The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Polar Vortex Express

The Midwest is freezing. Plus, negotiations to prevent another shutdown are heating up.

Kiichiro Sato / AP

What We’re Following Today

It’s Wednesday, January 30. The first day of negotiations to avoid a second government shutdown kicked off today on Capitol Hill, where 17 senators and representatives who have been charged with finding a solution to the impasse over border-wall funding have until February 15 to reach a deal. President Donald Trump said that conferees are “wasting time” if they don’t discuss a physical barrier.

Let’s Talk: Michael Cohen’s testimony to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees next month will take place behind closed doors—which means he’ll likely be more forthcoming about Trump and the Trump campaign’s alleged dealings with Russia than he would be during a public testimony, reports Natasha Bertrand.

On Tap: Stacey Abrams recently told The Atlantic’s Vann R. Newkirk II that she’s considering running for a Georgia Senate seat in 2020, or again for its governorship in 2022. Next week, she’ll be the first black woman to deliver a party’s State of the Union rebuttal, and the fact that the Democratic Party has tapped her for the task is a sure sign that it has big plans for her in the future.

Still Running Short: The shutdown is over, but many federal workers and their families are still struggling. One federal contractor told The Atlantic’s Joe Pinsker that she’s been forced to ration her children’s asthma medication to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the House approved a pay raise of 2.6 percent for federal workers, after Trump canceled a scheduled 2.1 percent raise in December.

The Will of the People?: In November, Utah voters approved a Medicaid expansion that would have ensured free coverage for 150,000 people in the state. Now the Republican legislature is actively trying to place restrictions on that coverage—a move that they say will make it fiscally responsible, but that advocates say is “trampling on the most fundamental principles of representative democracy.”

Bundle Up: Forecasts predicted that some places in America might feel as cold as 50 degrees below zero today, forcing many to stay home from work and school. Some of these forecasts accurately predicted the exact degrees the temperature descended to, demonstrating just how accurate modern weather forecasting has become.


A warning sign is covered by ice at Clark Square Park in Evanston, Illinois. A deadly arctic deep freeze enveloped the Midwest with record-breaking temperatures on Wednesday, triggering widespread closures of schools and businesses, and prompting the U.S. Postal Service to take the rare step of suspending mail delivery to a wide swath of the region. (Nam Y. Huh / AP)

Ideas From The Atlantic

The Environmental Issue Republicans Can’t Ignore (Cynthia Barnett)
“We must hope that the red-state governors’ attention to water will lead them to act on climate change, because the sorry truth is that even the boldest work on water won’t mean much if we
can’t also stop warming.” → Read on.

Teaching the Bible in Public Schools Is a Bad Idea—For Christians (Jonathan Merritt)
“If conservative Christians don’t trust public schools to teach their children about sex or science, though, why would they want to outsource instruction about sacred scripture to government employees?” → Read on.

There’s No Case for War With Venezuela (Conor Friedersdorf)
“To me, bluffing when one cannot lawfully follow through is a generally high-risk, foolhardy approach to international relations, but it’s still preferable to the alternative explanation: a risky, unilateral war of choice that shouldn’t even be a possibility.” → Read on.

What Else We’re Reading

Why Trump’s Superfans Dig Ocasio-Cortez (Ben Schreckinger, Politico)

The Undoing of a Nation (Anthony Broadman, High Country News)

TAKEN: How Police Departments Make Millions by Seizing Property (Anna Lee, Nathaniel Cary, and Mike Ellis, The Greenville News

The Personal Toll of Whistle-Blowing (Sheelah Kolhatkar, The New Yorker)

Virginia Governor Northam Faces Fierce Conservative Backlash Over Abortion Bill (Laura Vozzella, The Washington Post)

We’re always looking for ways to improve The Politics & Policy Daily, and will be testing some formats throughout the new year. Concerns, comments, questions, typos? Let us know anytime here.

Were you forwarded this newsletter? Sign up for our daily politics email here.