Haaland OK’d at Interior, 1st Native American Cabinet head, and other top stories in politics from March 16, 2021.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has warned Democrats that scrapping the chamber’s filibuster rule will lead to a “completely scorched earth” that would see GOP member turns the Biden administration’s agenda into a “100-car pile-up”.
Delivering a fiery speech on the Senate floor, Mr McConnell warned: “Even the most basic aspects of our colleagues’ agenda, the most mundane tasks of the Biden presidency would actually be harder, not easier, for Democrats in a post-nuclear Senate.”
His comments come as the Biden administration continues to face scrutiny over the situation at the US-Mexico border, where officials have seen a surge in arrivals of unaccompanied minors at the US-Mexico border.
In a statement today, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said officials are doing their best to tackle a “difficult” situation.
He acknowledged the US was “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years”.
However, he said that while the country was “expelling most single adults and families”, it would not be “expelling unaccompanied children”.
As the DHS tackles the situation at the border, President Joe Biden hits the road today for his administration’s “Help is Here” tour, which has seen top representatives travel across the US to promote the president’s Covid-19 rescue plan.
BREAKING: Minneapolis court denies approving $27m George Floyd settlement
The judge presiding over the closely watched Derek Chauvin trial pushed back on Tuesday against reports the court had quietly given city officials its blessing to give George Floyd’s family a $27 million wrongful death settlement. Mr Chauvin’s lawyers argue the timing of the settlement, which occurred amid jury selection, will prejudice the case.
“The bottom line is this is a federal lawsuit. This court was not involved,” Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter A. Cahill said in court on Tuesday.
“I think the city is trying to dump their responsibility back in the court where it does not belong,” he added.
The Independent’s Josh Marcus is following the breaking news.
Justin Vallejo16 March 2021 17:10
CBP says agents ‘commonly encountering’ families and unaccompanied children in ‘groups of more than 100’
The US Customs and Border Patrol agency has said its agents in the Rio Grande Valley are “commonly encountering” families and unaccompanied children in groups of more than 100.
The agency said the families and children were being “smuggled into the country”, as it shared images of agents encountering large groups of people, including many children.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 16:45
Biden posts gif laying out American Rescue Plan
President Joe Biden posted a gif to Twitter today laying out his American Rescue Plan in just seven words.
“Shots in arms and money in pockets,” the gif shows Mr Biden repeating on loop.
“That’s the American Rescue Plan,” the president wrote, sharing the video.
The president hits the road today for his administration’s “Help is Here” tour, which has seen top representatives travel across the US to promote the president’s Covid-19 rescue plan.
Mr Biden is expected to visit Delaware County Tuesday to promote the $1.9-trillion COVID-19 relief package.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 16:30
Mitch McConnell threatens to turn Biden agenda into ‘100-car pile-up’ if Democrats do away with filibuster
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has threatened to turn the Biden administration’s agenda into a “100-car pile-up” if Democrats decide to do away with 60-vote threshold that has protected minority party rights for decades.
Delivering a fiery speech on the Senate floor, he warned: “Even the most basic aspects of our colleagues’ agenda, the most mundane tasks of the Biden presidency would actually be harder, not easier, for Democrats in a post-nuclear Senate.”
Griffin Connolly has the story:
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 15:48
Lawmakers propose $12 billion boost to foreign affairs budget to compete with China and ‘prepare for next pandemic’
Four Democratic lawmakers have put forward a proposal to boost the US’s foreign affairs budget by $12 billion.
Senators Chris Murphy and Chris Van Hollen joined with Representatives David Cicilline and Ami Bera to push for the spending increase.
They said the funding could be used to compete with China, as well as to prepare for the “next pandemic in a post Covid-19 era”, as well as to help fight climate change.
“If this year has taught us anything, it’s that the biggest threats posed to our country really aren’t foreign armies. This is why it’s so mind-boggling that our Defense Department budget continues to increase by tens of billions of dollars each year, while funding for other vital national security agencies has remained flat,” said Mr Murphy in a statement published online. “We must maintain the strongest military on the planet, but we have to get smarter about the national security challenges that can only be met with non-military solutions,” he continued.
