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Biden in vaccine rollout push as states rush to reopen – live updates Biden in vaccine rollout push as states rush to reopen – live updates
(32 minutes later)
Promised increase in vaccine supply comes as Republican Governors drop Covid restrictionsPromised increase in vaccine supply comes as Republican Governors drop Covid restrictions
Also in the Senate today, the nomination of Xavier Becerra faces a key vote in the Finance committee. It’s a test, too, for national groups opposed to abortion, trying to deny a president who favors abortion rights his choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services.
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Thomas Beaumont write for Associated Press that Becerra is paying a price for defending, as California attorney general, some of the nation’s most liberal laws and policies on abortion rights.
During the 2020 election, about 6 in 10 voters said abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to VoteCast, an in-depth survey of the US electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Associated Press. Roughly the same percentage of Republicans said abortion should usually be legal, the survey showed.
Nevertheless lawmakers in 19 state legislatures have introduced almost 50 bills this year to ban most or all abortions, according to the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute. In South Carolina, Republican Gov Henry McMaster signed a measure banning most abortions, though it was almost immediately suspended by a federal judge.
Becerra was appointed California attorney general in 2017. He sued the Trump administration over its restrictions on abortion, although his office says that only four of the 124 lawsuits Becerra filed against the previous administration dealt with abortion, birth control or conscience rights — key issues for religious conservatives. Becerra went all the way to the US Supreme Court to defend a California law that required crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion — and lost.
His legal advocacy grated on abortion opponents. “What I just see is his getting involved in way too many abortion cases,” said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America. “He just made it part of his foundation. Yes, the laws were bad in California, but he has an abortion agenda.”
Republican John Thune, echoed those views. “It does seem like as attorney general you spent an inordinate amount of time and effort suing pro-life organizations,” he said, questioning Becerra recently. “If confirmed, how do you assure us?”
Sen Steve Daines, told Becerra that “I’ve got serious concerns with the radical views that you’ve taken in the past on the issue of abortion.” And Sen Ben Sasse accused Becerra of “targeting religious liberty” when he sued the Trump administration over its rules giving employers with religious or moral objections more leeway to opt out of covering birth control.
The Senate is expected to take up President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package today, with fellow Democrats seeking to advance key priorities and jettison aspects that have drawn unflattering scrutiny.
The bill would pay for vaccines and medical supplies, boost jobless assistance and send a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments. Democrats aim to get it to Biden to sign into law before 14 March, when some current benefits expire.
With Republican cooperation unlikely, Democrats who narrowly control the chamber need to stick together to pass Biden’s top legislative priority. That will require them to sort out a welter of competing ideas as they seek to advance the bill, which passed the House last Saturday. We already know that the proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour has to be excised.
Also on the chopping block, reports Andy Sullivan for Reuters, is $1.5 million for a bridge connecting Canada and New York state, which Republicans have derided, though Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer says it was requested by the Trump administration.
It is not clear whether Democrats will keep another project that has drawn Republican ire - funding for a subway expansion in California’s Silicon Valley.
Democrats have shown no interest in dropping another partisan sticking point - $350 billion in aid for state and local governments, which face rising costs and uncertain tax revenues because of the pandemic.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is pushing to scale back enhanced unemployment benefits to $300 per week from $400. Lawmakers may also opt to discontinue those benefits if unemployment in a given state drops below a certain level, according to a Democratic aide.
Democrats also may tighten income qualifications for $1,400 direct payments, so they are more targeted toward lower-income households, an aide said.
The Senate could vote on the bill by the end of the week. The House would then have to sign off on the changes before Congress could send it on to Biden to sign into law.
With Covid case numbers continuing to fall, and the promise of the vaccine roll-out, states are beginning to list some of the restrictions that have been imposed during the pandemic. Greg Abbott has announced that Texas is flinging open businesses to full capacity while simultaneously ending its highly politicized mask mandate. Julie Bosman and Lucy Tompkins for the New York Times report on other openings around the US:With Covid case numbers continuing to fall, and the promise of the vaccine roll-out, states are beginning to list some of the restrictions that have been imposed during the pandemic. Greg Abbott has announced that Texas is flinging open businesses to full capacity while simultaneously ending its highly politicized mask mandate. Julie Bosman and Lucy Tompkins for the New York Times report on other openings around the US:
That’s despite the warnings from Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said on Monday “I know people are tired; they want to get back to life, to normal. But we’re not there yet.”That’s despite the warnings from Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said on Monday “I know people are tired; they want to get back to life, to normal. But we’re not there yet.”
