Current Event April 2, 2021
Filibustering is a strategy used by U.S. senators to delay or block a vote on a bill they oppose. In the past, it involved non-stop speaking on the floor of the Senate to prevent the vote from taking place. Now, however, a simple email is enough to trigger a filibuster and require 60 votes to pass legislation rather than a simple majority. The filibuster was designed to encourage compromise, but in today’s highly divided Senate, it is often used as a tool by one side to obstruct the other side’s agenda. Listen to hear arguments for and against the current rules and then debate: Should the Senate filibuster be changed?
Current Event March 26, 2021
Mandatory mask requirements have been lifted in Texas, giving restaurants and other businesses the freedom to set their own pandemic safety rules. Those in favor of the move say people, not the government, should take responsibility for the health and safety of their businesses. They note that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing, and lifting restrictions can help businesses recover. Opponents fear that it’s too early to roll back safety rules. They argue that it’s the government’s job to safeguard public health, and that masks should not yet be optional. Listen to Texas restaurant owners react to the change and then debate: Should business owners be allowed to decide their mask policies?
Current Event March 22, 2021
In an address to the nation, President Joe Biden set an aggressive timeline for getting Americans vaccinated and back to normal life. He said he expected the pace of vaccinations will be fast enough to allow friends and family to celebrate the 4th of July holiday together safely. Biden also expressed excitement over his recently passed $1.9 trillion package designed to bring economic relief to Americans. Listen to hear more about Biden’s optimistic remarks and plans for moving the country forward after a very difficult year.
Current Event March 19, 2021
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Even full-time workers often find it difficult to support themselves or their families at that rate. Democrats have proposed a dramatic boost in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, arguing it would energize the economy by encouraging people to spend more and would help address income inequalities. Opponents argue the economy would suffer under a higher federal minimum wage, as some small businesses could be forced to lay off workers and raise prices. Listen to business owners discuss the pros and cons of a $15 minimum wage and then debate: Should the minimum wage be raised?
Update: Since this story aired, the COVID relief bill passed Congress and became law.
Current Event March 5, 2021
Some people say universal basic income, or a regular cash payment from the government to each American, is one of the best ways to address economic inequality in America. They argue that guaranteed income would help everyone, especially those who are struggling financially, to cover basic living costs and feel supported during hard times. Opponents argue that guaranteed income could reduce the labor force by encouraging people not to work, and the costs of such a program would be high. Listen to a former mayor explain Martin Luther King, Jr.’s views on economic equality and then debate: Should there be universal basic income?
Current Event March 2, 2021
In a landmark 2020 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that employers may not discriminate against gay and transgender workers. Soon after taking office, President Biden signed an executive order that broadened these protections beyond just the workplace. The order says discrimination in housing, healthcare, and other areas is also illegal, and the LGBTQ community is welcoming the news. Critics, though, say Biden’s order represents a misuse of executive power. Listen to hear why one attorney called Biden’s approach “transformational,” and learn about possible next steps to solidify protections.
Current Event February 22, 2021
A huge power outage in Texas has left millions of people without electricity. The crisis occurred when a storm brought frigid temperatures causing equipment to freeze in every part of the state’s power generation system, including wind turbines, natural gas wells, and coal and nuclear plants. The cold weather was unusual for Texas, but experts say the state needs to prepare its power systems for more extreme weather events in the future. Listen to learn more about the crisis and how politicians are discussing it in the media.
Current Event February 18, 2021
In his second impeachment trial, the Senate acquitted former president Donald Trump on charges of inciting an insurrection. The vote to convict Trump was 57-43, with seven Republicans siding with the Democrats, but it fell short of the 67 needed for a conviction. The acquittal meant the Senate could not take steps to bar Trump from holding office again. Listen to learn why Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell condemned Trump after voting to acquit him, and hear a reporter explain how the impeachment trial could impact the former president’s legacy.
