Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell told constituents that the $1.9 American Rescue Plan, which he opposed and which Democrats passed almost entirely along party lines, means, “you’re going to get a lot more money”.
Democrats have seized on the moment.
“Not a single member of my party voted for it,” McConnell said of the relief package that passed in March. “So, you’re going to get a lot more money. I didn’t vote for it. But you’re going to get a lot more money. Cities and counties in Kentucky will get close to $700 or $800 million. If you add up the total amount that will come into our state, $4 billion. That’s twice what we sent in last year.”
White House press secretary Andrew Bates shared a clip of McConnell’s comments, made today at an event in Kentucky.
Andrew Bates (@AndrewJBates46)
What he said.@LeaderMcConnell: “I didn’t vote for [the ARP], but you’re going to get a lot more money. Cities and counties in Kentucky will get close to $700 or $800 million. If you add up the total amount that will come into our state, $4 billion.” pic.twitter.com/A0MZcMOBMAJuly 6, 2021
McConnell has vowed to oppose Democrats’ efforts to pass legislation via budget reconciliation – and has successfully blocked efforts to pass a broader infrastructure plan and voting rights reform – and said he plans to oppose any additional covid relief efforts.
Delta variant rapidly gaining ground in US west as vaccination rates stagnate
Public health authorities across the US west are sounding the alarm that the Delta variant, a “hyper-transmissible” form of Covid-19 responsible for about 25% of new US infections, is rapidly gaining significant ground.
These concerns come amid stagnating vaccination rates in some communities, spurring still more concerns about heightened transmission.
In California, the Delta variantis on the rise,accounting for 35.6% of specimens sequenced that are categorized as “variants of concern” or “variants of interest” as of 21 June, up from 5.6% in May, according to the state’s public health department. Covid-19 cases have surged in excess of 20% in California since the state lifted the majority of coronavirus restrictions on 15 June, with the Delta variant spurring the greatest proportion of new cases, according to the San Francisco Chronicle,
Authorities in Los Angeles county said that the Delta variant was responsible for almost half of genetically sequenced variants, the New York Times reported. The county’s public health guidance said on 28 June that it “strongly recommends” masking indoors – regardless of vaccination status – due to increased circulation of the Delta variant.
“We have enough risk and enough unvaccinated people for Delta to pose a threat to our recovery, and masking up now could help prevent a resurgence in transmission,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying.
Grant Colfax, the San Francisco public health department director, said of the Delta variant: “It’s like Covid on steroids.”
“It’s about 30% of cases locally right now,” the San Francisco Chronicle quoted Colfax as saying. “Within just a few months, we expect it to be over 90% of our cases.”
Officials have repeatedly said that the surge in the Delta variant is all the more reason to get vaccinated. Almost 70% of Californians age 12 and older are partially or fully vaccinated, but some rural counties lag behind.
Biden’s Bureau of Land Management pick grilled over 30-year old protest
Mike Jordan reports:
Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management is in danger of failing to be confirmed, over her involvement in an ecological protest more than 30 years ago which Republican senators say marks her as an environmental extremist.
Tracy Stone-Manning is currently a senior adviser at the National Wildlife Federation. She acknowledges that in early 1989 she borrowed a typewriter to copy an anonymous letter given to her by environmental activists who claimed to have driven hundreds of metal spikes into trees in the Clearwater national forest, in Idaho.
Her purpose in typing and mailing a copy of the letter to the authorities, Stone-Manning testified when the matter came to court, was to warn the US Forest Service that anyone attempting to cut down trees in the forest would be in danger of harm.
Stone-Manning testified against the activists who claimed to have spiked the trees, after law enforcement raided student housing. Her testimony resulted in federal convictions for two people.
Stone-Manning has risen to political prominence in Montana. Before joining the National Wildlife Federation, she was chief of staff for the former Montana governor Steve Bullock and also worked for Democratic senator Jon Tester.
A Republican senator from Wyoming, John Barrasso, has emerged as a leading opponent to Stone-Manning’s nomination for the Bureau of Land Management, calling for Biden to withdraw it and alleging she lied to the Senate about her involvement in the tree-spiking incident.
“Tracy Stone-Manning collaborated with eco-terrorists who had booby trapped trees with metal spikes,” a Barrasso statement read. “She mailed the threatening letter for them and she was part of the cover-up. She did not cooperate with investigators until she was caught.”
Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, another Republican, said Stone-Manning’s political affiliations were of concern.
At her confirmation hearing, Stone-Manning encountered heavy questioning by Republicans regarding a role on the board of directors of Montana Conservation Voters, a nonprofit which claims to be nonpartisan but which endorsed Bullock’s unsuccessful Senate run against the Republican Steve Daines last year.
“Can you speak from your heart?” Cassidy asked. “Because it seems like your heart is that you really don’t particularly care for Republicans.”
Tester praised Stone-Manning, calling her “a good person that has a good heart” and who understands the value of public lands.
