White House Faces New Omicron Threat, HBCU Leaders Send Letter to Senate Supporting Build Back Better & More: Dec. 2 Joint Center Roundup

Biden Administration

African American nurse

Emergence of Omicron variant sparks new concerns: The emergence of a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, Omicron, sparked new concerns at the White House about the impact of another wave of infections, Politico reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now urging all adults to get booster vaccines. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 virus has contributed to a significantly greater decrease in life expectancy for Black people than for white people. According to a National Academy of Medicine report, life expectancy among Black Americans fell 2.7 years compared to 0.8 years among white Americans. The report also found that 67 percent of healthcare workers who have died from COVID-19 were people of color.

EPA conducts listening tour for environmental justice: As the White House’s Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan visited a pollution plagued community in Louisiana, residents expressed doubts about President Biden’s pledge to fight for environmental justice, The Washington Post reports. During Regan’s five-day “Journey to Justice” tour, Regan traveled to a chemical corridor known as “Cancer Alley,” where African Americans experience some of the worst pollution in the nation and suffer from cancer rates well above the U.S. average. Regan cited the $300 billion in funding to fight pollution included in the just-enacted infrastructure investment package, as evidence of the Biden Administration’s commitment to environmental justice for disadvantaged communities.

The Hill

HBCU leaders send letter to Senate supporting Build Back Better: Leaders of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) sent a letter to the U.S. Senate in support of President Biden’s Build Back Better spending bill, The Hill reports. Passed by the House before Thanksgiving, the Senate remains the final obstacle to the legislation reaching Biden’s desk for his signature. The bill includes roughly $2 trillion for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions, and Joint Center recommendations, including expanding the Earned Income and Child Tax credits and investing in workforce training programs.

GOP looks to flip Dems from committee seats: Several House Democrats could be stripped of committee seats by the GOP should Republicans win back a majority in the House in 2022, The Hill reports. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN), member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, were cited among the committee seats that could be at risk.

History-maker Carrie Meek dies at 95: Carrie P. Meek, who in 1992 became one of the first Black Floridians elected to Congress since Reconstruction, died after a long illness at the age of 95, NPR reports. The former Democratic congresswoman championed affirmative action, economic opportunities for the poor, and efforts to bolster democracy and ease immigration restrictions on Haiti, the birthplace of many of her constituents.

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) released a statement mourning the passing of former Congresswoman Meek, expressing “deepest condolences to her family, including her son, former Congressman Kendrick Meek, Director Emeritus of the CBCF Board of Directors.”

Movement Building

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law released a statement from President and Executive Director Damon Hewitt commending the plaintiffs in Sines v. Kessler, a suit seeking to hold the organizers of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville accountable for violence that left numerous people injured and one person dead. Jurors awarded more than $25 million in damages to the plaintiffs.

In a separate statement, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, along with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, condemned efforts by Texas politicians to censor LGBTQ authors and ban books from the state’s schools and libraries as unlawful.


Senator Sherrod Brown

The Joint Center is hosting its last Voice at the Table of 2021 Dec. 8 with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Joint Center President Spencer Overton will be in conversation with Brown about his economic policy priorities, including affordable housing and tax policy, as well as his perspective on diversity among both congressional staff and appointees in the Administration. RSVP here.

The Joint Center will also be hosting a special Economic Recovery and Justice Series: EITC Twitter chat exploring the plight of Black workers and how the Earned Income Tax Credit can address financial stability within the Black community. Join us Dec. 10 at 11 a.m. ET on Twitter and #LetsTalkEITC.