The Morning Dispatch: Romney’s Child Poverty Plan

Plus: Biden ends U.S. support for the war in Yemen.

Happy Friday! Go...Chiefs?

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • President Biden announced Thursday that the United States’ support for Saudi-led offensive operations in Yemen will come to an end. He also said he is appointing career diplomat Timothy Lenderking as an envoy to conduct peace talks to end the conflict.

  • Johnson & Johnson formally requested emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). An FDA panel will meet to review the vaccine’s clinical trial data and make a recommendation on February 26.

  • The House of Representatives voted Thursday afternoon to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her two committee assignments in light of her history of violent and offensive comments. Greene made a speech earlier in the day distancing herself from some of her previous statements. Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the resolution.

  • Initial jobless claims decreased by 33,000 week-over-week to 779,000 last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday. About 17.8 million people were on some form of unemployment insurance during the week ending January 16, compared with 2.1 million people during the comparable week in 2020.

  • President Biden announced yesterday his administration is planning to increase the annual cap on refugees allowed into the United States to 125,000, up from the current 15,000 level. The change would go into effect next fiscal year, beginning in October.

  • The United States confirmed 119,564 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday per the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, with 7.3 percent of the 1,646,249 tests reported coming back positive. An additional 4,977 deaths were attributed to the virus on Thursday, bringing the pandemic’s American death toll to 455,657. According to the COVID Tracking Project, 88,668 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1,325,456 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered yesterday, bringing the nationwide total to 35,203,710.

Romney’s Plan to Reduce Child Poverty

Marriage and birth rates have been steadily declining for decades in the United States, both reaching a nadir in 2018—the last year for which we have accurate data. According to the World Bank, the American fertility rate is 145th out of the 200 countries and states measured. 

Many factors have contributed to these trends, including longer life expectanciesincreasing educational attainment, and a decline in religiosity. But there’s another, simpler reason: Raising a family in 2021 America is an incredibly expensive proposition.

On Thursday, Sen. Mitt Romney introduced a deficit-neutral legislative framework aiming to eliminate some of these obstacles to families by reforming the federal welfare system that was last meaningfully updated in 1996. “Now is the time to renew our commitment to families to help them meet the challenges they face as they take on [the] most important work any of us will ever do: Raising our society’s children,” Romney said

The proposal is relatively simple, as far as federal welfare programs go. Parents would receive monthly cash benefits—$350 for children ages zero to five, $250 for children ages six to 17—and they would become eligible for them four months prior to a child’s due date. A family’s total annual benefit would be capped at $15,000, meaning the program’s diminishing returns begin to kick in after four or five children. Payouts would begin to slowly phase out at set income thresholds: $200,000 for single-filers, and $400,000 for joint-filers.

According to an analysis from the centrist Niskanen Center, the Family Security Act would reduce the child poverty rate in America by a third (2.8 million children) and cut the deep child poverty rate in half (1.2 million).

Biden Ends U.S. Support for War in Yemen

President Biden announced an end to U.S. support for offensive operations in Yemen Thursday, following up on a campaign promise and placing a renewed emphasis on resolving the country’s civil war through American diplomacy. In doing so, the administration reverses an Obama and Trump-era policy backing the Saudi Arabia-led intervention into Yemen to fight the Houthi rebels.

The cessation of American military and financial aid is aimed at quelling the “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe” resulting from the conflict. “This war has to end,” the president said in his address, “and to underscore our commitment, we’re ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.”

Part of the administration’s diplomatic strategy, according to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, will be to appoint a special envoy to Yemen. Biden later confirmed Tim Lenderking, a longtime diplomat with experience in Middle Eastern affairs, will fill that role. “He’s going to have his hands full, but he’s a very experienced guy,” Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, told The Dispatch. And the situation on the ground is far more complicated than simply limiting U.S. arms flow.

When Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen’s civil war on behalf of government-in-exile leader Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in 2015, the conflict had been raging in some form for several years. Riyadh saw the instability on its southern border, as well as the Houthi rebels’ apparent ties to its regional rival Iran, as a pressing threat to national security.

More than five years later, the conflict has escalated into one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, with Iran and Saudi Arabia using Yemen as an arena in which to confront one another indirectly.

Worth Your Time

  • On July 14, 1964—the day of the Republican National Convention—then-Republican presidential candidate and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller spoke on behalf of an amendment condemning political extremist organizations such as the Communist Party, the KKK, and the John Birch Society. The amendment failed, and Rockefeller lost to Barry Goldwater in the presidential primary. “But the fact that such a resolution was debated at all—in such a visible venue, with such high-profile advocates—also says something about Republicans today,” Ronald Brownstein writes in TheAtlantic. What might GOP lawmakers learn from their forebears’ battles with the Birchers in the ‘60s? “The more the party allows itself to be branded as tolerating (or even welcoming) extremism, the more its support is likely to erode among previously Republican-leaning constituencies, especially white-collar suburbanites.”

  • This BBC investigation into Uighur concentration camps from Matthew Hill, David Campanale, and Joel Gunter is very difficult to read. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it. “First-hand accounts from inside the internment camps are rare, but several former detainees and a guard have told the BBC they experienced or saw evidence of an organised system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture,” the trio write. “Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled Xinjiang after her release and is now in the US, said women were removed from the cells ‘every night’ and raped by one or more masked Chinese men. She said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men.”

Something Courageous

We wrote to you yesterday about the sentencing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Take a few minutes this morning to listen to a recording of the speech he made in court.

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • In today’s French Press (🔒), David takes a look at conservative pushback to Big Tech in two recent instances he argues have been blown out of proportion. “Millions on the right viewed the Parler cancellation as all the evidence we need that Big Tech is out of control. You mean Trump supporters can’t even start their own social media network without progressive Big Tech’s permission? The market is broken. Cancel culture is out of control. But what if there’s a different story?” he writes.

  • Thursday’s edition of Vital Interests(🔒) breaks down the series of decisions President Biden will have to make on Afghanistan policy, with Thomas Joscelyn coming to the conclusion that there’s no perfect path forward. “Will President Biden leave 2,500 American service members, plus associated civilian personnel, in Afghanistan beyond May 1? If Biden decides to do so, then it is likely that more Americans will suffer casualties in an already unpopular war,” he writes. “If President Biden decides to complete America’s withdrawal, then the Afghan government’s weak grasp on power will become only more tenuous. The Taliban is laying the groundwork for the return of its Islamic Emirate. So is al-Qaeda.”

Let Us Know

Who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl this weekend? And what’ll you be snacking on?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Haley Byrd Wilt (@byrdinator), Audrey Fahlberg (@FahlOutBerg), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).