Biden's first year in office, voting rights bill fails in the Senate: 5 Things podcast

·12 min read
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.

On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast: Biden's first year in office

He addressed the nation yesterday as approval ratings have plummeted. Plus, voting rights legislation fails in the Senate, education reporter Alia Wong talks about day care closings because of omicron, the Sundance Film Festival kicks off and tech reporter Brett Molina talks about 5G near airports.

Podcasts: True crime, in-depth interviews and more USA TODAY podcasts right here.

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I'm Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Thursday, the 20th of January, 2022. Today, one year in office for President Joe Biden. Plus, headaches for parents as daycares closed because of omicron and more.

Here are some of the top headlines.

  1. The Supreme Court has refused to block the House Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection from getting former President Donald Trump's administration documents. Trump had been fighting the release of hundreds of pages of documents from the National Archives.

  2. British police have arrested two people in connection with a hostage taking at a Texas synagogue last weekend. British citizen Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at the place of worship in a 10 hour standoff that ended in his death.

  3. And more winter weather is on the way today. Places from the Ohio Valley to the Mid-Atlantic and New England could see snow.

Taylor Wilson:

Today marks one year in office for President Joe Biden. On January 20th, 2021 Biden entered the White House promising victory over COVID-19 and a return to normalcy after the chaotic Trump presidency. But Biden now faces a slew of problems ranging from the ongoing pandemic that has had some of its worst months yet in the US to record high inflation and new tensions with Russia as they sit troops on Ukraine's border. Biden addressed the nation yesterday and insisted that he's outperformed expectations on the pandemic, but he also acknowledged frustrations with courts around the country not always taking his side on pandemic restrictions. That includes the Supreme Court decision against forcing companies to mandate vaccinations.

President Joe Biden:

It's been a year of challenges, but it's also been a year of enormous progress. For all this progress, I know there's a lot of frustration and fatigue in this country, and we know why. COVID-19. Omicron has now been challenging us in a way that it's the new enemy. But while it's cause for concern, it's not cause for panic. We've been doing everything we can, learning and adapting as fast as we can.

The Supreme Court decision, I think was a mistake, but you still see thousands and thousands of people who work for major corporations having to be tested as a consequence of the decision made by the corporation. Not by the standard I set that is there. I think you'll see that increase, not decrease.

We're going to stick with our vaccination efforts because vaccinations work. So get vaccinated please, and get your booster.

Taylor Wilson:

According to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center, Biden's approval rating has hit a new low, 43% down from 60% in February of 2021. Professor Jeffrey Engel from the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University puts those numbers into context.

Jeffrey Engel:

Yeah, the truth is that presidents do actually face a lot of headwinds when they first get into office. I mean, there is that honeymoon phase where everybody is enthusiastic about the new possibility, but then the realities of the difficult problems that they were brought in to fix start to present themselves. So historically we see presidents have difficulty when it comes to poll numbers, typically between their first and second year. Historically, presidential poll numbers have tended to trend down in the last several cycles. The country is becoming more partisan, the country is becoming more bitter. It's simply harder to get people from across the aisle to approve of your presidency, no matter who you are.

I think we need to remind ourselves that the success of the vaccines and the success of the administration is in keeping the pandemic from running wild, not necessarily from eliminating it. But that doesn't help you if your kid's out of school because your school is closed and it doesn't help you if you can't get the bread you want because the shelf is done. You know that you're still alive, but what you really care about is your kid going to school.

They chose higher inflation, which frankly is much, much more desirable to higher unemployment. It's a much better problem for Americans, no matter how much I don't like to pay more for my gas or meat or bread either. It's easier to make that calculation when you have a job. The Biden administration clearly worked on trying to prioritize accomplishments, which is why they went for such big omnibus packages. Not only the infrastructure bill, but also of course the Build Back Better Bill, which is still stalled in the Senate. And also, now voting rights. Even among Biden supporters, we're seeing a general disillusionment in the administration's real political problems. I mean the truth of the matter is we should not expect dramatic radical change from a Senate that is 50-50 split.

Taylor Wilson:

For more on Biden's first year in office, head to USATODAY.com.

Democrats have come up short on advancing new voting rights legislation in the Senate. A vote last night failed 51 to 49 with every Republican voting against moving the bill to the Senate floor for a final vote. Democrats needed 60 votes to overcome the filibuster procedure. And earlier in the night, a separate vote to change filibuster rules also failed. And so for now, Democrats have failed to beat back a number of GOP sponsored state laws that civil rights advocates say would suppress turnout by minority voters. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changed his vote to nay at the end so he could bring the legislation up again at a later date if he chooses. The House previously successfully advanced the legislation to the Senate.

Sen. Chuck Schumer:

A few hours ago, this chamber, with the eyes of the nation upon it, and with the evidence of voter suppression laid bare before it, with very little refutation from the other side - they don't discuss the issues going on in the states - took a vote to move to final passage on the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. It received 50 votes, and with the Vice President, we would've had a majority. Unfortunately under the current rules of the Senate, the door is closed to moving forward on these laws.

