccination mandates in places such as California, released a statement saying that mandatory vaccinations must be part of the collective-bargaining process between unions and government leaders. …
The American Federation of Government Employees and the Professional Managers Association, which represents thousands of IRS managers, said the proposal could require the government to engage in a bargaining process with its employees.
The proposal is garnering support among some unions however, such as the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, an AFL-CIO union that represents some 25,000 federal workers at agencies such as NASA and the Defense Department.”
Biden’s new rules aren’t, strictly speaking, a requirement that all federal workers get vaccinated.
Federal workers who don’t get inoculated must wear masks, practice social distancing, get regular tests, and will face work-travel restrictions.
But the president also made clear he was exploring just how much power he has to require vaccinations.
“It's still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country,” Biden said. “I don't know that yet.”
What’s happening now
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Lunchtime reads from The Post
- “Police shootings continue daily, despite a pandemic, protests and pushes for reform,” by Mark Berman, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins: “The Washington Post began tracking fatal shootings by on-duty police officers in 2015, the year after a White officer in Ferguson, Mo., shot and killed a Black 18-year old. Over the past six years, officers have fatally shot more than 6,400 people, an average of nearly a thousand a year, or almost three each day. The yearly toll even reached a new high of 1,021 fatal shootings in 2020. Midway through this year, fatal police shootings are down compared with the same period last year. They have fluctuated month to month since the project began, ending near 1,000 annually.”
- “Did Trump follow his pledge to donate the last 6 months of his presidential pay? It’s a mystery,” by David Fahrenthold: “Donald Trump promised to give away his $400,000 presidential salary. And he kept that promise, publicly announcing each gift — at least, for his first three and a half years in office. Then, in the middle of last year, the announcements stopped. Trump’s White House never said where — or even if — he donated the last $220,000 of his salary, covering the final six months of 2020 and the first 20 days of 2021. Now, six months after he left office, it’s not clear where Trump donated that remaining salary — or if he donated it at all. Trump had given all his previous donations to federal agencies, paying out $100,000 every quarter. But The Washington Post surveyed all major federal agencies, and none has reported receiving anything from Trump after a gift in July 2020.”
- “Republican-led Arizona ballot review grinds to rocky conclusion, with results expected next month,” by Rosalind Helderman: “The Arizona Senate returned nearly 2.1 million ballots to the control of the state’s largest county Thursday as the GOP-led recount of votes cast in the 2020 presidential election drew to a rocky close, marked by upheaval that is likely to further undermine public confidence in its conclusions, set to be announced next month. A key audit official resigned Wednesday after voicing concerns about a lack of transparency by private contractors hired to lead the effort to scrutinize the ballots cast in Maricopa County — and then, hours later, took back his resignation, telling local reporters that he had negotiated better access to the process.”
- “Census Bureau to skip annual data release because of pandemic impact,” by Brittany Renee Mayes and Tara Bahrampour: “The Census Bureau said Thursday that it will not release the annual one-year estimates from the 2020 American Community Survey, saying the impact of the coronavirus on data collection meant the estimates did not meet quality standards. Instead, the bureau will release ‘experimental’ estimates in November. Survey data is mainly collected by mail, with online and in-person methods to bolster response rates or collect data from group housing units such as prisons, dorms and apartment buildings, but operations were suspended or limited during much of 2020 because of the pandemic.”
… and beyond
- “Carl Levin, Michigan's longest serving U.S. senator, dies at 87,” by the Detroit Free Press’s Todd Spangler: “Levin, a liberal Democrat who rose from a prominent Detroit family to become Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator and helped set military priorities and investigate corporate behavior for decades before retiring in 2015, died Thursday. He was 87. ... Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called Levin a champion for Michigan. ‘He saw what we were capable of when we came to the table as Michiganders, as Americans, to get things done,’ she said.”
- “MyPillow to pull ads from Fox News in disagreement with network,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Alexa Corse and Benjamin Mullin: “Mike Lindell said he made the decision after Fox News declined to run a commercial linked to his efforts to promote his claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.”
More on the pandemic
Biden’s move to encourage masks and vaccinations spurred a backlash in some states.
- “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed an executive order Thursday prohibiting cities and other government entities in the state from enacting vaccine requirements or mask mandates, even as new daily infections there reached 13,000 — the first time since February that Texas has reported a single-day caseload above 10,000,” Adela Suliman and Bryan Pietsch report. “The path forward relies on ‘personal responsibility rather than government mandates,’ Abbott said.”
- “Abbott’s stance was echoed in Arizona, where Gov. Doug Ducey (R) earlier this week lambasted any enforcement of masks or vaccines. ... But some areas are moving the other way. In Washington, D.C., masks will again be required indoors beginning Saturday, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) ordered, in a reversal of recent policy.”
- “In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) has brought back the state’s mask mandate, as has Los Angeles County. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is expected to speak about any updates to requirements on Monday, according to NBC. In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) urged all Virginians to consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings but added: ‘This is not a requirement, but a recommendation.’”
