President Joe Biden on Tuesday called for an end to the filibuster to allow for passage of federal voting rights bills, as congressional Democrats increasingly prioritize ballot box protections and advocates grow frustrated over stalled legislation.
In a long-awaited speech on voting rights, the president tried to frame the issue as one that has historically received bipartisan support, accusing Senate Republicans of lacking the "courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect the right to vote." Their obstruction, he said, left Democrats with "no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this."
"Pass it now," Biden said, referring to the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. "I am tired of being quiet."
Biden has been under pressure to more aggressively address voting rights after a wave of restrictive voting laws, fueled by former President Donald Trump's false claims about the results of the 2020 election, were passed last year by more than a dozen GOP-controlled state legislatures. His speech also comes amid anxiety from activists who are frustrated and demanding more leadership from the president.
In a speech on the Senate floor shortly after watching the president’s remarks in Atlanta, Sen. Mitt Romney spoke against doing away with the filibuster and likened Biden to former President Donald Trump regarding elections.
Romney, who opposes the voting rights bill, noted that Biden said in his speech that the goal of some Republicans is to “turn the will of the voters into a mere suggestion.”
“And so President Biden goes down the same tragic road taken by President Trump, casting doubt on the reliability of American elections. This is a sad, sad day. I expected more of President Biden who came into office with a stated goal of bringing the country together,” Romney said.
“We need some good rules changes to make the place work better. But getting rid of the filibuster doesn’t make it work better,” Manchin told reporters.
Given support from Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) for the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most bills to advance in the Senate, Democrats acknowledge that getting rid of it altogether isn’t on the table.
Instead, they are discussing smaller changes including moving to a talking filibuster, where opponents could delay the bill for as long as they could hold the floor but legislation would ultimately be able to pass with a simple majority. They are also mulling a carveout that would exempt voting rights legislation from needing 60 votes.
Some Republican leaders are trying to move on from former President Donald Trump's failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election that he lost.
"While there were some irregularities, there were none of the irregularities which would have risen to the point where they would have changed the vote outcome in a single state," Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said Sunday on ABC's This Week. "The election was fair, as fair as we have seen. We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency. And if we simply look back and tell our people don't vote because there's cheating going on, then we're going to put ourselves in a huge disadvantage."
But Trump — who has endorsed dozens of candidates for the 2022 midterm elections and still holds by far the widest influence within the GOP — is trying hard not to let them.
"No, I think it's an advantage, because otherwise they're going to do it again in '22 and '24, and Rounds is wrong on that. Totally wrong," Trump told NPR in an interview Tuesday, referring to his false and debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
The interview was six years in the making. Trump and his team have repeatedly declined interviews with NPR until Tuesday, when he called in from his home in Florida. It was scheduled for 15 minutes, but lasted just over 9.
After being pressed about his repeated lies about the 2020 presidential election, Trump abruptly ended the interview,
The Justice Department is establishing a specialized unit focused on domestic terrorism, the department’s top national security official told lawmakers Tuesday as he described an “elevated” threat from violent extremists in the United States.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, testifying just days after the nation observed the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, said the number of FBI investigations into suspected domestic violent extremists has more than doubled since the spring of 2020.
“We have seen a growing threat from those who are motivated by racial animus, as well as those who ascribe to extremist anti-government and anti-authority ideologies,” Olsen said.
The formulation of a new unit underscores the extent to which domestic violent extremism, which for years after the Sept. 11 attacks was overshadowed by the threat of international terrorism, has attracted urgent attention inside the federal government and at the White House.
But the issue remains politically freighted and divisive, in part because the absence of a federal domestic terrorism statute has created ambiguities as to precisely what sort of violence meets that definition. The U.S. criminal code defines domestic terrorism as violence intended to coerce or intimidate a civilian population and to influence government policy, but there is no standalone domestic terrorism charge, meaning prosecutors have to rely on other statutes.
