Weekly Roundup: November 16–22
The Weekly Roundup by GWCD is a collaboration between members of the news & blog committee to compile three main headlines from the week. As one of the goals of the committee is to keep our GWCD community updated on current events, the Weekly Roundup is intended as an easy way for members to read up on the highlights from each week in addition to the articles published regularly by our members.
Vaccine Progress and Authorization
By Manuel Wallick
While the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is an alarming sign that the pandemic is far from over, recent developments have brought hope: two vaccines have been announced which will seek emergency authorization for their use. Both vaccines are promising with each said to be over 95% effective.
Pfizer was the first of the two companies to start the emergency authorization process with the FDA as of Friday. Moderna is expected to request authorization in the coming days as well. While this process is still likely to take several weeks before completion, it is a very positive development. Moderna, in talks with the European Union, stated that it would charge governments between $20-$50 for each dose of the vaccine. According to the company, this would be approximately the same price as a flu shot. Pfizer is reportedly going to charge $20 for their vaccine. Both would require two doses.
Meanwhile, another treatment has also been given emergency authorization to treat COVID-19. This is the Regeneron antibody treatment that was received by the President. While not a vaccine, this is still an important step in fighting the pandemic. Now with a variety of options, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Trump Divides GOP in Middle East
By Jack Castanoli
The Trump Administration announced this week plans to significantly reduce the number of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two countries — which have a combined American presence of more than 7,500 troops — will be reduced to 2,500 American soldiers per country. Reducing the American presence in Iraq by 500 troops and in Afghanistan by 2,000 troops, the Department of Defense has pledged to withdraw the 2,500 American soldiers by January 15, 2021 — a mere five days before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated.
Following the shakeup at the Department of Defense — which culminated with the firing of Secretary Esper — GOP leaders have voiced concern with this unprecedented move. Ranking Republican member Mac Thornberry of the House Armed Services committee slammed the move as a miscalculation, whereas Senate Armed Services committee chairman Jim Inhofe was cautiously optimistic of the move. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — while not naming Trump explicitly — voiced concern over how the move would hurt the United States’ allies in the Middle East.
The Pentagon is still planning on following through with the policy and will most definitely shake up the American influence in the Middle East.
Another Round of Constitutional Hardball
By Izzy Vallance
For twenty years after Bush v. Gore, every GSA has given the President-elect access to the necessary equipment that they need. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump has gone against democratic norms once again. The General Services Administration (GSA) has been reluctant to sign over documents to President-elect Biden that turn over millions of dollars and allows Biden access to government officials, office space in agencies, and materials used for the purpose of taxpayer-funded transitions teams of the President-elect.
One senior administration official said to the Washington Post that “No agency head is going to get out in front of the president on transition issues right now.” The officials then foretold that in the future, agency heads will be banned from cooperating with Biden and his team.
The GSA gives the President-elect access to senior officials, the political appointees of the leaving administration, and career civil servants, who depend on the agency’s priorities and projects, future deadlines, and areas where there are hiccups and uncertainties. It also gives computer systems and money for salaries and support for the incoming administration in order to help with the huge task of getting a new government up and running.
This attempt by Trump to ban Biden from access to these important utilities is not only hurting Democrats but is also hurting everyone in the government. This is yet again another attempt by Trump to stop his decline of power. First, he used the excuse of “fraudulent elections,” and now he is using the GSA to play constitutional hardball with Biden.