In This Episode
- Voting rights have gone back to being the White House’s top priority, but Congress is struggling to pass protections because Senate Democrats must contend with a potential Republican filibuster.
- Today, the Supreme Court will hear two challenges to the White House’s vaccine mandate for private employers and healthcare facilities. The federal rule was supposed to take effect January 4 but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration decided that it would give employers until February 9th to fully enforce these rules.
- And in headlines: Former health advisors to President Biden are calling for the U.S. to adopt a new COVID strategy, dozens of protestors were killed and hundreds were injured yesterday in Kazakhstan, and the FBI arrested a man who allegedly impersonated publishers to steal unpublished book manuscripts.
- Washington Post: “Supreme Court is set to review Biden’s vaccine rules for businesses, health-care workers. Here’s what to know.” – https://wapo.st/3HF5M3p
- Slate: “The Hidden Agenda Behind the Attack on Vaccine Mandates” – https://bit.ly/3HKSzWW
- Wall Street Journal: “Supreme Court to Weigh Vaccine Requirements for the Workplace” – https://on.wsj.com/3n00O9C
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It’s Friday, January 7th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we’re standing with Elmo and his campaign to stop prioritizing the needs of rocks.
Gideon Resnick: Just for a note of clarity to the audience, Elmo has been feuding with a rock, apparently, for decades now.
Priyanka Aribindi: Rocks are bad. I have no tolerance for rock.
Gideon Resnick: They make me sick. On today’s show, former health experts to President Biden say that it’s time for the White House to act like the virus is here indefinitely and not that it could eventually be wiped out completely. Plus, a slippery thief who’s been stealing book manuscripts may have been caught.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, yesterday marked one year since a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol and attempted to block lawmakers from certifying the results of the 2020 election. To mark the anniversary, President Biden spoke live from the Capitol about the attempted coup.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So what were some of the big takeaways from that?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, as was expected, he condemned the violence that took place, and illustrated the need to make sure something like this never happens again. Take a listen:
[clip of President Biden] For the first time in our history, the president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, as a violent mob breached the Capitol.
Priyanka Aribindi: He also spoke out vehemently against former President Trump and the lies that he has continued to spread about the 2020 election. And, even more importantly, he connected what happened on January 6th with what’s been going on around the country since then in terms of voting rights.
[clip of President Biden] Right now in state after state, new laws are being written, not to protect the vote, but to deny it, not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert it, not to strengthen or protect our democracy, but because the former president lost, instead of looking at the election results from 2020 and saying they need new ideas or better ideas to win more votes, the former president and his supporters have decided the only way for them to win is to suppress your vote and subvert our elections.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And so Democrats have really been talking about trying to pass federal voting rights legislation since, at the very least, the 2020 election. So where does that actually stand right now?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So right now it appears that voting rights have gone back to being the White House’s top priority. Build Back Better who?
Gideon Resnick: Sorry to that man.
Priyanka Aribindi: We do not know her. We do not know her. But there is a bit of an issue here. This is not just up to the White House. They need Congress. And in the Senate, they are once again contending with that little thing called the filibuster.
Gideon Resnick: Love it.
Priyanka Aribindi: So Republicans, if you have been paying any attention, are pretty opposed to people being able to vote for candidates who aren’t theirs. So they are not fans of protecting voting rights at the federal or state level. On the state level, that means they are largely responsible for the new restrictive voting rights legislation in 19 states across the country, and on the federal level they will likely oppose any legislation to protect these rights because they are the ones we’re trying to undo them. Democrats do have a Senate majority, something I feel like we forget because they really don’t act like it most of the time.
Gideon Resnick: No.
Priyanka Aribindi: But they don’t have the 60 votes that they would need to beat a Republican filibuster that would likely happen without amending the rules. So that is the big issue in the Senate.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, but Biden and Harris clearly want to keep the focus on this. They had plans to make this basically what they’re going to be talking about next week when they go to Georgia, one of those states with new, highly-restrictive voting laws. They’re planning to make a big speech about how important and urgent the need for this legislation is. But not everyone in Georgia is excited to see them there. Is that right?
