National Politics

Senate bid to save Roe v. Wade falls to GOP-led filibuster

The Senate has fallen far short in a vote toward enshrining Roe v. Wade abortion access into federal law. Wednesday's 51-49 negative vote almost along party lines provided a stark display of the nation’s partisan divide over the landmark court decision and the limits of legislative action. The afternoon roll call promised to be the first of several efforts in Congress to preserve the nearly 50-year-old court ruling. President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass legislation that would guarantee the constitutional right to abortion services after the disclosure of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. But Democrats in the split Senate lacked the votes to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.

Abortion rights may rest on governor's races in some states

The fight for Congress often dominates midterm elections. But the stunning revelation that the Supreme Court may soon overturn its landmark decision on abortion rights has thrust candidates for governor into the forefront of the 2022 midterm debate. In a handful of battleground states with Republican-controlled state legislatures, every Republican candidate for governor supports severe abortion restrictions, if not a total ban with no exceptions. That allows Democrats to rightly claim that women’s access to abortion in some states may rest almost entirely on which party wins the governor’s race in November. Governor’s races in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin could have a profound impact on abortion rights. 

Senate to vote next week on protecting abortion rights

The Senate is gearing up for a vote on legislation that would codify abortion rights into federal law. Senate Democrats are planning the vote for next week in response to the Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. The procedural vote scheduled for Wednesday will mostly be symbolic, given that Democrats lack the needed 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said members of both parties need to go on record about where they stand. He calls the vote "one of the most important we ever take."

Washington political leaders react to Roe v. Wade draft opinion

Ted S. Warren – staff, APFILE – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks on Jan. 11, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law a bill that creates a first-in-the-nation statewide alert system for missing Indigenous people. The law creates a system similar to Amber Alerts and so-called silver alerts, which are used respectively for…

Biden taking 'hard look' at student loan forgiveness

President Joe Biden said he is considering forgiving some federal student debt, a step that would help him fulfill a campaign promise and provide relief to borrowers who took out thousands of dollars in loans to finance their higher education. Speaking to reporters Thursday at the White House, Biden said, “I’m in the process of taking a hard look at whether or not there will be additional debt forgiveness. And I’ll have an answer on that in the next couple of weeks.” However, he said the final figure would be lower than the $50,000 per person that some activists are pushing. 

Supreme Court tackles case about praying football coach

A coach who crosses himself before a game. A teacher who reads the Bible aloud before the bell rings. A coach who hosts an after-school Christian youth group in his home. Those were some of the hypothetical scenarios Supreme Court justices discussed Monday while hearing arguments about a former public high school football coach who wanted to kneel and pray on the field after games. The justices were wrestling with how to balance the religious and free speech rights of teachers and coaches with the rights of students not to feel pressured into participating in religious practices. The court’s conservative majority seemed sympathetic to the coach while its three liberals seemed more skeptical. 

Biden set for first Pacific Northwest trip since election

President Joe Biden is stretching his legs this week with a rare overnight visit to the Pacific Northwest, heading to Portland, Oregon, and Seattle. The trip is part of an expanded travel schedule ahead of the November elections as Biden tries to demonstrate he's made progress on his agenda while also prodding Congress to do more. As with most of Biden’s recent trips, new spending on infrastructure will be a centerpiece. So will be political fundraising. The White House says he plans to visit Portland’s airport to talk about investing in a runway that can withstand earthquakes. In Seattle, he plans to talk about limiting price increases and will observe Earth Day.

President Joe Biden to visit Pacific Northwest next week

President Joe Biden will travel to Portland and Seattle next week, his first visit to the region as president. Additional details are expected in the coming days, but The Seattle Times reported the White House said that next Friday’s visit to Seattle will center on the administration’s efforts “to continue bringing down costs for American families and building a more resilient economy.” A White House release said that the president will first stop in Portland on Thursday.

White House to extend student loan pause through August

The Biden administration plans to freeze federal student loan payments through Aug. 31, extending a moratorium that has allowed millions of Americans to postpone payments during the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was confirmed by an administration official familiar with the White House’s decision-making. Student loan payments were scheduled to resume May 1 after being halted since early in the pandemic. But following calls from Democrats in Congress, the White House plans to give borrowers additional time to prepare for payments. The decision was first reported by Bloomberg. The action applies to more than 43 million Americans who owe a combined $1.6 trillion in student debt held by the federal government.

Judge: Same-sex marriage license denials violated rights

A federal judge has ruled that a former Kentucky clerk violated the constitutional rights of two same-sex couples, who were among those to whom she wouldn’t issue marriage licenses. The refusal sparked international attention and briefly landed her in jail in 2015. U.S. District Judge David Bunning in Ashland issued the ruling Friday in two longstanding lawsuits involving Kim Davis, the former clerk of Rowan County, and two same-sex couples who sued her. With the decision, a jury trial will still need to take place to decide on any damages the couples could be owed. 

Utah governor says he'll veto transgender youth sports ban

Utah's governor says he'll veto a ban on transgender girls in youth sports. The Legislature had passed legislation late Friday night that said transgender girls wouldn't be able to compete in sports on teams that correspond with their gender identity. Without the governor’s support, Utah is unlikely to join the 11 states, all Republican-led, that have recently enacted bans on transgender student-athletes in youth sports. The ban was introduced in the Utah statehouse in the final hours before lawmakers adjourned after social conservatives amended a proposal to create a first-of-its-kind commission of experts to make decisions on individual transgender student-athletes aiming to compete in Utah youth sports leagues.

Nearly half of Biden's 500M free COVID tests still unclaimed

Nearly half of the 500 million free COVID-19 tests that the Biden administration recently made available to Americans still haven’t been claimed as virus cases plummet and people feel less urgency to test. That's according to administration officials who say the program still represents a step toward a deeper and more responsive testing program that will accommodate demand surges and remain on standby when cases wane. On the first day of the White House test giveaway in January, the government website received 45 million orders. Now officials say fewer than 100,000 orders a day are coming in for the packages of four free rapid tests per household.

State of the Union: Biden speech comes amid crises, setbacks

A president's State of the Union speech is normally crammed with new proposals. But President Joe Biden is still struggling to make good on agenda items that he outlined when he took office in January 2021. He'll deliver his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night after being forced to recalibrate his ambitions and confront new crises, most recently the expanding Russian invasion of Ukraine. The speech could provide him with an opportunity to reset after a difficult first year in the White House. Traditionally, State of the Union speeches focus on domestic issues. But Biden could also use this one to outline the stakes of the crisis in Ukraine.