Year in Review: Much was stewing in the nation’s capital
Roe’s reversal, the “red wave” that wasn’t, and Russia dominated headlines in 2022
From protests to budget battles, a lot happened in the political world this year. Here’s a quick recap of the top stories for 2022:
A post-Roe world
The legal fight for unborn life ratcheted up at the Supreme Court in May after someone inside the court leaked a draft majority opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Pro-life supporters and pro-abortion protesters flocked to the court—and so did WORLD. We covered the scene on the ground for the leak and decision day for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, when Justice Samuel Alito’s official majority opinion said that abortion is not a federally recognized right and should return as a state issue. From church groups to black-clad antifa activists, everyone had their say in Washington on that day. The person who leaked the draft opinion has not yet been publicly identified in the course of an internal investigation.
Following the landmark decision, abortion became a key factor in elections. Democrats introduced straw-man bills to foment suspicion and confusion about what the Dobbs decision meant. Candidates campaigned either as pro-abortion champions for women or conservatives for the unborn with mixed results. Voters also faced ballot initiatives, most of which trended in favor of abortion and enshrined the killing of the unborn as a state right across the country.
Conventional wisdom and early reporting indicated Democrats would suffer losses at the polls this year. But as the election cycle wore on, voters and candidates alike seemed motivated by abortion, inflation, and election integrity concerns. And on the Republican side, candidates had to grapple with former President Donald Trump’s ongoing influence, both pro and con. As early as the primaries in May, it became clear that GOP gains were going to be more difficult than expected.
WORLD was on the ground in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Washington to cover a broad slate of gubernatorial and congressional races. Republicans gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, but after close battles and a runoff election, Democrats picked up a seat in the Senate. Numerous pro-life ballot measures also failed on Election Day. The red wave dissipated for this year, leaving a huge question mark for 2024, for which Trump has already announced his candidacy for president.
Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago, plunging it into economic, immigration, and war-torn chaos. The war also affected international and domestic politics for the United States, a key NATO member. While the U.S. military is not obligated to join forces with Ukraine, which is not a part of NATO, the U.S. government has consistently sent economic and military aid for 10 months.
Internationally, the war played havoc with gas and energy costs, despite early demands to sanction a major Russian gas pipeline. To offset the rising cost of gasoline, President Joe Biden released record amounts from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but some sales to Chinese-affiliated companies raised eyebrows from Republicans and energy analysts. In August, then–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in defiance of warnings from China.
Also this year, Biden started talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Despite his administration’s discussion of the 2015 agreement, Biden said at an election rally in November that the deal “is dead, but we’re not going to announce it,” according to a recently posted video. By December, the State Department shifted away from this priority and clarified that the JCPOA is not on its agenda since Iranian leaders walked away from the table in September.
Around Capitol Hill
What did get done this year?
- Following deadly mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, this spring, Congress took up red-flag laws and passed a bipartisan bill to boost background checks for gun purchases and permission for authorities to monitor those who pose a likely shooter risk.
- Rep. Nancy Pelosi officially stepped down from her party leadership post, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York will take her place as lead Democrat next week when Republicans take control of the House.
- Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer retired from the bench, paving the way for the first black woman, Ketanji Brown Jackson, to serve on the high court.
- The House subcommittee investigating riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, held a series of prime-time, televised hearings and concluded that former President Donald Trump knowingly stirred up crowds to oppose Joe Biden’s win in November 2020 even though he knew it was legitimate.
- Concurrently, the FBI obtained a warrant and seized boxes containing thousands of documents from Trump’s estate in Florida to see if the former president wrongfully retained papers from the National Archives. The act sparked ongoing legal battles involving highly classified documents, presidential privilege, and what critics call a politicized Justice Department.
- To combat an impending recession, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which purported to offset high costs by taxing rich corporations. As with any tax bill, the reality is a bit more complicated.
- And in this month, enough Republicans joined Democrats to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified the right to same-sex marriage into federal law. Although the Supreme Court already issued a decision protecting same-sex marriages in 2015, lawmakers feared a reversal of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision following the downfall of Roe v. Wade.
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