Current Event February 12, 2021
After the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, many people are calling for national unity, but opinions differ as to how it can be achieved. Some say unity will only come through a process of reconciliation, or examining past wrongs and holding those who are guilty accountable. They argue that seeking justice allows a country to move beyond its painful past. Others say focusing on the past diverts energy from the task of looking ahead, keeps anger and divisions alive, and slows the healing process. Listen to learn parallels between post-Civil War America and today and then debate: Are unity and accountability mutually exclusive?
Current Event February 8, 2021
President Biden has nominated New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland to head the U.S. Department of the Interior. If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland would become the first Native American to hold a Cabinet-level position in the government. The Interior Department oversees public land such as national parks. In the past, the U.S. government removed indigenous people from much of their land, and some say Haaland’s Native American background gives her a unique perspective on issues of land use and rights. Listen to hear more about Deb Haaland and reactions to her nomination, and learn what she hopes to accomplish as Interior secretary.
Update: Since this story aired, Deb Haaland has been confirmed by Congress as U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
Current Event February 4, 2021
President Biden is bringing pets back to the White House. After four years without animals, the White House has become home to Biden’s two German shepherds, Major and Champ. Biden adopted the dogs from a shelter, and they are helping to raise awareness of the joys of rescue animals and the benefits that shelters bring to the community. Listen to hear a past president howling with his hound and learn the story of Major’s journey to the Biden household.
Current Event February 2, 2021
President Joe Biden has issued a detailed national plan for fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The 200-page document outlines the federal government’s strategy for testing and vaccinating Americans, restoring U.S. leadership in the world, and more. This audio story features an infectious disease doctor discussing Biden’s plan, including his views on both its merits and its shortcomings. Listen to a medical expert explain how well the plan meets the challenges he has seen as a doctor, and why he calls the plan “very U.S.-centric.”
Current Event February 1, 2021
The U.S. Senate is preparing a second impeachment trial for Donald J. Trump on the charge of inciting an insurrection. The Constitution says officials convicted by the Senate will be removed from office, but Trump already left when his term expired. Some members of Congress say impeaching an ex-president does not make sense and want the trial called off. Others believe Trump should be held accountable for his behavior in the final weeks of his presidency and prevented from holding future office. Listen to learn more about the penalties that Congress can place on impeached leaders and what to expect in Trump’s second impeachment trial.
Current Event January 28, 2021
Poet Amanda Gorman never expected to become a public speaker. Although she composed poetry from a young age, her speech impediment made it difficult for her to pronounce certain words. Recently, though, she stood at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. and delivered an original poem at the inauguration ceremony for President Joe Biden. At age 22, she is the youngest poet ever to receive that honor. Listen to Gorman describe why the event held special meaning for her, how she prepared for it, and why she sometimes revises her poems at the last minute.
Current Event January 25, 2021
Joseph Biden was sworn in as America’s 46th president on January 20, 2021. The inauguration ceremony took place at the U.S. Capitol, two weeks after violent extremists stormed the building in an effort to overturn the election. Vice-president Kamala Harris also took the oath of office, making history by becoming the first female vice-president and also the first Black and Asian American. Biden and Harris take office as the country faces extraordinary challenges, including a worldwide pandemic and a deeply divided nation. Listen to hear more about an historic event and how it differed from past inaugurations.
Current Event January 19, 2021
A week after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, President Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for inciting an insurrection, which is a violent uprising against the government. He is the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. Ten Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in voting to impeach Trump, indicating more bipartisanship than his last impeachment garnered. The process now moves to the Senate for a trial, although that will not occur until after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Listen to hear the voices of lawmakers arguing for and against impeachment and reporters considering what might happen next.
Current Event January 14, 2021
Rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol could be charged with sedition, or an attempt to “overthrow, put down, or destroy the government by force.” The mob attacked legislators as they were carrying out a fundamental duty of American democracy: certifying the electoral votes confirming the country’s next president. Although sedition is hard to prove in court, some say that holding violent extremists responsible for their actions will help prevent future attacks. Listen to learn more about the meaning of sedition and how it has been used in the past to prosecute terrorism.