An unusual ground stop was issued to some pilots for a short period of time following a North American Aerospace Defense Command alert of a launch of a North Korean missile, a US official said Tuesday.
The official says it was not a national ground stop and may have been issued by a regional air traffic control facility.
"No warning was issued by NORAD HQ," regarding a potential threat to the US, according to Captain Pamela Kunze, the chief NORAD spokesperson.
The Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for the nation's air traffic control system, said the ground stop was to err on the side of safety.
"As a matter of precaution, the FAA temporarily paused departures at some airports along the West Coast on Monday evening," the FAA said in a statement. "Full operations resumed in less than 15 minutes. The FAA regularly takes precautionary measures. We are reviewing the process around this ground stop as we do after all such events."
The NORAD spokeswoman said the normal sequence following the launch was followed: The missile launch was detected, and it was assessed not to be a threat to the continental United States. The standard practice is for FAA to have a constant liaison in the NORAD ops center, therefore would have been aware of the quick assessment.
The Biden administration had been labeling price hikes as "transitory." By publicly warning the Consumer Price Index December reading shows inflation will linger through 2022, officials are trying to temper public expectations and minimize the bad-news blow.
They also want to put U.S. inflation, which economists forecast will be 7% for the year in the report, into the context of surging global prices.
Eurozone inflation increased to an all-time high of 5% in December.
“We expect the print to be firm, as we have seen in the past few months," Michael Pyle, the chief economic adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris, told Axios. "But we expect the trend lines, as we roll into 2022, to turn towards deceleration."
The White House's goal is to focus attention on the trajectory of inflation, rather than a single percentage.
However, even based on those projections, voters would head to the polls for the midterm elections with inflation hitting above 4% for most of the year.
The initial determination from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services means that for Medicare to pay, patients taking Biogen’s Aduhelm medication will have to be part of clinical trials to assess the drug’s effectiveness in slowing the progression of early-stage dementia as well as its safety. Medicare’s national coverage determination would become final by April 11, following a public comment period and further evaluation by the agency.
“Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating illness that has touched the lives of millions of American families,” Medicare administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement. “CMS has been and remains committed to providing the American public with a clear, trusted, evidence-based decision that is made only after a thorough analysis of public feedback on the benefits and risks of coverage for Medicare patients.”
The requirement for clinical studies applies to the entire class of drugs of which Aduhelm is a pioneer, monoclonal antibodies that work against amyloid, a kind of protein that forms plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
Biogen sharply disapproved of Medicare’s decision. The company said in a statement that the decision “denies the daily burden of people living with Alzheimer’s disease.” Randomized clinical trials “will exclude almost all patients who may benefit.” The company said clinical trials can take months to years to set up and “hundreds of Alzheimer’s patients...are progressing each day from mild to moderate disease stages, where treatment may no longer be an option.”
Paul, a fierce critic of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases director, accused Fauci of playing a role in smearing doctors from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford who had positions different from his own.
"In an email exchange with Dr. [Francis] Collins, you conspire, and I quote here directly from the email, to ‘create a quick and devastating published takedown’ of three prominent epidemiologists from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford," Paul said, referring to the recently retired National Institutes of Health director.
Paul went on to cite the email exchange, in which Collins was discussing the Great Barrington Declaration, which opposed large-scale lockdowns as a response to the pandemic in favor of "focused protection" and herd immunity.
In response, Fauci sent Collins articles from Wired and The Nation that had already slammed this position. While Fauci himself had not penned those pieces, Paul accused him of going along with Collins' effort to smear the doctors behind the Great Barrington Declaration.
"Instead of engaging them on the merits, you and Dr. Collins sought to smear them as fringe and take them down, and not in journals in lay press. This is not only antithetical to the scientific method, it's the epitome of cheap politics, and it's reprehensible, Dr. Fauci."
Fauci's initial response was that the email was from Collins to him, not the other way around, but Paul noted that Fauci responded to it with agreement.