As Tompkins and Bosman write:As Tompkins and Bosman write:
Read more here: New York Times – Texas drops its virus restrictions as a wave of reopenings takes holdRead more here: New York Times – Texas drops its virus restrictions as a wave of reopenings takes hold
Yesterday Joe Biden said the country was on track to have enough vaccines for every adult in the country by the end of May. In a sideswipe at former president Donald Trump’s Covid efforts, the president said “When we came into office, the prior administration had contracted for not nearly enough vaccine to cover adults in America. We rectified that.”Yesterday Joe Biden said the country was on track to have enough vaccines for every adult in the country by the end of May. In a sideswipe at former president Donald Trump’s Covid efforts, the president said “When we came into office, the prior administration had contracted for not nearly enough vaccine to cover adults in America. We rectified that.”
Here’s a clip from his address on coronavirus yesterday.Here’s a clip from his address on coronavirus yesterday.
The White House Covid response team also emphasised the way that they have pulled forward the ambition to vaccinate every adult in the US – in gif form.The White House Covid response team also emphasised the way that they have pulled forward the ambition to vaccinate every adult in the US – in gif form.
According to CDC data, at least 50 million adults in the US have now received at least their first shot of a Covid vaccine – including Dolly Parton, who got a job of the Moderna vaccine that she helped fund.According to CDC data, at least 50 million adults in the US have now received at least their first shot of a Covid vaccine – including Dolly Parton, who got a job of the Moderna vaccine that she helped fund.
Welcome to today’s live coverage of US politics. Here’s a catch-up on where we are, and a little of what we can expect to see today:Welcome to today’s live coverage of US politics. Here’s a catch-up on where we are, and a little of what we can expect to see today:
Joe Biden said that the US expects to have enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated.Joe Biden said that the US expects to have enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated.
Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritize vaccinating teachers and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program.Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritize vaccinating teachers and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program.
His administration said that the drugmaker Merck would help produce Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.His administration said that the drugmaker Merck would help produce Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.
There were 53,544 new Covid cases, and 1,819 further deaths in the US. Hospitalization levels are now down to 46,388 across the country.There were 53,544 new Covid cases, and 1,819 further deaths in the US. Hospitalization levels are now down to 46,388 across the country.
Republican governors have seized on the declining numbers to start re-opening the economy. Despite experts warning a premature lifting of restrictions could spark another surge in infection, Texas’ Greg Abbot announced he was rescinding the state’s mask mandate and business would be able to operate at 100% from next week.Republican governors have seized on the declining numbers to start re-opening the economy. Despite experts warning a premature lifting of restrictions could spark another surge in infection, Texas’ Greg Abbot announced he was rescinding the state’s mask mandate and business would be able to operate at 100% from next week.
Neera Tanden withdrew as a Cabinet nominee after facing opposition. In an ironic demonstration of “cancel culture” in action, Republican senators cited Tanden’s tweets in opposing her nomination for director of the budget office.Neera Tanden withdrew as a Cabinet nominee after facing opposition. In an ironic demonstration of “cancel culture” in action, Republican senators cited Tanden’s tweets in opposing her nomination for director of the budget office.
The Senate Finance committee will vote today on the nomination of Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services.The Senate Finance committee will vote today on the nomination of Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Senate homeland security committee and the Senate rules and administration committee will hold their second joint hearing on the Capitol insurrection at 10am ET (1500 GMT), with testimony from senior DHS and FBI officials.The Senate homeland security committee and the Senate rules and administration committee will hold their second joint hearing on the Capitol insurrection at 10am ET (1500 GMT), with testimony from senior DHS and FBI officials.
The White House Covid response team will give their latest press briefing at 11am, and Jen Psaki gives a briefing at 12.30pm.The White House Covid response team will give their latest press briefing at 11am, and Jen Psaki gives a briefing at 12.30pm.
At 1.45pm President Biden holds a bipartisan meeting on cancer in the Oval Office which Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend. At 5pm Biden takes part in a virtual event with the House Democratic Caucus.At 1.45pm President Biden holds a bipartisan meeting on cancer in the Oval Office which Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend. At 5pm Biden takes part in a virtual event with the House Democratic Caucus.