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. And it’s not actually the people that you might expect. It is a coalition of Georgia voting rights groups who are saying that Biden and Harris shouldn’t even bother coming to Atlanta next week if they don’t have a real plan to pass federal voting laws in the immediate future. The statement was signed by key groups, including the Black Voters Matter Fund, the Asian-American Advocacy Fund, the new Georgia Project Action Fund, and more. All of which were critical in giving the Democrats a Senate majority with the victories in last January’s runoff elections, as well as in Biden’s own election. These groups are basically saying that they have had it with the bullshit. According to their statement, these are quote, “political platitudes and repetitious, bland promises. Such an empty gesture without concrete action, without signs of real, tangible work, is unacceptable.” End quote.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I’m glad that that statement is being made. And you said they were dealing with restrictive voting laws in Georgia. Where else has this been happening?
Priyanka Aribindi: Honestly, a better question might be where isn’t this happening?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: In 2021, lawmakers in 49 states drafted more than 440 restrictive voting bills. 19 states actually enacted some of those voting restrictions in the past year. Of course, there are still blue states that are trying to expand access via things like mail-in voting, but this is really crisis level, and you can see why it’s so important to the White House and some Senate Democrats, and also at the same time, why these people in Georgia are furious and want nothing to do with them unless they have a real plan.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, absolutely. And separately, there have been some headlines about Senate Republicans like Mitch McConnell saying that they are open to revising some election laws. Can you clear up what that is all about?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I wouldn’t race to give them a pat on the back for that. The law that they are talking about is an 1800s election law that has to do with the process of counting and disputing electoral votes, something that was at the heart of the January 6th attack. But at most, McConnell said yesterday that it has quote, “flaws” and that it is worth quote, “discussing.”
Gideon Resnick: All right.
Priyanka Aribindi: So really not much to work with there. But also this has nothing to do with protecting people’s right to vote or access to the ballot box. Do not confuse this with them trying to do a good thing. That is not at all what is happening. But this is your update on where protecting our voting rights stand before it becomes even more front-page news next week. You’ll hear it from us then. Hopefully we have more updates for you.
Gideon Resnick: I am both excited and scared to learn more.
Priyanka Aribindi: As always. As always.
Gideon Resnick: As always. And on that topic, moving on to news on the pandemic. So today the Supreme Court is going to hear two challenges to the White House’s vaccine mandate for private employers and some health care facilities. That comes as the Omicron variant continues to fuel this really historic rise in cases we’re seeing and while the CDC estimates that only about 35% of eligible people in the U.S. have gotten their booster doses.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow.
Gideon Resnick: As for these rules from the White House, for businesses, the federal rule was at first supposed to take effect January 4th. But OSHA, that’s the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, actually decided that they would give employers until February 9th to fully enforce these rules because of all these legal challenges.
Priyanka Aribindi: OK, tell us about these legal challenges and what is happening with those.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So before we get to that, to review really fast about the rules that we’re set up here a few months ago, one of them is for larger employers to implement a vaccine requirement or a masking and testing regimen. The other pertains to health care workers in facilities that receive money from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. To be clear, that last one is an out and out vaccine requirement. If they get the funding, they have to be vaccinated. Together, these apply to almost 100 million workers in the U.S. But various business groups, Republican-led states, etc., have issued a challenge to these rules. The main argument they have is that imposing a mandate on private businesses without congressional authorization is a big federal overreach. They also said that the cost of testing in such conditions would be passed on to the consumers and that the situation could lead to more worker shortages with people leaving their jobs. To that point, in recent days, the Postal Service has sought out a temporary waiver for the requirements for those stated reasons. There are similar arguments that are being made here about the health care worker requirement too. There is a good Washington Post article that we’re going to link to that goes through some of these and the other main questions.
Priyanka Aribindi: I am excited to check that one out. What have lower courts said so far about all of this?
Gideon Resnick: It’s a little all over the place, and that’s one of the interesting things about this situation, that the Supreme Court is hearing arguments that haven’t been fully aired in lower courts. So according to the Post, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit initially blocked enforcement of the private company rule. But then the Sixth Circuit dissolved that, saying that it could go into effect. There is also division on the health care worker mandate. The 11th Circuit dismissed a request from Florida to stop the requirement, while in Missouri and Louisiana, judges agreed to stop the rule. So these were also, unsurprisingly, often breaking down along partisan lines.
Priyanka Aribindi: So what do we expect is going to happen today?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, as I’m sure listeners may remember, the Supreme Court has actually been quite supportive or at least allowed recent vaccine requirements in various states and various colleges. And there is precedent generally dating back over 100 years for SCOTUS to uphold States’ authority to mandate vaccinations. In the case that I’m referring to, it was smallpox. If you were bopping around in like 1905 and you’re listening to the show at the time of the Supreme Court said states could mandate you getting vaccinated for smallpox because that’s not something you want or something that you want to pass along to other people.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right!