The NIAID director then accused Paul of "distorting everything about me," which he said is Paul's "usual fashion."
"You keep coming back to personal attacks on me that have absolutely no relevance to reality," Fauci said.
Fauci then spoke of the effect the attacks have had on him and his family, stating that he has received "obscene phone calls" and "threats upon my life" all "because people are lying about me."
The closure comes amid a surge of cases among students and educators. As of Tuesday, the district has reported more than 10,500 total COVID-19 cases, including nearly 7,000 students and 3,000 staffers. Of the total number, 2,272 have been reported this month.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said Tuesday his goal was to keep schools open.
"Sadly, we are still dealing with the realities of a global pandemic. But 2022 will not be 2020. We now have the tools, the knowledge, and the resources to keep schools open safely and effectively. There is no going back," he said in part.
Social distancing and self-quarantining have spiked in recent weeks as Omicron puts the nation in a crouch like last spring before vaccines became widely available, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.
The big picture: 36% of vaccinated survey respondents who have tested positive for the virus or think they've had it now say they were infected after being fully vaccinated. That compares with 22% in mid-December, and just 6% last summer.
Nearly nine-in-10 now say they know someone who's gotten COVID.
"It's 'America retrenches,'" said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. "People all of a sudden are being assaulted again by the virus and therefore they're changing. And if they're not, somebody very close to them is."
"The shifts are so significant across the board," said Ipsos vice president Mallory Newall. They represent "a revert back to basically last April when people were bunkering because a majority weren't vaccinated yet."
A combined 52% of all respondents now say they believe it will be more than a year — or never — before they can return to their normal, pre-COVID lives. That's the highest since we began asking this question nearly a year ago.
About three-fourths said they feel they face as great a risk or more risk of contracting the virus now than in the spring of 2020.
30% of the unvaccinated said Omicron makes them more likely to get the vaccine, a jump from 19% who said so when we asked in December.
Lightfoot, whose tumultuous first term has been defined by her pandemic response, said in a statement she tested positive earlier Tuesday.
“I am experiencing cold-like symptoms but otherwise feel fine which I credit to being vaccinated and boosted,” she said in a written statement.
“I will continue to work from home while following the CDC guidelines for isolation. This is an urgent reminder for folks to get vaccinated and boosted as it’s the only way to beat this pandemic,” she said.
United Airlines is trimming its schedule to address a surge in sick calls among employees, CEO Scott Kirby told employees.
U.S. airlines canceled thousands of flights over the year-end holidays through early this year due to Covid infections among crews and a series of winter storms. United first cut some flights before Christmas.
JetBlue Airways was the first carrier to cut back its January schedule because of a surge in infection rates among crews, which was later followed by Alaska Airlines. American Airlines said it would do the same this week as Covid rates climbed among regional carriers.
The adjustments are the latest move by an airline to cope with the rapid spread of the omicron variant.
Kirby said in a memo published on the company’s website Monday that United is “reducing our near-term schedules to make sure we have the staffing and resources to take care of customers.” A spokeswoman on Tuesday declined to say how many flights the carrier is canceling.
United has about 3,000 workers who are currently positive for Covid, Kirby said in the staff memo. That is about 4% of its U.S. workforce.
“Just as an example, in one day alone at Newark [New Jersey], nearly one-third of our workforce called out sick,” Kirby said. He said that none of the carrier’s vaccinated employees, which make up more than 96% of its staff, are hospitalized and that it hasn’t had a Covid-related death among inoculated employees in eight weeks.
Despite the fact that Walensky’s response was clearly about a CDC study that anyone could look up, the remarks cause outrage from very different groups, for very different reasons.
Some disability advocates misinterpreted the remarks as minimizing the deaths of those with serious comorbidities and created the trending hashtag #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy in response.
And many conservatives wrongly seized on the remark as an “admission” that 75 percent of ALL Covid deaths were of people “who were unwell to begin with,” and thus reasoned that the threat of Covid had been exaggerated all along.