“I would not be here today, introducing her, if I thought she was the person that you described,” Tester told Barrasso.
Jeff Fairchild, who served time in prison for his role in the tree-spiking incident, has defended Stone-Manning. In an interview with the Washington Post, he called her “a bridge builder” and a moderating voice against activities that could distract from resolving environmental disagreements.
Report: Republic National Committee systems breached by Russian hackers
The Republican National Committee’s computer systems were breached by Russian hackers, Bloomberg reports, based on two anonymous sources.
From Bloomberg’s William Turton and Jennifer Jacobs:
The government hackers were part of a group known as APT 29 or Cozy Bear, according to the people. That group has been tied to Russia’s foreign intelligence service and has previously been accused of breaching the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and of carrying out a supply-chain cyberattack involving SolarWinds Corp., which infiltrated nine U.S. government agencies and was disclosed in December.
It’s not known what data the hackers viewed or stole, if anything. An RNC spokesman on Tuesday denied its systems were breached and referred to a statement citing IT provider Synnex Corp. released on Saturday.
“Microsoft informed us that one of our vendors, Synnex, systems may have been exposed,” Mike Reed, a spokesman for the RNC, said in the earlier statement. “There is no indication the RNC was hacked or any RNC information was stolen. We are investigating the matter and have informed DHS and the FBI.”
Today so far
That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- Joe Biden outlined his administration’s renewed efforts to reach unvaccinated Americans. The president said in a speech this afternoon that the White House would expand door-to-door outreach efforts and partner with local pharmacies and doctors’ offices to convince hesitant Americans to get their shot. “The bottom line is: the virus is on the run, and America is coming back, and we’re coming back together,” Biden said. “But our fight against this virus is not over.”
- More than 90% of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is now complete, the Pentagon said in a statement today. Afghan officials have complained that the withdrawal is being carried out too quickly to accommodate a politically motivated schedule, leaving the country vulnerable to Taliban attacks.
- The Pentagon announced it is dropping its $10bn cloud-computing contract with Microsoft. The “Jedi” cloud contract had caused controversy during Donald Trump’s presidency. Amazon filed a lawsuit over Microsoft winning the contract, alleging that Trump had interfered in the process because of his animosity toward Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.
- Today marks six months since the Capitol insurrection. The anniversary comes as some of Trump’s supporters are working to deny the reality of that violent day, which resulted in five deaths.
- The death toll in the Surfside condo building collapse rose to 32, after four more bodies were recovered. Local officials said 113 people remain potentially unaccounted for, as search and rescue teams brace for heavy rains from Tropical Storm Elsa that could affect the disaster site.
Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
News from Ohio, via the Associated Press:
The Ohio supreme court has announced it will not consider an appeal over the firing of a white police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice outside a Cleveland recreation center in 2014.
The appeal was filed in April by the Cleveland Police Patrolment’s Association on behalf of former officer Timothy Loehmann. Cleveland fired Loehmann in 2017 not for killing Tamir, who was Black, but for providing false information on his job application. An arbitrator and a county judge upheld his firing.
A state appellate court earlier this year dismissed Loehmann’s appeal, citing the union’s failure to serve notice on outside attorneys hired by the city.
Loehmann, a rookie, shot Tamir within seconds of a cruiser skidding to a stop near a gazebo where the child had been sitting. Officers responded to a call from a man who said someone was waving a gun around. The man also told a dispatcher the gun could be a fake and the person might be a juvenile.
A state grand jury declined to indict Loehmann in Tamir’s shooting and, in December, federal authorities announced they would not bring federal criminal charges.
“I am glad that Loehmann will never have a badge and gun in Cleveland again,” Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, said in a statement.
More on Tamir Rice and other similar cases, here:
Updated at 9.49pm BST
In case you missed it earlier today: the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group in Congress, came out in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure framework.
“In light of the bipartisan, bicameral genesis of the framework, we encourage an expeditious, stand-alone vote in the House and thank our bipartisan Senate partners and the Biden Administration for working so closely with us to demonstrate that cooperation is still possible in Washington,” the caucus said in a statement.
The caucus’ support means that Democrats can likely afford to lose the votes of some progressives, who have voiced reservations about the framework, and still pass the plan. Those progressives have argued the framework does not adequately address the climate crisis.
Joe Biden has already indicated his support for the framework, and he is traveling to Illinois tomorrow to promote the proposal, as lawmakers scramble to translate the framework into an actual bill.
Congressional leaders have signaled they want to pass the bill by the end of the month, but much work remains to be done to meet that goal.
Democratsare also working to quickly craft a reconciliation package, which would enact elements of Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan that did not make it into the bipartisan proposal.
More than 90% of US withdrawal from Afghanistan is complete, Pentagon says
The Guardian’s Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul and Peter Beaumont report:
US forces plunged their main operating base in Afghanistan into darkness and abandoned it to looters when they slipped away in the middle of the night after two decades at the site without notifying their Afghan allies.