- “It’s not just Democrats who are stepping up restrictions: Tulsa’s Republican Mayor G.T. Bynum said Thursday that city employees who don’t get vaccinated may not be eligible for hazard pay ... In Florida — currently a hot spot for rising covid cases, accounting for about 1 in 5 new national cases — local mayors this week announced more stringent emergency measures. For his part, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is maintaining his broad opposition to pandemic restrictions as tensions over mandates play out locally.”
- “The tensions between the federal government and state officials come as health experts are sounding the alarm over the spread of the more contagious delta variant. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in an internal document that this particularly virulent variant can cause more severe illness than other versions — and spread as easily as chickenpox. The document, which has not been made public, was obtained by The Washington Post.”
As a new school year looms, the debate over mask mandates stirs anger and confusion.
- “The wrangling over masks, considered by pediatricians and epidemiologists to be one of the most effective ways to stop school spread, has turned deeply personal and political, fueling vitriol at school board meetings that have left board members fearing for their safety. Several Republican-led states have barred school districts from requiring masks, threatening to fine school leaders or cut state funding if they attempt it,” Moriah Balingit, Donna St. George and Valerie Strauss report.
- “Caught in the fray are school leaders, who are forced to again navigate constantly shifting pandemic conditions, conflicting guidance on how to manage them and political fights — all while trying to craft policies that will keep students safe and buildings open.”
- “Nearly everyone agrees that children should be back in classrooms, a goal that is now being threatened by the delta variant and the mask debate.”
Wall Street roars on despite the delta variant’s spread.
- “Over the past month, even as the more infectious strain of the respiratory virus spread faster than gossip in a high school hallway, stocks continued their steady climb,” David Lynch reports. “On Thursday, the Dow rose nearly 154 points to close at 35,084.53, just below the 35,144.31 record set three days earlier.”
- “The market’s defiance of the delta variant reflects the power of the Federal Reserve’s near-zero interest rates, robust corporate earnings, and Americans’ ability to adapt to the pandemic.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) declared the pandemic an emergency yesterday, but did not announce any new restrictions.
- “Hutchinson announced Thursday that things have now reached a state of emergency — but there will be no serious measures taken to try and mitigate that emergency. ‘We are in a public health emergency, and for that reason, I am reinstating the statewide public health emergency as of today,’ Hutchinson said in a televised announcement,” the Daily Beast reports.
- “There will be no statewide mask mandate imposed by me,” Hutchinson said. “There’s no discussion about restrictions on business mandates on businesses. We are wide open in Arkansas. We’re going to be doing business in Arkansas … We have to live with the threat of the virus.”
Ravages of the pandemic’s surge are evident inside a Missouri hospital.
- “Daryl Barker was passionately against a COVID-19 vaccination, and so were his relatives. Then 10 of them got sick and Barker, at just 31, ended up in a Missouri intensive care unit fighting for his life,” the AP’s Sarah Blake Morgan and Jim Salter report. “It’s a scenario playing out time and again at Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach, where 22 people died from the virus in the first 23 days of July. Many other hospitals across Missouri are fighting the same battle, the result of the fast-spreading delta variant invading a state with one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates, especially in rural areas.”
- “The Associated Press was given access inside Lake Regional, where just two months ago, no one was hospitalized with the virus. Doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital in the heart of the Lake of the Ozarks region are now dealing with an onslaught of COVID-19 patients — some of them struggling to stay alive.”
Republicans are moving to block the University of Wisconsin’s virus testing and vaccination rules.
- “State Sen. Steve Nass said Wednesday that he would be moving to require the university to get approval from the Legislature before enacting any virus-related regulations. Nass co-chairs the Legislature’s GOP-controlled rules committee, which Nass said will vote remotely Tuesday to block UW virus protocols without a public hearing,” the AP reports.
Quote of the day
“The war has changed,” said an internal federal health document on the pandemic urging new messaging and warning that delta infections are likely more severe.
On the Hill
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called extending the evictions moratorium a “moral imperative” as the House considers continuing a ban through December.
- “Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged her colleagues to extend a federal evictions moratorium set to expire Saturday,” Wagner and Tony Romm report. “I am deeply concerned about this, because, sadly, I have seen families evicted from their homes,”
- “The House Rules Committee is considering a measure Friday morning that would extend the ban, enacted in response to the pandemic, through Dec. 31. But the fate of the measure, authored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), remains unclear in the House and faces longer odds in the evenly divided Senate.”
- “On Thursday, Biden called on Congress to act ‘without delay’ to extend the eviction moratorium ... As the Rules Committee got underway Friday, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the panel’s chairman, said of Biden, ‘I quite frankly wish he had asked us sooner.’ ”
Evictions are about to restart as tenants wait on billions in unspent rental aid.
- “[The] federal ban on some evictions, is set to expire Saturday. Another, a $46.5 billion emergency fund aimed at getting rent to tenants at risk of eviction, has been painfully slow to get off the ground, with some states and counties unable to spend even a dollar of the money they were provided months earlier,” Jonathan O’Connell, Anu Narayanswamy, Rachel Siegel and Alyssa Fowers report.