“That’s why we are proposing a $12 billion increase to the international affairs budget, and unveiling a blueprint for how to spend this increased funding in a way that allows us to respond to the pressing challenges ahead: competing with China on the world stage, shoring up our defenses to stop the next pandemic, and fighting climate change. It’s time to stop trying to solve non-military problems with military tools, and actually give agencies like the State Department and USAID the resources they need in the 21st century.”
In a separate statement, Mr Van Hollen said: “We wield the world’s most powerful military, but China is gaining an upper hand in many parts of the world by leveraging its economic muscle and growing technological prowess. Meanwhile, we are ill-equipped to meet the threats of climate change and pandemics. Instead of fighting yesterday’s wars, this plan will deploy resources to meet the dynamic and evolving threats of today and tomorrow.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to adopt these recommendations,” he said.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 15:43
GOP representative proposes amendment allowing crime victims to sue ‘sanctuary cities’
A GOP representative has put forward an amendment to the American Dream and Promise Act introduced earlier this month that would allow victims of crimes committed by undocumented residents to “sue sanctuary cities if that’s where the crime occurred”.
Taking aim at so-called “sanctuary cities”, or cities that block local law enforcement from working with federal immigration authorities, Rep Ted Budd’s proposal is identical to an act he proposed back in January alongside Sen Thom Tillis.
In a statement, Mr Budd took aim at the Biden administration over a recent rise in arrivals of unaccompanied minors at the US-Mexico border, saying: “The current crisis on our southern border was caused by the reckless open borders policies of the Biden administration.”
“Until they stand up for law and order and public safety, the crisis will continue and the human suffering will get worse,” he said.
“It’s long past time that cities who refuse to enforce our immigration laws face legal consequences. When laws are not enforced, completely preventable tragedies strike. That has to stop, and my amendment would go a long way to end the lawlessness.”
The Biden administration has defended its handling of the situation at the border, with DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas asserting that the government was turning away “most” single adults and families, but not unaccompanied children.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 15:35
Dan Newhouse accuses Biden of ‘dangerous’ rhetoric on immigration
Republican Rep Dan Newhouse has blamed President Joe Biden for a rise in arrivals of unaccompanied children at the US-Mexico border.
In a tweet, Mr Newhouse wrote: “President Biden’s actions & rhetoric on immigration have been dangerous & irresponsible. We’re seeing the effects in real time,” adding the hashtag “#BidensBorderCrisis”.
“If his reckless actions at the border can be mitigated by congressional action, we need to know,” he said.
The GOP representative’s comments come as DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas defended the Biden administration’s response to the rise in unaccompanied minors at the southern border.
While Mr Mayorkas acknowledged that the government was struggling to cope with the rise in arrivals, he said the US was turning “most” single adults and families away, but was not turning children away.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 15:23
FBI accused of ‘fake’ Brett Kavanaugh background probe
A democratic lawmaker has accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation of potentially “faking” a 2018 background check into allegations of sexual misconduct against supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a senior member of the judiciary committee, has requested that Attorney General Merrick Garland aid in an investigation by the agency.
The senator wrote a letter to Mr Garland last week imploring him for assistance and accusing the FBI of carrying out a “politically-constrained and perhaps fake” investigation into the allegations against Mr Kavanaugh ahead of his Senate confirmation, as The Guardian first reported.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 14:46
Moderna to be first manufacturer to test Covid-19 vaccine on infants and young children
Moderna will start trialling its Covid-19 vaccine on children between six months and 12 years old, making it the first manufacturer to test the vaccine on infants and young children.
The company produces one of three vaccines authorised for use in the US, with the other two being Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
Oliver O’Connell reports:
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 14:40
Half of New York voters say Cuomo should not resign
A new poll has found that while more New Yorkers believe that Governor Andrew Cuomo has committed sexual harassment than not, half of people surveyed do not feel he should immediately step down from his role.
