Headlines: February 4, 2021
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Representatives in the House on Thursday voted to strip newly seated GOP Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments over her disturbing, violent, antisemitic, and conspiracist speech. A day earlier House minority leader Kevin McCarthy released a statement saying that although he did not agree with Greene’s beliefs, he would not support censuring or sanctioning her. Instead, he mystifyingly pivoted to blaming Democrats because in his words they, “continue to do nothing about Democrats serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee who have spread anti-Semitic tropes, Democrats on the House Intelligence and Homeland Security Committee compromised by Chinese spies, or the Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee who advocated for violence against public servants.” On Wednesday at a private meeting Republicans considered the conduct of both Greene, and Representative Liz Cheney who apparently was sufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump. Greene reportedly apologized to her party for making her dangerous claims and received a standing ovation. Eventually, after holding a secret ballot, Republican Representatives also voted 145 to 61 to not punish Cheney.
On Thursday during her weekly press briefing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed the Thursday vote over stripping Greene of her House committee assignments. Speaker Pelosi was also asked about the upcoming Senate impeachment trial of the former President. Meanwhile, House impeachment managers on Thursday formally asked Trump to testify under oath to the Senate during the trial. Lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin wrote, “Two days ago, you filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment. You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense.” He added, “In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021.” Federal law enforcement have filed charges against more people in connection with inciting the January 6th Capitol riot. Two of them are leaders of chapters of the Proud Boys group. One is Ethan Nordean, a leader in the Seattle chapter of the Proud Boys and the second is Nicholas Ochs who founded Hawaii’s chapter of the same group–that Canada’s government has declared a terrorist organization.
Meanwhile President Joe Biden during a traditional ritual in D.C. dubbed the National Prayer Breakfast, denounced what he called “political extremism.” A new poll by Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has found that a majority of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the current crises facing the U.S. today. Those expressing approval include about a quarter of all Republicans.
The Labor Department’s latest figures are out and show that new unemployment claims fell last week for the third week in a row. But the overall number of those filing jobless claims remains high – at 779,000. Newly confirmed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned in her first public interview this week that Congress needs to act to help struggling Americans and that the months ahead would remain very difficult in light of the pandemic still raging. On Thursday Yellen plans to meet with financial regulators including those at the Securities and Exchange Commission over the recent stock market disruption led by an online collective buying shares of GameStop.
In preparation for passing their $1.9 trillion COVID economic relief package, Democrats on Wednesday passed a budget blueprint as a step toward using the reconciliation process in the Senate without Republican support. Senate Budget committee chairman Bernie Sanders in his first speech as chair, responded to Republican critics demanding bipartisanship. Republicans have already begun laying the groundwork to try to trip up passage of the legislation, filing a whopping 400 amendments to the bill by Wednesday evening in what was being characterized as a “vote-a-rama.” But Democrats appear ready to give up some issues including a demand for paid sick leave for workers. Progressives were also disappointed to hear President Biden in a call with Republicans on Wednesday saying he was, “flexible” on some numbers in the bill. But now Republican Senator Mitt Romney unveiled his own version of the COVID relief bill that includes giving families with children a large stimulus check. The Washington Post explained that, “Romney’s proposal would provide $4,200 per year for every child up to the age of 6, as well as $3,000 per year for every child age 6 to 17.” In comparison, the Democratic version of the bill has, “$3,600 per year for every child up to the age of 6, as well as $3,000 for every child aged 6 to 17.”
In news from the pandemic, racially discriminatory impacts of the virus remain apparent as another study based in the U.S. shows indigenous Americans are dying from Covid-19 at twice the rate of white Americans. Another new study shows that international travel was a major factor in the early months of the virus’ spread. Although former President Trump took credit for imposing a travel ban from Europe, his actions had the opposite effect as panicked U.S. citizens crowded into airports and flooded back home without being tested or contact traced. Still, infection rates worldwide are finally dropping and trust in new vaccines is increasing as per yet another survey. Meanwhile scientists have begun testing the efficacy and safety of mixing and matching vaccines. Clinical trials have just begun with test subjects getting a vaccine by one manufacturer and a booster shot some weeks later by another manufacturer.
Police are searching for Kyle Rittenhouse and have a new warrant for his arrest after the alleged Kenosha, Wisconsin shooter violated the terms of his release. Rittenhouse is the white teenager championed by racist Trump-supporting extremists for allegedly killing two Black Lives Matter protesters last summer. He was released after far-right groups crowd funded his bail and promptly went drinking at a bar despite being underage, and flashing “white power” signs. His release from jail was highly unusual given the crimes he has been accused of, and illustrates yet again the kid-glove treatment offered to right wing white vigilante extremists by the criminal justice system.
Adam Coy, a former Ohio police officer has just been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a Black man named Andre Hill. Hill was holding a cell phone in his hand when Coy shot him. Coy claims he mistook a silver key ring in Hill’s hands for a gun – an all-too familiar defense of police accused of shooting Black men. He plans to plead not-guilty.
And finally, in international news President Biden has just announced an end to U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made the announcement at a press briefing on Thursday saying Biden was keeping his campaign promise to end support for that war.