Here’s what we’re talking about:
- 7 powerful people are behind Biden’s push to break up Big Tech
- The Delta variant is hitting red states hardest
- The 8 things you need to know about Senate Dems’ efforts to legalize cannabis
What to look out for today: President Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the singer Olivia Rodrigo are meeting to work on promoting COVID-19 vaccinations.
With Phil Rosen.
1. THE BRAIN TRUST: Biden is ready for a fight. He has stacked his administration with advisors who want to take on Big Tech and last week signed an executive order encouraging tougher antitrust enforcement.
My colleagues took a look at the key players to watch as the two sides square off in the years to come:
- Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission: Khan honed her antitrust background in law school, where she became the face of the so-called hipster antitrust movement, which seeks to shift the focus of competition law to address factors like income inequality. Amazon has already pushed back on the youngest FTC chair in history by arguing Khan’s past criticisms of the company make her too biased to judge its defense.
- Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council: Ramamurti joined the White House after a stint on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. He also briefly served on a panel overseeing COVID-19 relief funds. He conceded that Biden couldn’t do antitrust enforcement unilaterally but added that the president was setting the tone for the enforcement to come.
- Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, FTC member: Slaughter was a longtime staffer for Sen. Chuck Schumer before joining the FTC in 2018. Last year, she made a speech arguing that Americans were hungry for a return to trustbusting.
2. Senate Democrats reach infrastructure deal: They’ve struck a deal among themselves on a $3.5 trillion package that would expand Medicare and strengthen social-safety-net programs. It’s among the largest spending bills ever taken up by Congress. An aide called this a “baby step.” More on the delicate balancing act the party now faces.
- The details: $4.1 trillion. That’s the combined amount of new money for infrastructure spending from the new proposal and the previously announced bipartisan deal. Democrats say their plan would be fully paid for with tax increases.
The most powerful person in Washington, again: Democrats can pass their latest plan only through a special budget process. An unelected official will have the final say on what’s in the plan.
3. Top Senate Dems just released their plan for legalizing pot: Their proposal would end cannabis prohibition, expunge records for nonviolent cannabis offenses, and expand medical-marijuana research. It would also set up a fund to invest cannabis tax revenue into communities affected by the war on drugs and help entrepreneurs of color access the industry. Here’s what else you need to know about the sweeping bill.
4. Biden laces into “un-American” GOP voting bills: He denounced the wave of GOP-backed voting-restriction bills, using the concept of a free and fair democracy to make a moral argument for voting rights in his first major speech on the matter. He also took a swing at 2020 election conspiracy theories, saying “The big lie is just that — a big lie.” Biden has faced mounting pressure from voting-rights activists to take more forceful action.
Here’s what’s in the voting bills that Democrats fled Texas to block: Texas Republicans are vowing to arrest their colleagues who fled the state, The Texas Tribune reports. But in reality, there’s little they can do to make them return.
5. Inflation remains above expectations: The Consumer Price Index rose 0.9% from May to June, nearly doubling the consensus estimate. Since the US economy has gradually reopened, inflation has been high, dividing businesses and policymakers on how to respond. More on the highest month-over-month inflation rate since 2008.
6. The Delta variant is hitting red states hardest: Delta cases have risen primarily in states with low vaccination rates, which for the most part are heavily Republican states such as Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Wyoming. Overall, these states have seen higher upticks in daily cases and hospitalizations than states that voted Democratic in the 2020 election. Why daily COVID-19 cases reported in the US are up 60% in the past two weeks.
7. Seventy-two people have died amid unrest in South Africa: Unrest in the country is its worst in decades, The Washington Post reports, after former President Jacob Zuma was jailed July 7 over his refusal to cooperate with a corruption inquiry. Pro-Zuma protests have escalated into looting that has blocked major supply routes, prompting government officials to declare fuel and food shortages, per The Post. More on the violence crippling Johannesburg.
8. Trump was reportedly enraged over the leak about his sheltering in the White House bunker: Donald Trump was said to be furious after reports last year said he and his family hid in the White House bunker during the George Floyd protests, according to The Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender’s new book, adding that Trump said whoever leaked that information should be executed. It wouldn’t be the first time Trump thought someone should be executed for crossing him.
9. The ACLU and other civil- and disability-rights groups are backing Britney Spears: The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed an amicus brief in a Los Angeles court in support of Spears’ effort to secure her own legal counsel in her bid to end her conservatorship, which began in 2008. More than two dozen other organizations signaled their support too. More on the latest.
10. Your guide to the 2021 Emmy nominations: Netflix ‘s “The Crown” and Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian” each led the field with 24 nominations. The pandemic didn’t slow down NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” as the long-running show netted 21 nominations. Here are the other shows leading the pack.
- A historic moment: Mj Rodriguez became the first trans person to be nominated for a major acting category, for her role on “Pose.”
- A bunch of firsts: It’s finally Courteney Cox’s month, week, and year. Marvel Studios broke into the major categories thanks to “WandaVision.” And Kaley Cuoco had a moment she says she’ll “never forget.”
Today’s trivia question: Today is Bastille Day in France. Where in the US can you see the key to the infamous prison? Email your guess and a suggested question to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Yesterday’s answer: JPMorgan Chase owns the dueling pistols used by Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.