In the new poll released by Siena College on Monday, 35 per cent of participants said they believed the governor had committed sexual harassment, compared with 24 per cent who said they believed he did not. Forty-one per cent of people said they were not sure.
Asked whether Mr Cuomo should resign from his role as he faces a string of sexual misconduct allegations, including allegations of sexual harassment and groping, 50 per cent of participants said he should not step down from his role, while 35 per cent said he should.
The poll also found that voters were satisfied with the way Mr Cuomo has handled the allegations against him, with the governor denying all accusations.
Fifty-seven per cent of participants said they were satisfied with his response, compared with 32 per cent who said they were not.
The poll was conducted among 805 New York State registered voters between 8-12 March.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 14:18
US retails sales fell further than expected in February
US retail sales fell further than was expected in February to a moderate degree, data from the US Commerce Department shows.
According to the department, retail sales fell by 3.0% last month, with seasonal adjustments.
Economists who had been polled by Reuters had predicted that retail sales would drop by 0.5 per cent.
Data for January was also updated to show that sales had rebounded 7.6 per cent instead of 5.3 per cent as had been previously reported.
With more relief on the way from the US government, sales are expected to rebound somewhat.
Additional reporting from Reuters.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 13:52
EU wants to work with US to address aviation’s impact on climate change
A senior European Commission official has said the EU wants to work with the US to address the aviation industry’s impact on climate change, with new pollution standards on jet fuel raised as a possibility.
“Historically … these non-CO2 impacts haven’t really been taken into account, and maybe we could work with the US administration to encourage them to be taken into account,” Damien Meadows, the acting head of the Commission’s department for aviation climate policy said, according to Reuters.
Mr Meadows’ comments come as the EU has called on all sectors to do their part to work towards its goal of curbing greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change by 2050.
With the aviation industry having seen global emissions increase over the past two decades, until the Covid-19 pandemic caused a temporary drop by grounding flights and reducing travel, Mr Meadows said: “If we worked with the United States we could try to raise fuel standards to diminish the amount of soot elements causing non-CO2 impacts.”
The Biden administration has made clear that addressing climate change will be a priority.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 13:36
Fauci says he is used to having to tell ‘inconvenient truths’
Dr Anthony Fauci has said that he is used to having to deliver “inconvenient truths” as the top epidemiologist in the US.
Asked on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning what he has learned over the past year serving as the country’s top expert on coronavirus, Dr Fauci said that even before he took on the role, he understood that “you’ve just got to be completely honest and true to yourself and to your principles”.
He said that was a key part of the job “even though you’re going to have to tell people some things that might be inconvenient truths and inconvenient truths might put you at odds with people”.
Dr Fauci is the Biden administration’s top epidemiologist, but he also served under the Trump administration and made no secret of the “liberating feeling” he had when the new administration took over.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 13:25
Fauci says US must be cautious before claiming ‘victory’ in Covid-19 fight
Dr Anthony Fauci has warned that the US must be cautious before claiming “victory” and pulling back on coronavirus measures as the country’s coronavirus vaccination programme steams ahead.
The Biden administration is quickly approaching the milestone of seeing 110 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine administered.
Speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning, however, Dr Fauci warned: “We’ve really got to be careful that we don’t claim victory and pull back on all the public health measures that we know work in keeping the lid on these surging of infections.”
“So although there is good news in the sense of the vaccine continues to get rolled out… if all of a sudden we declare victory, we can risk a surge,” he said, according to The Guardian.
He also warned about the potential consequences of not vaccinating enough of the population: “If you do not get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated, you’re still going to have the virus have the capability of circulating in society because there are so many vulnerable people.”
“So the approach we are taking is to try and reach out and explain to people and ask what are the issues that make them hesitant about getting vaccinated and try to address them with good, solid, scientific facts,” he said.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 13:17
Homeland Security Secretary defends border wall response
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended the Biden administration’s response to a surge of unaccompanied minors at the southern border on Tuesday, where 4,300 unaccompanied children are being held by CBP officers, awaiting shelter.