Gideon Resnick: I digress. The cases here are more about federal authority, which the conservative majority on the court has been skeptical of. For example, the court terminated this moratorium on evictions last year from the CDC. And Mark Joseph Stern, a prior guest on this show, argues in a piece that we can link to from Slate, that all of this could end up being more about generally seizing away power from Congress and the executive, which would not be good.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: One last thing to note, according to the Wall Street Journal story that we’re also going to link to, the justices might not issue a definitive decision on whether the rules are lawful, but rather whether they can go into place while litigation continues. There is a time element here. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more, but that is the latest for now. It is Friday, WAD squad, and today we were doing a segment called The Solution, where we propose a fix to a news story that has created chaos in our world. Guiding us through it, as always, is our head writer, Jon Millstein.
Jon Millstein: Hey, guys. Thank you very much for welcoming me back in this new and beautiful year.
Gideon Resnick: We are glad to have you.
Priyanka Aribindi: Always. So, as we’ve already said, yesterday marked one year since the January 6th insurrection, and as you can imagine, the reaction from the right was extremely good faith and normal. Hot takes range from this one by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis:
[clip of Gov. Ron DeSantis] You’re going to see the D.C.-New York media, I mean this is their Christmas January 6th, OK—they are going to take this and milk this for anything they could to try to be able to smear anyone who ever supported Donald Trump.
Priyanka Aribindi: To this one from former acting director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell:
[clip of Richard Grenell] January 6th was a terrible day because it’s the day Big Tech and the media kicked President Trump off Twitter and silenced his voice.
Gideon Resnick: That’s what everyone remembers about that day, [laughs] for sure.
Priyanka Aribindi: I kind of forgot that it was, that wow, OK.
Gideon Resnick: Yep.
Priyanka Aribindi: Lindsey Graham had one of the day’s most boldly reality defying-reactions, tweeting in response to Biden’s speech about the insurrection, quote “What brazen politicization of January 6th by President Joe Biden.” Of course, many on the left will argue that Graham knows this reaction is outrageous and can only will himself to say things like this by turning off a large portion of his brain. But just as an exercise, we could take Graham’s words at face value and grant that he really believes the Capitol insurrection can and should be discussed without politics. And for that, here is Jon with The Solution:
Jon Millstein: If Joe Biden wants to put politics aside like Lindsey Graham is suggesting, there’s only one way he can talk about the insurrection: by saying, Wow, I’ve never seen so many people want to get inside a building so bad they must have been really cold. By shifting focus away from the top-down campaign of misinformation that drove angry white Trump supporters to violence, and towards a winter temperatures that drive people’s noses to run, Biden could discuss the insurrection without making Graham and his fellow Republicans feel so damn awkward. It’s true that if he did this, some Democrats would probably continue politicizing January 6th by pointing out how many of the rioters were wearing Trump hats and shirts, but Biden could just reply by saying that when you’re cold, you’ll wear pretty much anything that makes you warm. Stubborn Democrats would probably point out that rioters were calling to hang Mike Pence, but Biden could gently remind them that Mike Pence looks like a snowman so on an emotional level, it makes sense he’d be blamed by people whose feet and hands are as cold as ice. Of course, these days even the weather is political, if you guys can believe that. But it’d be best for Biden to ignore that whole aspect of the argument. In fact, if he really wants to make Lindsey Graham happy, he should probably ignore everything that is a real and actual problem in our modern world.
Gideon Resnick: Thank you.
Priyanka Aribindi: That was beautiful.
Jon Millstein: Thank you.
Gideon Resnick: You have a point about Pence looking like a snow man.
Priyanka Aribindi: Like a snowman! I’ve never thought about it that way.
Jon Millstein: He looks like he was standing on the sidewalk and a snow blower came by and sort of dusted his whole, uh, face.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, and that’s why it looks the way he does.
