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Luke! It’s Darth Vader!

Hot Topics | October 8, 2021

Nestled among the leafy streets of Cathedral Heights in Northwest D.C. stands the stately Washington National Cathedral. If you visit the cathedral, you may encounter a famous father on your spiritual journey. We aren’t talking about the Heavenly Father, but the galaxy’s most notorious villain: Carved into the northwest tower of the world’s sixth-largest cathedral is the head of Darth Vader.

Lord Vader holds such a prominent perch upon a place of worship thanks to a boy named Christopher Rader. In 1980, the cathedral held a contest that allowed schoolchildren to design a sculpture to be incorporated into the cathedral’s renovations. Rader, who was in the third grade at the time, submitted a drawing of Darth Vader. As the winner of the third place prize in the contest, Rader’s drawing was incorporated into the cathedral’s renovations as a grotesque. (Since the carving of Darth Vader’s head is not used to drain water, architects refer to the design flourish as a grotesque instead of a gargoyle.)

Stick with us. You don’t have to look to a galaxy far far away for a roundup of public policy news:

NiXing Title X regulation

  • On Monday, the White House revoked a Trump-era rule that prevented clinics from referring patients for abortions if they elected to receive federal funding for family planning. Title X supports healthcare facilities that offer infertility treatment, contraception counseling and routine cancer screenings to Americans with lower incomes. About a quarter of clinics who had previously received Title X funding, including Planned Parenthood, withdrew from the program when the rule was implemented in 2018. The rule is slated to be revoked on November 8. (The Hill, Axios, Roll Call)

Testing, testing, COVID-19 testing

  • President Biden announced a $2 billion investment in rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests. The cash infusion will roughly quadruple the nation’s supply of tests by December, which is likely to be welcome news for the millions of Americans who must undergo frequent COVID-19 testing as part of efforts to reopen the country. The news will also likely be welcomed by the U.S. Senators who questioned the Secretary of Health and Human Services on why affordable, rapid tests were not widely available in the United States. (STAT, The Hill, POLITICO)
    • Read more: Earlier this week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized another rapid COVID-19 test. (FDA Press Release)

The difficult decision facing Democrats

  • After Democrats reached an impasse on the size of their reconciliation package, the party is now looking to pare back the size of the $3.5 trillion bill to appease Senators Joe Machin (D-W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), has said CPC lawmakers will accept a bill between $1.5 trillion and $3.5 trillion. The question now becomes what healthcare priorities are included and excluded from the bill. Some moderates have proposed introducing a “means test” that would make wealthy Americans ineligible for Medicare. Others have proposed “sunsetting” certain policies after three to five years as a cost-saving measure. (The Hill, POLITICO)

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