- “Only nine states and D.C. have some kind of emergency protections for tenants that will last into August, according to an analysis by The Post. That has magnified criticism of the sluggish Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which some advocates say was flawed from the get-go because it relies on state and local governments across the country to create and administer their own programs. While some states quickly set up programs, others struggled to locate people in need or else received so many applications that the onslaught overwhelmed staff and software systems, causing months-long delays.”
Congress passed $2.1 billion in emergency funding for Capitol security and Afghan resettlement.
- “Leaders of the Capitol Police and National Guard units warned of imminent cuts if Congress did not act to backfill expenditures made in the wake of the Capitol attack, and lawmakers responded swiftly by congressional standards, delivering a bipartisan package that advanced to the Senate floor with relatively little drama,” Mike DeBonis reports. “The Senate voted 98-0, and the House followed suit hours later, 416-11. The White House released a statement Thursday supporting the bill, indicating Biden will sign it.”
- “The bill provides nearly $71 million to the Capitol Police, with much of that funding going to cover overtime costs. Millions more will go to beef up intelligence capacity, improve civil disturbance training, provide more protective details for lawmakers, supplement the force’s equipment and offer trauma support to officers.”
- “More than a half-billion dollars, $521 million, will cover the costs incurred by National Guard units who were called to the Capitol after the riot and stayed for more than five months, while another $300 million is earmarked to harden doors and windows on the Capitol campus and install new camera systems.”
- “The majority of the bill’s total spending, however, is devoted to closing out the United States’ two-decade entanglement in Afghanistan. ... A half-billion dollars in new Pentagon funding would fund emergency transportation and housing for those Afghans and their families, as well as another $600 million in State Department funding.”
- About 200 Afghan interpreters and family members arrived in U.S., in the first wave of evacuations. “The evacuees escaped the clutches of Taliban militants who have targeted interpreters, in some cases killing them as retribution for their work with U.S. troops on the front lines and as crucial workers for diplomats and humanitarian agencies,” Alex Horton reports.
Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar and Republican Sen. Lindsey O. Graham are teaming up to urge the White House to name a border czar.
- The two want Biden to name either “former homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson or someone with similar credentials to coordinate efforts to combat the influx of migrants to the southern border,” Sean Sullivan reports.
- “The border-district Democrat from Texas and the outspoken Republican from South Carolina are making their call in a letter Friday, a move that reflects the turbulent politics of immigration and its political challenge for Biden.”
- “Although Cuellar said the call is not a criticism of the personnel Biden has tapped to tackle immigration, including Vice President Harris, the letter amounts to a sharp critique of the administration's current approach and a request for Biden to toughen his posture.”
Hot on the left
The House primary in Ohio took a nasty turn as national Democrats descend. “Nina Turner, a former state senator, is running on a push for universal health care and a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Cuyahoga County Council member Shontel Brown, who also chairs the county's Democratic Party, is pitching herself as a staunch loyalist of Biden who wouldn't try to force the White House agenda too far to the left,” NBC News’s Henry Gomez reports. “The nasty tone that has been present for months escalated Thursday as high-profile surrogates for both candidates were set to arrive here. Turner, 53, unleashed a commercial that questions Brown's ethics and ends with the image of a jail door slamming. ... Brown, 46, has sought to paint Turner, known nationally for her work on Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaigns, as too much of an outsider and too critical of Biden to accomplish anything in Congress. The national endorsers, while welcomed by the candidates, have superimposed past Democratic battles onto the district, frustrating those who say eagerness for a proxy war is overshadowing local nuances and issues.”
Hot on the right
D.C. jail officials turned away GOP members of Congress who showed up at the jail with the intention of checking on the Jan. 6 suspects. “Trailed by cameras from right-wing news organizations, Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (Tex.) crowded into the lobby of the D.C. detention facility demanding to be let inside as members of Congress,” Meagan Flynn reports. “A D.C. jail official told them they were ‘obstructing entrance into this facility’ and appeared to accuse the members of trespassing. ‘We’re the people that vote on whether or not to fund you, at what level, and we’re trespassing?’ Gohmert responded. The D.C. detention center is not a federal facility and is fully funded by D.C. taxpayers — but Congress has oversight over D.C.’s budget.”
U.S. economy, visualized
U.S. economy grew annual 6.5 percent between April and June, marking full recovery from the pandemic, Siegel and Andrew Van Dam report.
Today in Washington
Biden and Vice President Harris will meet with governors to discuss ongoing efforts to strengthen wildfire prevention and response efforts at 11:45 a.m. At 4:45 p.m., Biden will host Cuban-American leaders at the White House to discuss the recent, historic protests in Cuba. At 6 p.m., Biden will head to Camp David.
The U.S. women's soccer team advanced to the Olympic semifinals with a shootout win over the Netherlands. “The Americans defeated the Netherlands, 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw,” Thomas Floyd and Chuck Culpepper report. “The Americans were coming off a slog of a group stage, a campaign that opened with a loss to Sweden and ended with a rare scoreless draw against Australia.”