The new exchange included 23 extra seconds, during which Dr. Walensky gave much more detail about the study.
“You know, really important study, if I may just summarize it, a study of 1.2 million people who were vaccinated between December  and October  and demonstrated that severe disease occurred in about zero point zero one five percent of the people who are — received their primary series and death in point zero zero three percent of those people.”
As the study makes clear, we’re talking about 39 total deaths out of 1.2 million vaccinated people, 29 of whom had 4 or more serious comorbidities from a specific list: immunosuppression, diabetes, and chronic kidney, cardiac, pulmonary, neurologic, and liver disease.
This is at least the second time in recent memory that ABC News has edited crucial quotes from an administration interview, the other being from David Muir’s interview of President Joe Biden. The White House provided Mediaite with a transcript of that missing exchange.
The fourth-ranking House Democrat, Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (Mass.), urged the sergeant-at-arms on Tuesday to force lawmakers who defy the chamber's mask mandate to cast votes from enclosures in the gallery above to limit potential spread of COVID-19.
Clark said it's clear that existing fines are not enough to deter certain lawmakers from repeatedly flouting rules requiring everyone to wear masks in the House chamber.
Two far-right Republicans, Georgia Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde, have each been fined tens of thousands of dollars for repeatedly ignoring the requirement that everyone in the House chamber wear a mask during the pandemic.
And with the highly contagious omicron variant driving caseloads in the nation's capital to record levels, Clark argued that pandemic safety rules need to be enforced.
She suggested using plexiglass enclosures in the gallery overlooking the House chamber, which were installed last year so that lawmakers subject to quarantine could still cast votes when proxy voting was temporarily unavailable.
"This callous disregard for House rules endangers the health of members of Congress and the professional staff whose physical presence is required to ensure continuity of government," Clark wrote in the letter to House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker.
"That is why, in addition to imposing fines, I am requesting that your office begin requiring members who fail to comply with this rule to attend the House floor from the isolation boxes in the House gallery," Clark wrote.
"This commonsense step will not only protect our dedicated House staff from members who refuse to follow House rules, but it will also allow those members to continue to fulfill their constitutional duty to vote on matters before the House."
The House mask mandate was first established in July 2020 because numerous GOP lawmakers refused to wear masks, including one who tested positive for COVID-19 after spending time in the chamber and at committee hearings.
Since the pandemic began, housing experts (including one of the authors of this article) have been predicting that the pandemic’s economic fallout would produce an eviction “tsunami” that could put as many as 40 million people out of their homes.
The experts are still waiting.
When the pandemic first surged in the U.S., the dire predictions prompted federal, state and city governments to enact emergency policies to temporarily ban evictions. Two national eviction moratoriums lasted nearly uninterrupted for about 17 months, until August 2021, and some states and cities still have eviction and other tenant protections in place today.
When the national moratorium lifted, housing experts, renter advocates and policymakers braced for a surge of evictions. Now, four months later, evictions have increased, but data suggests that a tsunami has yet to materialize. Some still think one is coming, as courts begin working through a backlog of eviction filings, but according to Eviction Lab, the country’s most comprehensive tracker of eviction data, evictions in most places are nearly 40 percent below the historical average.
The offer was made in a letter to a judge filed jointly late Monday by the prosecutors and Maxwell’s attorneys in federal court in Manhattan. The defense countered by asking that questions about the perjury charges be put off until the judge rules on its request for a new trial.
Maxwell, 60, was convicted last month of recruiting teenage girls between 1994 and 2004 for financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse. Two perjury counts that were separated from the main case accuse Maxwell of lying a 2016 civil deposition.
At a trial ending with her conviction last month, Maxwell vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Her lawyers argued that she was made a scapegoat for the sex crimes of Epstein, her onetime boyfriend and employer.
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a healthcare executive who won a crowded primary by a slim margin, was elected on Tuesday by a majority of voters in Palm Beach and Broward counties, taking a seat in Congress left empty by the death of U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings.
