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Week In Politics: U.S. Will Not Reach July 4 Vaccination Goal

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

We heard Dr. Frederick caution, wait, wait; we're not post-pandemic, but our own Ron Elving wants us to think about how far we've come. The last time July Fourth arrived, he writes this weekend, it was hard to find much to celebrate. Ron Elving is NPR's senior Washington editor and correspondent, and he joins us now. Good morning, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So you've been taking stock. We just heard from a part of the country that, frankly, isn't doing so well. What's your feeling about where the country is this Independence Day weekend compared to July 4, 2020?

ELVING: Sadly, that depends on which country you're referring to. Unfortunately, we seem to be more than one country these days, in some ways, Leila, more divided than at any time since the Civil War. With respect to COVID, we've got about half the population vaccinated - far higher percentages among adults, far lower among young people. And there's a wide divide among the states.

Really saddens me to listen to Dr. Frederick. Personally, my heart goes out to the people of Missouri. I went to high school in the Kansas City area. Missouri is also called the Show-Me State, Leila. It's proud of being hard to convince, but facts are facts. As the doctor said, COVID is coming back where vaccination rates are low, and vaccination rates in Missouri are among the lowest - under 30% in many rural counties of the state.

FADEL: So we got more good economic news this week. Friday's job numbers beat expectations. Is the country on solid economic ground?

ELVING: We do seem to be getting there. The jobless rate is still elevated, and some employers say it's hard to find people to fill jobs - at least at current wages. But the trend line is remarkably positive; 850,000 is a lot of new jobs in one month.

FADEL: Yeah.

ELVING: The stock markets are setting records week after week, and people are expecting to be back at work, back in school and back on the ballfields this fall.

FADEL: The Supreme Court issued the last batch of the session's big rulings this week, and the court sided with the state of Arizona in one of them.

ELVING: The court said Arizona could throw out ballots that were mistakenly cast in the wrong precinct and limit the collection of ballots for delivery by others. But the larger fear here is that this ruling - the way it was worded - is a kind of green light to the states that want to tighten restraints on voting in all kinds of ways.

Now, the court said even if these measures affect people of color disproportionately, which they did, that did not necessarily mean it violated constitutional rights. Now, that is quite a departure from the spirit of the Voting Rights Act and the way that act has been read by courts since 1965, including the lower federal courts in this very case. So, look; this decision was 6-3, but it is hard to imagine it would not have been just the opposite, 6-3 the other way, if the 2016 election had come out differently.

FADEL: Wow. There's going to be a select congressional committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol when Trump supporters tried to stop Congress and the vice president from certifying the results of the 2020 election. What are your hopes for that?

ELVING: In terms of settling the debate or healing the partisan divide, this panel does not offer much hope. It would have been much better to have an independent commission. But Republicans, by and large, said no to that. They said it was time to move on, stop talking about January 6. So now we have this version instead. It does have a Republican, Liz Cheney from Wyoming, who is going to be part of it. But, of course, she was one of the people who did hold President Trump responsible that day. And so this will not please many Trump supporters. But it could bring a wealth of information to light and perhaps in a way that will reach people and reveal the reality of what happened. And for that, I do have hope.

FADEL: That's NPR's senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thank you, and Happy Fourth.

ELVING: Thank you, Leila. Happy Fourth to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.