Gideon Resnick: Right, exactly.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. That was The Solution. We will be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Six former health advisers to President Biden are calling for the U.S. to adopt a new COVID strategy, one that is geared towards living with the virus indefinitely, not simply wiping it out—bleak. Yesterday, they published three opinion pieces in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The articles has laid out dozens of recommendations, like improved testing, urging a more aggressive use of vaccine mandates, and developing policies to address other respiratory viruses as well. But they also criticized the federal government’s response to the pandemic. The adviser said that closing down large testing sites last summer was premature. They also noted that the U.S. still relies on data from the U.K. and Israel, and called for a better data collecting infrastructure in our own country to help Americans get real time information on the virus. Or we could just nationalize health care. That would be another avenue for that. They urge the administration to take a broader approach to reach a quote, “new normal” that is not solely focused on vaccines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Dozens of protesters were killed and hundreds were injured yesterday in Kazakhstan as the nationwide anti-government demonstrations continued to grow. President Kassym Jomart-Tokayev declared a state of emergency on Wednesday. But despite that, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets again. 12 police officers were reportedly found dead yesterday, two of whom were beheaded, and 353 officers were injured. Troops from Russia arrived in the city of Almaty last night at the request of Kazakhstan’s president in an effort to calm the violence and protect government buildings. The Kazakh Ministry of Internal Affairs said yesterday that they regained control of all those buildings in the city and that 2,000 protesters have been detained. The widespread uprisings are considered to be the worst protests in Kazakhstan since it gained independence from the Soviet Union three decades ago.
Gideon Resnick: A man has been apprehended for the rare crime known as word document theft: Filippo Bernardini allegedly spent years impersonating publishers to steal unpublished book manuscripts from authors like Margaret Atwood and Ethan Hawke—the two most famous authors. But his crime spree reads its final chapter on Wednesday, when he was arrested by the FBI. A New York court charged Bernardini with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. According to the indictment, Bernardini registered over 160 fake internet domains to impersonate others since 2016. Authors targeted by the phishing scheme said that they received messages from email addresses that appeared to belong to major publishers but were slightly misspelled. One example given was @penguinrandornhouse.com.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh my God.
Gideon Resnick: Funny enough, Penguin Randorn House was the only company that read my book proposal for a mystery thriller about a handsome daily podcast host who solves The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, we need to talk. None of the stolen books ever turned up online and no ransom or blackmail demands were made, leaving many wondering what Bernardini had to gain from this other than an impressive library.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I’m really confused about what this scheme led to. Also very curious about this pitch, Gideon. I want to hear more. Maybe not now, but one of these days.
Gideon Resnick: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: One of these days.
Gideon Resnick: It’s a 1,000 pages, so we don’t have time this fine evening.
Priyanka Aribindi: A group of roughly 150 influencers from Quebec are currently stranded in Mexico after winning the bad passenger grand prize of being functionally banned from all airplanes. The group all flew from Montreal to Cancun on December 30th on a Sunwing Airlines plane that was chartered by someone called @senior on Instagram. This might surprise you, but the social media celebs documented their flight heavily, sharing videos of themselves unmasked, dancing in the aisles, vaping, drinking, and generally breaking every COVID rule in the book. The video sparked outrage in Canada where coronavirus is surging, and led Sunwing to cancel everyone’s return flight. A chorus of other airlines have said they won’t fly the partiers home as well, and Canada’s transportation department is investigating the passengers and threatening possible fines. During a news briefing on Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this:
[clip of PM Justin Trudeau]] It’s a slap in the face to see people putting themselves, putting their fellow citizens, putting airline workers at risk by being completely irresponsible.
Gideon Resnick: Damn.
Priyanka Aribindi: We in America, our influencers, we would never. We would never!
Gideon Resnick: Never treat you like this. You do this stuff, you get Comfort Plus, @senior. That would be the grand prize. This is a normal day on America airlines is what we’re talking about here. Uh, I hate it. And those are the headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go: this month on X-Ray Vision, Jason will be covering the finale of Hawkeye, diving into the new series “The Book of Boba Fett,” and exploring the post-apocalyptic miniseries Station Eleven. You can catch new episodes of X-Ray Vision every Friday wherever you get your podcasts.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you’d like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, respond to my book proposal, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just Instagram captions from the bold thinker known as @senior like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And fly safe, Canadians!
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, if you see vape smoke rising from the aisles, just don’t take the flight. Don’t take the flight.
Priyanka Aribindi: What a nightmare. What a nightmare. Also that so many influencers flying together. 150!
Gideon Resnick: Too many. Far too many. There should be one influencer max a flight, because if they influence each other as they’re influencing others, it’s exponential influencer growth. And that’s bad. We can’t have that.
Priyanka Aribindi: Fair. That is a very true.
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.