By comfortably beating Republican Jason Mariner, Cherfilus-McCormick, 36, becomes the first Haitian-American to be elected to Congress from Florida and becomes the first Haitian-American Democrat to be in the U.S. House of Representatives. She received about 78% of the vote.
Florida’s 20th Congressional District, which includes parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties, is one of two majority-Black Congressional districts in South Florida — which is also home to the largest population of Haitians outside of Haiti.
At a victory party at Smitty’s Wings of Sistrunk in Fort Lauderdale, Cherfilus-McCormick said it was a “historical moment for our district,” and for her personally, being “the daughter of immigrants who watched my parents work night and day as taxi cab drivers.”
The committee issued subpoenas for two close advisers, Andrew Surabian and Arthur Schwartz, to former President Donald Trump’s eldest son on Tuesday, an indication that they’re inching ever closer to the Trump family.
The panel also issued a subpoena for Ross Worthington, who helped draft the president’s Jan. 6 speech to a rally crowd at the Ellipse, near the White House.
“The Select Committee is seeking information from individuals who were involved with the rally at the Ellipse,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the panel’s chair, said in a statement. “Protests on that day escalated into an attack on our democracy. Protestors became rioters who carried out a violent attempt to derail the peaceful transfer of power.”
The younger Trump has been the source of recent revelations from the committee for pleading with his father amid the violence on Jan. 6 to issue a public denouncement of the rioters. Trump Jr. lamented that his father’s earlier statements were insufficient to quell the violence and sought a firmer effort.
The subpoenas require the three men to provide documents by Jan. 24 and appear for depositions between Jan. 31 and Feb. 2.
The report comes amid renewed debate over whether lawmakers should be permitted to trade stocks, when they can receive policy information before it becomes public knowledge that could affect the markets. McCarthy's proposal could draw bipartisan support, since lawmakers of both parties have come under scrutiny for their stock transactions.
McCarthy, a California Republican, told Punchbowl News that a proposal for how to go about such limitations or bans is still in its early stages, and he hasn’t yet decided what kind of limitations they would place on stock trades or holdings.
Current ideas under consideration include forcing lawmakers to hold only professionally managed mutual funds or prohibiting lawmakers from holding stocks in companies or industries overseen by their own committees. Some have suggested limiting lawmakers to blind trusts.
The STOCK Act prohibits lawmakers and aides from trading on private information about U.S. policy and requires members to disclose their stock transactions. But ethics groups say the law is difficult to enforce, and members routinely flout the requirements. Some lawmakers recently came under scrutiny after trades they made after they received briefings in 2020 on the coming threat of COVID-19, although no one was charged.
Business Insider reported in December that at least 52 members of Congress and 182 of the highest-paid Capitol Hill staffers did not disclose their stock trades during 2020 and 2021 within the time allotted by the law.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made millions from stock transactions in recent years, financial disclosure forms show. The California Democrat's husband, Paul Pelosi, is a professional investor. And Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, dumped more than $1.6 million in stocks in February 2020 a week before the COVID-19 market crash, according to a new Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
Pelosi in December defended lawmakers’ ability to trade stocks. “We’re a free-market economy,” Pelosi told reporters. Members of Congress “should be able to participate in that,” she added.
The changes come in the wake of pressure from consumer advocacy groups that say these fees disproportionately impact vulnerable and low-income Americans.
A report released last month by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau found that overdraft and non-sufficient funds fees remain lucrative for banks, reaching an estimated $15.5 billion in 2019. The CFPB also said fewer than 9% of consumer accounts pay 10 or more overdrafts per year, accounting for close to 80% of all overdraft revenue.
Moreover, despite a drop in fees collected, the CFPB said "many of the fee harvesting practices persisted during the COVID-19 pandemic."
In addition to reducing overdraft fees, Bank of America also announced Tuesday that it was entirely eliminating "non-sufficient funds fees," or the charges for a rejected transaction or bounced check.
