Headlines: February 5, 2021
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:15 — 7.6MB)
The House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon voted to strip newly seated Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments over her vile, conspiracy-laden and violent rhetoric. The vote was unprecedented in modern times and was largely passed along partisan lines with 11 Republicans joining all Democrats. Greene, in a speech on the House floor repeated her love for Donald Trump and echoed his hate-filled rhetoric against immigrants. She also refused to take responsibility for her views saying that she was “allowed to believe,” in dangerous lies and that the media was to blame. During Thursday’s House hearing over Greene’s violent rhetoric, top ranking Democrat Steny Hoyer displayed a photo of one of Greene’s own recent tweets: a picture of herself holding a rifle next to 4 young Congresswomen of color with the caption, “DEFEAT THE DEMOCRATS.” She called herself the “Squad’s worst nightmare.” One of those “squad members,” Rashida Tlaib spoke on the House floor directly explaining the impact of Greene’s hate and the threats she experiences from white supremacists like Greene. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been targeted by rightwing and even some leftwing media figures for speaking out about the trauma of surviving the Capitol riot, also spoke.
Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared to be unrepentant her after being exiled from House committees and in a Friday morning tweet said, “I woke up early this morning literally laughing thinking about what a bunch of morons the Democrats (+11) are for giving some one like me free time.” She made good use of her newfound fame by holding a press conference later in the day which she then promptly ended when a reporter asked her about her statements calling for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s death. Meanwhile the Senate Intelligence Committee has announced a special bipartisan investigation into anti-government extremists.
The Labor department released its monthly economic assessment and concluded that fewer than 50,000 new jobs were created last month – a lower number than was expected. People of color are disproportionately impacted with the official unemployment rate for Black workers at a whopping 9.2% and for Latino workers at 8.6%. The overall official rate is 6.3%. The ranks of the those who are unemployed for more than 6 months continues to grow, worrying economists. The New York Times explained that, “The long-term jobless now account for nearly 40 percent of all unemployed workers, the biggest share since the aftermath of the recession of 2007-9. That doesn’t count people who have given up looking for jobs or who can’t work because of child care or other responsibilities.” President Biden reflected on these grim numbers on Friday in a speech saying, “It’s very clear our economy is still in trouble.” In the early hours of Friday morning, the U.S. Senate passed along strictly party lines, a budget blueprint that would pave the way for quick passage of Biden’s Covid stimulus bill. Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first tie-breaking vote on that bill. Democrats rejected Republican amendments. The budget bill now goes to the House for a vote.
The White House is also considering executive action on student debt forgiveness. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday said on Twitter, “The President continues to support the cancelling of student debt to bring relief to students and families. Our team is reviewing whether there are any steps he can take through executive action and he would welcome the opportunity to sign a bill sent to him by Congress.” Biden has also narrowed his picks to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services down to two women. The Washington Post reports that they are, “former Obama administration appointee Chiquita Brooks-LaSure and North Carolina Health Secretary Mandy Cohen.”
In immigration news, President Biden said he was seeking to restore the U.S.’s refugee resettlement program, which he said the Trump administration “badly damaged.” Meanwhile the Guardian Newspaper in an investigation found that the Trump administration deported nearly a dozen immigrant women with their U.S.-born infants and sent them out of the country without birth certificates for their babies. The discovery offered the strongest evidence for Trump’s anti-immigrant policies being more about racism than “law and order.”
President Biden on Thursday signed an historic memo centered on the rights of LGBTQ people around the world. The memo directs government agencies to, “ensure that United States diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons everywhere.”
In COVID-19 news, Johnson & Johnson has become the latest pharmaceutical company to request approval for its vaccine. What distinguishes this one from the two approved vaccines by Modern and Pfizer-BioNTech is that only one dose is needed rather than two. The Food and Drug Administration says it will review the company’s request on February 26th. The government has been slow to purchase vaccines and states have been slow to dispense them. There are reports of racial discrimination in vaccine access with Black and Latino residents of some cities being left behind and vaccination sites in southern states being located in whiter residential areas. The race to vaccinate people as fast as possible is not just about reviving the economy. The new, far more transmissible variant of the virus from the U.K., which is less impacted by the Moderna vaccine is expected to become dominant in the U.S. soon.
In international news, resistance to the military coup in Myanmar has grown with hundreds of people openly protesting. Teachers and students have now joined the protests alongside healthcare workers, banging pots and pans in cities across the country. According to Al Jazeera, “The military has alleged the November parliamentary elections, which the [National League for Democracy] NLD won in a landslide, was rigged. They have not provided any evidence to back their claims. The electoral body has also rejected military claims.” To help maintain their rule, the Myanmar military put a temporary ban on Facebook, prompting activists to use Twitter instead as they demanded “#RespectOurVotes.