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Senator says she ‘will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division’ after House vote falls along party lines.
Sinema speaks against filibuster reform
Kyrsten Sinema has indicated – or simply confirmed – that Democrats’ push to change Senate rules to allow for the passage of voting rights legislation are indeed doomed.
In a speech on the Senate floor delivered shortly before Joe Biden was scheduled to arrive on Capitol Hill to attempt to force the issue, the Arizona senator said: “While I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.”
Those separate actions would involve abolishing or modifying the filibuster, the rule which empowers the minority by setting a 60-vote threshold for most legislation.
The Senate is split 50-50 and controlled by Democrats via the vice-president, Kamala Harris. Democratic senators represent vastly more voters than Republican senators, a point often made by supporters of filibuster reform.
Democrats who favour change also point out that federal legislation is needed to counter Republican attempts to restrict voting among minorities which tend to favour Democrats, by means of restrictive laws at the state level.
Voter suppression laws are also at issue, as Republicans who support Donald Trump’s Big Lie about electoral fraud seek to instal allies in key posts and to make it easier to overturn election results.
Nonetheless, Sinema and her fellow moderate Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, have remained steadfastly against filibuster reform – even though both support some form of federal voting rights protection.
They fear the ramifications of filibuster reform if and when Republicans take back the chamber, which could well happen later this year. Some observers suggest that is naive, as Republicans under Mitch McConnell, a man who has made constitutional hardball an art form, may well dynamite the filibuster themselves.
Either way, without Sinema and Manchin, all efforts on the issue by Biden and the majority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, are doomed to fail.
Woman faces weapons charges after US Capitol arrest
US Capitol police have announced the arrest of a woman from Michigan who “wanted to talk about information she had about 6 January 2021” but was found to be carrying four guns and ammunition, including a “long gun” or semi-automatic rifle.
“At approximately 1.40pm” on Wednesday, a statement said, “a woman parked a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado in the ‘No Parking’ zone in front of US Capitol Police headquarters. The woman was identified as Kery Lynn McAttee.
“McAttee told our officers she drove here from Michigan and wanted to talk about information she had about 6 January 2021.”
That was the day supporters of Donald Trump attacked the Capitol in attempt to stop certification of Joe Biden’s election win. Five people died around the riot, including a Capitol officer and a rioter shot dead by law enforcement, and more than 100 officers were injured.
Capitol police said that as officers spoke to McAttee, one “spotted a gun case and the butt of a long gun in the Silverado” and McAttee “confirmed there were firearms in her vehicle”.
“At this time,” the statement said, “there is no evidence the 58-year-old suspect was coming here to do anything except speak with our officers. We cannot provide the details of that conversation because they are now part of an open investigation. She was not on file with the USCP.
The statement detailed the guns in McAttee’s car, and said she faced charges including unlawful possession of a weapon and unlawful possession/transportation of a semi-automatic rifle.
Following the House passage of Democrats’ voting rights bill, Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice, called on senators to follow their colleagues’ example.
“The House’s bold action is exactly what this moment requires,” Waldman said. “Now the Senate must act. In the long fight for voting rights, this is a critical moment. Every senator must choose, and every senator must vote.”
But again, in order to pass the bill, the Senate will need to amend the filibuster, and Democrats don’t have the votes for that at the moment. Stay tuned.
House passes voting rights bill, sending it to the Senate
House Democrats have passed their voting rights bill, sending it to the Senate, where the legislation will face many challenges.
The House vote was 220 to 203, and it fell along party lines as expected, with every Republican opposing the measure.
As of now, the bill has no path to passage in the evenly divided Senate, as centrists Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema remain opposed to amending the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.
Joe Biden will attend Senate Democrats’ caucus lunch this afternoon, giving the president and majority leader Chuck Schumer another opportunity to convince the holdout senators.
Video: GOP rep dodges questions on forged document saying Trump won election.mp4 (The Independent)
House votes on sweeping voting rights bill that faces long odds in the Senate
The US House is currently voting on a bill that combines two sweeping voting rights measures. They’re expected to pass it shortly and send it over to the US Senate, where there will be a showdown over the filibuster.
The procedure is a little arcane, but Democrats combined their two major pieces of voting rights legislation into a single bill Wednesday evening in order to expedite it over to the senate.
Chuck Schumer, the senate majority leader, has pledged to hold a vote on the measure and potential rule changes to the filibuster by Monday.
But as that deadline fast approaches, Democrats still don’t have the votes to change the filibuster. Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona both still reportedly don’t support changing the procedure.
Joe Biden is set to travel to Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with senate Democrats to try and persuade them to pass the bill.
Democrats’ procedural maneuvering has ensured that they will have a debate on the bill in the senate, but still require 60 votes to end debate and move to a vote.
Joe Biden also confirmed that US military personnel will be deployed to six states to help overwhelmed hospitals deal with the surge in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant.
The medical personnel will be sent to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Michigan and New Mexico over the coming weeks, Biden said.
After Biden concluded his prepared remarks on the pandemic, he did not take any questions from reporters.
