Week in Review

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The CDC imposes an eviction moratorium, President Biden orders increased insurance accessibility, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) imposed a temporary moratorium on evictions to reduce the risk of unhoused tenants increasing the spread of COVID-19. In the order, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky asserted that “many evicted renters move into close quarters in shared housing or other congregate settings,” increasing the risk of exposure and spread. The decision came after President Joe Biden asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to extend the foreclosure and eviction moratorium for publicly insured single family mortgages through March. Some opponents of the moratorium, such as Georgia’s Carroll County Chief Magistrate Alton Johnson, rejected the CDC’s authority in this matter, claiming that “the CDC, as far as I know, has no control over Georgia courts.”
  • President Biden issued an executive order to increase health care accessibility and affordability by strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Responding to “exceptional circumstances” caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, President Biden created a special enrollment period for uninsured individuals to get health care coverage through the Federally Facilitated Marketplace. President Biden also directed the heads of agencies and departments with responsibilities related to Medicaid and the ACA to ensure that existing regulations prioritize access to health care.
  • The U.S. Senate confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Pete Buttigieg as secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. These historic appointments mark the first Latino and first immigrant to lead DHS and the first openly gay man to lead a cabinet department. Mayorkas will play a key role in developing the Biden Administration’s immigration agenda, which includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals. Buttigieg plans to implement President Biden’s plan to combat climate change through transportation infrastructure improvements.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Yale University discriminated against Asian and white students in the admissions process. Under the Trump Administration, the Justice Department brought the lawsuit apparently to discourage affirmative action policies. Commenting on the dismissal, a Justice Department spokesperson reportedly said that the Department will “further review this matter through its administrative process.” An advocacy group for Asian Americans said the withdrawal “affirmed that this lawsuit was clearly about playing politics for the purpose of dismantling affirmative action, which benefits so many students of color.”
  • The Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation, an industry group of automobile manufacturers that includes Toyota, Hyundai, and others, withdrew from a lawsuit  in which the Trump Administration sought to prevent California from establishing its own fuel-economy standards. The group emphasized that the industry is “aligned with the Biden Administration’s goals,” which include reestablishing national fuel economy standards. The move followed an announcement by General Motors that the company plans to sell exclusively emissions-free vehicles by 2035.
  • Following an executive order mandating travelers to wear masks, the CDC issued an order requiring masks while “traveling on conveyances,” including flights and public transportation. The order mandated mask usage both during travel and at transportation hubs, including airports, bus terminals, marinas, terminals, and subway stations. The CDC reportedly tried to issue a similar mandate in September, but the Trump Administration’s coronavirus task force blocked the attempt.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin fired all members of the U.S. Department of Defense’s 31 advisory boards, whose members numbered in the hundreds and included several last-minute appointees by the Trump Administration. One senior defense official reportedly explained that Austin was “deeply concerned with the pace and the extent of recent changes to memberships of department advisory committees,” referring to the spate of last-minute appointments by the previous administration. These advisory boards included, among others, the National Reconnaissance Advisory Board and the Defense Advisory Committee for the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct. Dismissed members included former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger
  • The U.S. Supreme Court postponed consideration of two cases on Trump Administration immigration policies in light of President Biden’s plans to change the policies. The first case involves a dispute over the Trump Administration’s funding of the border wall. The second case challenges the Trump Administration’s policy requiring non-Mexican asylum seekers at the southern border to remain in Mexico while their cases are decided.  
  • A federal judge vacated a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule finalized in the last month of the Trump Administration that limited the use of undisclosed data, or “secret science,” in environmental rulemaking. At the request of the Biden Administration, Chief Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana halted litigation on the rule, delivering a victory to environmental groups. The groups argued that the Trump Administration rule restricted the use of confidential data, such as medical histories, essential to crafting environmental regulations. Daren Bakst, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, reportedly defended the now vacated rule, maintaining that it enhanced public trust by encouraging EPA to disclose the data underlying what it may claim to be “the best available science.”

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • In a recent article, Christopher Yoo, professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and law student Alicia Lai took stock of the various federal initiatives currently under consideration that are aimed at regulating emerging artificial intelligence technologies. In their overview, they examined early proposals by both the U.S. Congress and the Biden Administration, highlighting the challenge of designing a regulatory framework that balances the interests of transparency and innovation.
  • In a paper for the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Center for Ethics and Rule of Law, senior fellow Alexandra Meise argued that the United States lacks a consistent, comprehensive approach to addressing climate change. Meise argued that the federal government, civil society, and business each approach climate change from different perspectives, leaving a fractured backdrop upon which state and local governments must battle to impose their own climate change policies. Meise asserted that one way the Biden Administration can create a centralized, intersectoral approach is by establishing a blue-ribbon commission of leaders across various levels of government, business sectors, and climate experts. 
  • In a brief, Kimá Joy Taylor and Sarah Benatar, researchers at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center, discussed how Black, Latinx, and American Indian mothers experienced greater discontinuities in their maternal health care than white women during the coronavirus pandemic. Taylor and Benator highlighted how inadequacies in data collection exacerbate negative maternal health outcomes for these women, and recommended that health care providers and policy makers strengthen data collection to improve maternal care outcomes. For instance, providers can create more effective care options for patients with needs that may have gone undiscovered by collecting patients’ perspectives on their health care.

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