Taylor Wilson:

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was consistent in Republicans' opposition to the package. Republicans have argued that elections should be left up to states and that federal legislation would favor Democrats.

Sen. Mitch McConnell:

Now, half of us on this side of the aisle just spent four years, four years when we were the majority and we had a president of our party asking us to do what they're trying to do tonight. And we had a one word answer. No. No. We're not going to fracture the institution to achieve some short term advantage.

Taylor Wilson:

The bill combined the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. The former would restore justice department review of changes in election law in states with a history of discrimination. And the Freedom to Vote Act would create a federal standard for voting by mail and early voting.

If you're a working parent with kids, chances are the new year has not been as happy as you'd hoped. Omicron is raging, guidance is confusing and constantly changing, young kids are not vaccinated and reliable, affordable childcare options are scarce. Education reporter Alia Wong has more on a challenging time for parents.

Alia Wong:

So much like we're seeing with K12 schools, omicron is just causing a lot of disruptions at daycares. And except at daycares, it tends to be the case things are just even more unstable. Scores of centers are having to shut down temporarily or even in some cases permanently. It's hard to quantify how widespread childcare disruptions are because the sector is so decentralized. It's essentially a bunch of small businesses, but you don't have to go far to see that disruptions are on the rise. I mean, just look at Twitter, just talk to your friends. Parents of young children are going crazy and they're increasingly making their frustrations known.

One pair of researchers has actually been trying to track these disruptions in real time. And they've been using anonymized cell phone data from more than 40 million users to track visits to formal childcare centers in the country. And they've been telling the visits every month since the start of the pandemic. So they have a good sense of how things are shifting from month to month to month. And when the total number of monthly visits to a childcare center is more than 50% lower than it was in 2019, the researchers count that as a disruption. Last month, 28% of formal childcare centers experienced a decline of at least that much, according to their data set. And that was the highest rate since June. Clearly, we're starting to see an uptick, and one of the researchers told me he expects January's numbers to be even higher.

So notably the parents I spoke to for this piece were all mothers. Mothers tend to shoulder the bulk of parenting responsibilities and that's become especially evident during the pandemic. Women have in turn, left their jobs in droves to take on the extra childcare burdens. And that's taking a toll on the economy. Even just according to the latest jobs report, women's workforce participation remains at its lowest rate since 1991. The ongoing disruptions to childcare don't bode well for recovery. And unfortunately it's hard to imagine how the sector will stabilize without an infusion of funding. The American Rescue Plan, the federal package of COVID relief allocated $39 billion for childcare, most of it in the form of stabilization funds that could be used for things ranging from payroll to PPE. But that cash infusion is running out, and it really wasn't a permanent answer to instability in the sector.

Taylor Wilson:

Check out the full story in today's episode description.

The Sundance Film Festival kicks off today and for the second year in a row, is going virtual. The 11-day festival in Park City, Utah has been the launching pad for all kinds of indie film classics since originally starting in Salt Lake City in 1978. They include everything from Reservoir Dogs to 500 Days of Summer. And right before the pandemic hit the US, Minari. This year, some highlights include the W. Kamau Bell directed docuseries, We Need To Talk About Cosby.

W. Kamau Bell:

Bill Cosby had been one of my heroes. I'm a black man, stand up comic, I was born in the 70s. But this ...

News Anchor 1:

More trouble for Bill Cosby.

News Anchor 2:

The accusations just keep coming in.

W. Kamau Bell:

... this was complicated.

Taylor Wilson:

And Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy.

Kayne West:

Me and Fess got into an argument in the car and y'all felt like he had disrespected me, man. Tried to say I wasn't a genius.

Man:

But who are you to call yourself a genius?

Taylor Wilson:

For a full list of shows and movies premiering at Sundance, check out Brian Truitt's piece in the entertainment section on USATODAY.com.

As we mentioned in yesterday's show, 5G is rolling out this week. But there's a new debate about the technology being too close to airports. Tech reporter Brett Molina has more on that.

Brett Molina:

One of the big reasons we've seen CEOs from the biggest airlines across the country speaking out about immediate intervention is they want to block AT&T and Verizon from launching these 5G network towers within two miles of their airports. One of the big concerns is safety. They cite that a particular band within 5G could impact the devices that measure airplane altitude, for example. And so there's been a lot of concern on what impact the rollout of 5G might have on airlines and flights. And so that's where a lot of this is coming from.

AT&T and Verizon have both spoken out and said that these networks are safe. AT&T did step forward and say that they are going to hold off rolling out 5G within 2 miles of airports while the rest of their network goes live. And again, this is just to address some of the concerns that the aviation industry has had with this and just to get a better sense of what steps are being taken so that 5G can rollout smoothly, but not have an impact on planes and flights. So we'll see how this rolls out. We haven't heard yet from Verizon, but I think that's going to be the next step in this, is kind of how the carriers respond. And you might see a little bit of delay there, but it sounds like for the most part, the carriers seem fairly confident in the safety of their networks.

Taylor Wilson:

For more, search 5G on USATODAY.com.

And you can find 5 Things wherever you get your audio, seven mornings a week. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I'm back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden address nation, voting rights bill fails: 5 Things podcast