National News at a Glance
Posted December 21, 2017 9:47 p.m. EST
Tax Cuts Buoy Republicans, But Midterms Could Be Brutal
The sweeping tax overhaul approved by Congress this week hands Republicans a long-sought achievement they believe will bolster their defenses in next year’s midterm campaign, but party officials concede the measure may only mitigate their losses in what is shaping up to be a punishing election year. While the tax legislation is broadly unpopular, the bill offers Republicans the sort of signature accomplishment they have been lacking to galvanize their demoralized donors and many of their voters. Republican lawmakers now have an opportunity to go on the offensive with an issue that unites their increasingly fractious party.
Trump Administration Considers Separating Families to Combat Illegal Immigration
The Trump administration is considering a new policy that would separate parents from their children when families are caught entering the country illegally, according to officials who have been briefed on the plans. The forceful move is meant to discourage border crossings, but immigrant groups have denounced it as draconian and inhumane. The policy has been approved by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to three officials at the Department of Homeland Security and one at the White House who declined to be named because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. The officials said the Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, has yet to sign off on the proposal.
Opioid Crisis Is Getting Worse — Particularly for Black Americans
The epidemic of drug overdoses made striking inroads among black Americans last year — particularly in urban counties where fentanyl has become widespread. While the steep rise in 2016 drug deaths has been noted previously, these are the first numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to break down 2016 mortality along geographic and racial lines. They reveal that the drug death rate is rising most steeply among blacks, with those between the ages of 55 and 64 hit hardest. Life expectancy in the United States dropped for the second year in a row last year.
‘A Sense of Relief’ as Memphis Skirts Law to Ditch Confederate Statues
A towering monument to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, was removed from Memphis Park on Wednesday night, along with an equestrian statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, from a second park. City leaders circumvented a state law preventing their removal by selling the parkland to a nonprofit group — a creative solution that Republican leaders of the Tennessee House branded as potentially illegal. But much of Memphis, a city that is 64 percent black, saw the removals as essential as the city gears up to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Sign-Ups Swell for a Health Law the President Says Is ‘Imploding’
The Trump administration said Thursday that 8.8 million people had signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace. The numbers essentially defied President Donald Trump’s assertion that “Obamacare is imploding.” They suggested that consumers want the coverage and subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act, even though political battles over the law are sure to continue in Congress and in next year’s midterm election campaigns. The number of people who signed up this year was 96 percent of the 9.2 million who selected health plans or were automatically re-enrolled through the federal marketplace in the last sign-up season.
Facial Scans at U.S. Airports Violate Americans’ Privacy, Report Says
A new report concludes that a Department of Homeland Security pilot program improperly gathers data on Americans when it requires passengers embarking on foreign flights to undergo facial recognition scans to ensure they haven’t overstayed visas. The report, released by researchers at the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University’s law school, called the system an invasive surveillance tool that the department had installed at nearly a dozen airports without going through a required federal rule-making process. The report’s authors said the technology had high error rates and was subject to bias, because the scans often fail to identify women and African-Americans.