The bank, which has 66 million consumer and small business clients, said it will have reduced overdraft fees by 97% from 2009 levels with these new changes.
Cybersecurity firm Check Point Research has released new data from 2021 showing that among their customers, there was a significant increase in overall cyberattacks per week on corporate networks compared to 2020.
Researchers attributed some of the increases, which were concentrated toward the end of the year, to the Log4j vulnerability discovered in December. Check Point said in a report that 2021 was a record-breaking year for cyberattacks and the Log4J vulnerability only made things worse.
"Last year, we saw a staggering 50% more cyber attacks per week on corporate networks compared to 2020 -- that's a significant increase. We saw cyberattack numbers peak towards the end of the year, largely due to the Log4j vulnerability exploit attempts," said Omer Dembinsky, data research manager at Check Point Software.
"New penetration techniques and evasion methods have made it much easier for hackers to execute malicious intentions. What's most alarming is that we're seeing some pivotal societal industries surge into the most attacked list. Education, government and healthcare industries made it into the top 5 most attacked industries list worldwide."
The Associated Press, or AP, has announced that it’s starting a marketplace to sell NFTs of its photojournalists’ work in collaboration with a company called Xooa. It’s billing its foray into NFTs as a way for collectors to “purchase the news agency’s award-winning contemporary and historic photojournalism” and says that the virtual tokens will be released at “broad and inclusive price points” (though it’s hard to tell what types of prices resellers will want on the AP marketplace).
The news outlet says its system will be built on the “environmentally friendly” Polygon blockchain and that the NFTs will “include a rich set of original metadata” to tell buyers when, where, and how the photos were taken. It says its first collection, launching January 31st, will include NFTs featuring photos of “space, climate, war and other images to spotlights on the work of specific AP photographers.”
AP isn’t the first journalistic enterprise to use or express interest in NFTs. Quartz and The New York Times have sold copies of their articles as NFTs, and Getty Images’ CEO Craig Peters said in December that there’s “a real opportunity” for the company when it comes to NFTs. We probably won’t see people debating whether to get a Getty or an AP NFT anytime soon, though, as the former seems to be taking a more wait-and-see approach, with Peters saying that he didn’t feel the need to race into the space. So far, though, this does seem like one of the largest NFT-related efforts from a major news source.
Reporting from Atlanta — Terrance Winters of Yazoo City, Miss., voted for Haley Barbour in the past, and while he gives the ex-governor a mixed grade these days, particularly on economic matters, he’s always given Barbour points for political shrewdness.
Which is why Winters, a 31-year-old cook at a barbecue restaurant, is flummoxed by the mess that Barbour left behind after stepping down from office this week.
“I actually don’t know what he was thinking,” Winters said.
That is a question most of Mississippi, and the political world far beyond it, is asking.
In his final days of a two-term run as governor, the law-and-order Republican granted pardons or early release to more than 200 Mississippi lawbreakers.
The actions have brought criticism from victims’ families, everyday Mississippians like Winters, and Democratic officials including Jim Hood, the state attorney general, who persuaded a judge to put some of the pardons on hold.
“It’s unfortunate Gov. Barbour didn’t read the constitution,” Hood said in a televised interview Wednesday.
“It’s a shame, and he ought to be ashamed,” Hood added.
Four of those pardoned were convicted killers who had worked as prison-system trusty laborers at the antebellum governor’s mansion in Jackson.
Two others were from well-known families: Earnest Scott Favre, who pleaded guilty to killing his friend in a 1996 drunk driving incident, is the brother of former NFL star and Mississippi native Brett Favre, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Karen Irby, whom the Clarion-Ledger refers to as a “former Jackson socialite,” was granted conditional clemency for two manslaughter charges stemming from an alcohol-related 2009 auto wreck.
The matter threatens to tarnish the exceptional reputation that Barbour enjoyed in his conservative home state, even as high-profile gaffes on the national stage last year made him reconsider a run for president.
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