Good morning. Today’s presentation: An update on stimulus checks, an Israeli mouse embryo experiment, and the largest fine in FCC history.
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“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”
🏛️ The Future of the Filibuster
“I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days. You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking.” –President Biden, in an interview with ABC News Tuesday night.
When pressed, Biden confirmed he meant bringing back a requirement that senators must be present and talking on the floor to block legislation (called the “talking filibuster”)
📜 A Brief History…
A filibuster is a procedure used in the Senate to prevent a measure from being brought to a vote. It was never established by a specific act or included in the Constitution, but rather emerged organically.
Under the chamber’s rules, a filibuster can only be stopped if 60 senators vote to end debate (a process called cloture).
In the past decade, the filibuster has been abolished for presidential Cabinet nominees, federal judges, and Supreme Court justices (meaning they can be confirmed by a simple majority vote).
Democrats’ recent $1.9T stimulus bill was also passed by simple majority in the Senate using a process called budget reconciliation, which allows legislation directly tied to federal spending and revenue to bypass the filibuster.
💬 What Are Lawmakers Saying?
A growing number of Senate Democrats have expressed support for bringing back the talking filibuster, as was suggested by President Biden, or outright eliminating the policy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday called the filibuster “the most important distinction between the Senate and the House” and warned of consequences if Democrats vote to eliminate it.
⏭️ What’s Next?
Democrats appear at least two votes shy of the simple Senate majority needed to abolish the filibuster due to opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
However, Sen. Manchin has publicly supported reinstating the talking filibuster – a change that appears to have more bipartisan support than outright abolition.
Scorched-earth Senate filibuster threat from McConnell needs to be tested
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💰 IRS Postpones Tax Day
The IRS announced it will push its April 15 tax filing deadline to May 17, and will provide further guidance in the coming days.
The decision comes after lawmakers petitioned the IRS to postpone the deadline, calling the move “absolutely necessary to give Americans some needed flexibility in a time of unprecedented crisis.”
More: Notably, the $1.9T COVID-19 relief package signed into law last week retroactively changed the tax rules for 2020 unemployment benefits, exempting the first $10,200 for households making under $150K.
🇺🇸🇨🇳 U.S. Sanctions Chinese Officials
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced sanctions on 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials yesterday for their role in undermining Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms.
The Trump administration had already sanctioned the 24 individuals between November and January, freezing their assets under U.S. jurisdiction and preventing their travel to the country.
The new measures mean that foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct “significant transactions” with the individuals listed in the report will also be sanctioned.
More: Also on Wednesday, the EU agreed to blacklist four unnamed Chinese officials and one entity for human rights abuses against its Uighur Muslim minority – the bloc’s first sanctions against China since an arms embargo in 1989 following the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Even More: Officials from the U.S. and China will convene in Alaska today for the first high-level in-person meeting of the Biden administration.
The EU’s executive body proposed a measure to issue Digital Green Certificates – available free of charge in digital or paper form – allowing residents to travel freely across its 27 member states by the summer.
The Digital Green Certificate would serve as proof a person has either been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result within the necessary timeframe, or recovered from COVID-19.
👮 The suspect charged with murdering eight people at three massage parlors in Atlanta – six of them women of Asian descent – told police he targeted the businesses for “providing an outlet for his addiction to sex.” (From the Left | From the Right)
☝️ 1 Last Thing…
The campaign to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom submitted more than 2M signatures ahead of yesterday’s deadline (1.5M required to trigger a statewide recall election), beginning a month-long verification process. (From the Left | From the Right)
🏥 Sharing is Caring
Amazon announced plans to offer its health program, Amazon Care, to outside-of-Washington-state employees and other companies.
The Amazon Care platform, first launched in Seattle in 2019, features virtual meetings with doctors through the app along with in-home care (including blood draws and physical examinations).
The company said it will make the virtual piece of Amazon Care available everywhere in the U.S. this summer, and eventually open the in-person care in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and other areas.
The Federal Reserve concluded its two-day meeting yesterday, keeping its policy rate unchanged but ramping up its expectations for future economic growth.
The median projection of 18 Fed officials showed the U.S. GDP rising 6.5% in 2021, up from their December expectation of 4.2%.
They also expect unemployment to fall to 4.5% by year’s end (currently 6.2%) and inflation to rise to 2.4% (currently below 2%).
More: Most officials indicated they expect to maintain low interest rates through 2023.
🐁 Embryo Experiment
Researchers in Israel devised a method to successfully grow mouse embryos outside a uterus for longer than ever before.
The scientists reported the new system, which includes rotating bottles filled with nutrients (pictured here), kept the mouse embryos alive from roughly day five of development until day 11 – more than halfway through the animals’ 20-day gestation (previous efforts achieved up to four days outside the womb).
More: To date, the researchers have grown more than 1,000 embryos using this new technique, though repeating it with human embryos past 14 days would violate current international scientific guidelines.
🚲 Reinventing The Wheel… startup SMART, co-founded by Survivor: Fiji champion Earl Cole, designed an airless bicycle tire based on NASA technology created for future lunar and Mars rovers. Constructed entirely from interconnected springs, the tires are immune to punctures.
💻 Poor Connection… artist Sam Lavigne created the Zoom Escaper, a website allowing users to intentionally add bothersome sound effects such as choppy audio, an unwanted echo, or a crying baby to their Zoom call so that they have an excuse to leave the meeting.
☀️🌎 Here Comes the Sun
Roughly how long does it take for sunlight to reach Earth?
A) 1,500 seconds B) 100 seconds C) 500 seconds D) 1,000 seconds
(keep scrolling for the answer)
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