The furtive departure from Bagram airbase, which is vital to the security of Kabul and holds about 5,000 mostly Taliban prisoners, infuriated the Afghans. Many saw it as emblematic of a withdrawal they say is being carried out entirely to fit an American political schedule, with no heed for the collapsing security situation on the ground.
“People are saying: ‘The Americans didn’t ask Afghans about coming here, and they didn’t consult Afghans about leaving’,” said one senior official.
Much of northern Afghanistan, once an anti-Taliban stronghold, has fallen to the group in the last two weeks, and the militants have made substantial advances across the rest of the country. Afghanistan has just over 400 districts, and the Taliban now hold nearly half, and are fighting for many more.
With Bagram and its two runways no longer in American hands, the main US mission in Afghanistan is in effect over already. The Pentagon said in a statement on Tuesday that the withdrawal was more than 90% completed.
As part of the Biden administration’s new efforts to reach unvaccinated Americans, the White House is partnering with 42,000 local pharmacies, as well as family doctors and pediatricians, to convince people to get their shot.
The administration has also encouraged employers to give their workers paid time off to get vaccinated, and it is expanding mobile clinic efforts to make the vaccines more accessible than ever.
Speaking at the White House moments ago, Joe Biden said, “Think about where you were last year, where you are today. What you were able to do last year at this time and do today. It’s a year of hard-fought progress. We can’t get complacent now.”
Joe Biden took one question from reporters after finishing his prepared remarks on his administration’s renewed outreach efforts to get more Americans vaccinated against coronavirus.
Asked about the latest ransomware attack that affected hundreds of businesses around the world, Biden said he was briefed on the incident this morning and was told it caused “minimal damage to US businesses”.
Biden added that his administration is still gathering information on the incident, noting he would have more to say on the matter “in the next several days”. With that, Biden walked away from the podium.
Joe Biden emphasized that getting vaccinated is the “best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family,” as the delta variant of coronavirus spreads across the US.
The president celebrated the progress his administration has made in getting people vaccinated, but he warned that millions of eligible Americans have not yet gotten their shot.
“Let’s finish the job — finish it together,” Biden said as he wrapped up his prepared remarks.
Joe Biden lamented that younger Americans seem particularly reluctant to get vaccinated, putting them more at risk of contracting the delta variant of coronavirus.
The president noted that the delta variant is now responsible for almost half of new coronavirus cases in many parts of the US.
“Seems to me, it should cause everyone to think twice,” Biden said of the delta variant.
Encouraging all eligible Americans to get vaccinated as soon as possible, the president said, “Do it now, for yourself and for the people you care about.”
Updated at 8.20pm BST
Biden outlines new steps to reach unvaccinated Americans: ‘Our fight against this virus is not over’
Biden plans fresh effort to reach unvaccinated Americans and says the ‘fight is not over’ – video
Joe Biden is now delivering remarks on his administration’s plans to launch targeted outreach efforts in communities with lower rates of vaccination against coronavirus.
Celebrating his administration’s vaccination efforts so far, Biden said at the White House, “We’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from this deadly virus.” Biden makes remarks on Covid-19 vaccination programme – watch live
The president noted that more than 160 million Americans will be vaccinated by the end of this week, just a few days after the July 4 deadline that Biden set for that milestone.
New coronavirus cases and deaths are also down 90% since January, allowing Americans to start “living their lives as they did before,” Biden said.
“The bottom line is: the virus is on the run, and America is coming back, and we’re coming back together,” Biden said. “But our fight against this virus is not over.”
The White House said earlier today that it would expand door-to-door outreach efforts in communities with lower vaccination efforts. The administration is also working to deliver more vaccine doses to primary care doctors and pediatricians, so Americans can get their shot from their own physicians.
Updated at 10.33pm BST
Joe Biden will soon deliver remarks on his administration’s ongoing efforts to vaccinate more Americans against coronavirus.
The Biden administration has already said it will launch more targeted outreach efforts in communities with lower vaccination rates, amid concerns about the spread of the delta variant of the virus.
The president also just received a briefing from members of his coronavirus response team, including chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci and CDC director Rochelle Walensky.
The Hillbilly Elegy author turned Republican Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance has apologised for a former political position: critic of Donald Trump.
“Like a lot of people, I criticised Trump back in 2016,” Vance told Fox News. “And I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016, because I’ve been very open that I did say those critical things and I regret them, and I regret being wrong about the guy.”
Vance’s need to address the subject came out of good digging by CNN, which unearthed deleted tweets. However, Vance’s dislike of Trump and intent to vote for the independent conservative Evan McMullin was widely known in 2016.
As Hillbilly Elegy surged up the charts, for example, Vance spoke to the journalist Matt Lewis.
“The reason, ultimately, that I am not” a Trump voter, he said, “is because I think that [Trump] is the most-raw expression of a massive finger pointed at other people.”
Of course, back then Trump did not have a stranglehold on the Republican party of the kind which meant anyone running for office as a Republican anywhere had to kiss the ring to stand any chance of winning a nomination.