One reporter then suggested Biden should soon hold a press conference, as he has held fewer press conferences than his recent predecessors.
The president replied that he would look forward to that, per NBC News:
Biden confirms administration will order another 500m at-home Covid tests
Joe Biden confirmed that his administration will order another 500m at-home coronavirus tests to address the surge in cases caused by the Omicron variant.
That brings the total number of tests ordered by the administration to 1bn but the first batch of 500m tests has not yet been distributed to Americans.
Biden said the White House will be launching a website next week to allow Americans to order at-home tests that will be shipped to their homes.
The president added that he will also outline plans next week to make high-quality masks available for free, as some progressives, like Bernie Sanders, have called for.
Joe Biden acknowledged many Americans’ disappointment that masks are still necessary, nearly two years into the coronavirus pandemic.
“I know we all wish that we could finally be done with wearing masks. I get it. But they’re a really important tool to stop the spread, especially of a highly transmittable Omicron variant,” Biden said. “So please, please wear the mask.”
The president said he will announce next week how his administration plans to make “high-quality masks available to the American people for free”.
Joe Biden is now delivering remarks on his administration’s response to the surge in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant.
The president is joined by the secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, and Fema administrator Deanne Criswell, who will likely address plans to deploy military staff to several states to help deal with the surge in cases.
Biden began his remarks by reiterating that this remains “a pandemic of the unvaccinated”. While many vaccinated people have contracted the Omicron variant of coronavirus, they are far less likely to be hospitalized or die from their illness, Biden noted.
Kamala Harris was pressed on when Americans will begin to receive the 500m free at-home coronavirus tests that the Biden administration has promised to deliver.
The vice-president told Craig Melvin of the Today show that the at-home tests will start to be distributed “shortly”.
“I think it’s going to be by next week but soon, absolutely soon, and it is a matter of urgency for us,” Harris said.
Melvin then asked Harris twice whether she believed that the administration should have taken that action sooner, as some health experts have argued.
Harris dodged the question, saying: “We are doing it.”
Biden to announce purchase of 500m more at-home coronavirus tests
Joe Biden will announce today that his administration is ordering another 500m at-home coronavirus tests to combat the surge in cases caused by the Omicron variant.
“Today, as a part of the president’s remarks and briefing, he will announce that in addition to the 500m tests that we are in the process of acquiring, he is directing his team to procure 500m more tests to meet future demand,” a White House official told the press pool.
The announcement will bring the total number of tests ordered by the administration to 1bn, but it may still take some time for Americans to begin receiving those tests.
The 500m tests that Biden ordered last month have not yet been distributed, and some health experts are skeptical about the tests arriving in time to make a difference for this surge in cases.
Dr Michael Mina, an epidemiologist and former Harvard professor, told the New York Times that he expected the first batch of tests to be distributed over the next couple of months.
“Had this been started a long time ago, maybe things would be a bit different,” Mina said late last month. “But this is where we are now, and we kind of have to deal with it.”
Data from the UK indicates that the country may have already passed its peak in Omicron cases, giving hope to the US as it weathers its own surge.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
The seven-day average of new daily cases of Covid-19 in the U.K. has been falling for a week and on Tuesday dropped below the 14-day average for the first time since November, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of official data. Both are signs that caseloads are diminishing.
The rate of increase in the number of new Covid-19 hospitalizations has also slowed and in England—and especially London, which experienced the Omicron wave sooner than other regions—new hospital admissions with Covid-19 are falling. The first cases of Omicron were detected in the U.K. on Nov. 27.
Scientists caution, however, that caseloads and hospital admissions may yet reverse course as social mixing increases with the end of the holiday season and the start of the new school term.
As the Guardian’s Ian Sample notes, it’s quite possible that Omicron cases in the UK will continue to raise and fall over the coming weeks depending on people’s behavior and the government’s strategy to mitigate spread.
Federal health authorities in America have said the Omicron Covid-19 variant is so contagious it is likely most people in the US will be infected, and compared the pandemic to a “natural disaster”.
Authorities said even as Omicron shatters records for new cases, they are hopeful the surge will quickly subside, and said the US needs to focus on ensuring hospital systems do not collapse amid the surge.
“I think it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is [that] most people are going to get Covid, all right?” said Janet Woodcock, the acting head of the Food and Drug Administration.
“What we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function … [that] transportation, other essential services are not disrupted while this happens.”
Woodcock made the comments at a Senate hearing on Wednesday where senators, especially Republicans, harshly questioned administration officials tasked with responding to the pandemic, including Woodcock, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, and the president’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci.
Biden to address Covid response amid record-high level of hospitalizations
Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.
Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver a speech this morning on his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as the Omicron variant continues to spread across the US.
Biden will be joined by the secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, and Fema administrator Deanne Criswell, who will likely address plans to deploy military staff to several states to help deal with the surge in cases.
The situation has sparked accusations that the Biden administration did not adequately prepare for the arrival of the Omicron variant, and the president will likely address that criticism today.
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
Source: Thanks msn.com