Mr Mayorkas said the government is creating a joint processing centre to transfer the children, as young as six, to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services and is trying to find additional shelters for them.
“The situation we are currently facing at the southwest border is a difficult one. We are tackling it,” Mr Mayorkas said of the arrivals of thousands of unaccompanied children.
He added that the region was on course to see more people trying to cross the border than any time in the last 20 years, despite Biden administration warning that “the border is not open”.
US president Joe Biden has pledged to show more compassion to migrants and reunite families separated by the former administration’s policies.
Additional reporting by Reuters.
Gino Spocchia16 March 2021 12:43
Democrats criticise Kevin McCarthy for border wall comments
GOP leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy, travelled to the southern border with Mexico on Monday and told reporters afterwards that migrants from “Yemen, Iran, and Turkey” and people on the “the terrorist watch list” have been caught by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) attempting to cross the “wall”.
The claims were criticised by Democrats, including those whose constituencies are on the border, with a member of Congress for Arizona saying that Mr McCarthy was “either wrong or lying.”
It follows attempts by the GOP to defend former US president Donald Trump’s hardline rhetoric on migration, as well as his infamous border wall, amid a surge in unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the border.
Gino Spocchia16 March 2021 12:26
Moderna to test vaccine on school-age children under 12
Pharmaceutical giant Moderna said on Tuesday that it has started testing its coronavirus vaccine on children aged between 12 and six months in the US and Canada.
The process forms the next stage of the future roll-out of vaccines to school age children, who have not yet been eligible for any of the three vaccines currently on offer in the US.
Approximately 6,750 participants are set to be involved in the phase 2/3 trials, which follow tests carried out by both Moderna and another covid vaccine producer, Pfizer, on those aged 12 to 17 since December, Axios reported.
The announcement comes as the number of US adults to receive at least one dose of a vaccine approaches the 110 million doses mark.
Gino Spocchia16 March 2021 12:10
US responsible for 36 per cent of all global arms sales
The United States is responsible for 36 per cent of all global arms sales, following a more than 20 per cent growth for the past five years.
The figure put the US far ahead of the second biggest arms trader, Russia, who saw an 18 per cent fall in its share of world arms sales for the same five year period, according to Stockholm-based researchers.
It follows the decision by US president Joe Biden in January to temporarily suspended the country’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia — pending a review amid alleged human rights abuses being carried out in the region.
Gino Spocchia16 March 2021 11:53
Biden urges patience amid calls for Andrew Cuomo’s resignation
President Joe Biden has urged patience amid calls for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation after a string of sexual misconduct allegations were made against him.
Questioned on whether Mr Cuomo should step down, Mr Biden asked that people wait for an inquiry into the allegations against his fellow Democrat to conclude.
“I think the investigation is under way and we should see what it brings us,” the president said.
Mr Biden’s comments come as other members of his party have joined calls for Mr Cuomo’s resignation.
The New York governor has denied the allegations against him, asserting that he has “never harassed anyone” and never “assaulted’ or “abused anyone”.
The New York State Assembly Speaker has green-lighted an inquiry into the allegations, which include accusations ranging from inappropriate comments to sexual assault, with Mr Cuomo accused of touching a former aide without her consent and kissing her on the lips, while also facing allegations of having groped an unnamed woman beneath her blouse.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 11:26
Deb Haaland makes history as first ever Indigenous cabinet secretary
Deb Haaland has made history after being confirmed as the US’s first ever Indigenous cabinet secretary.
The Democrat, who represents New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, was confirmed as Interior Secretary in a 51-40 Senate vote.
“Rep Haaland’s confirmation represents a gigantic step forward in creating a government that represents the full richness and diversity of this country,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said following the vote. “Native Americans for far too long have been neglected at the cabinet level and in so many other places.”
Sharing the hashtag “#BeFierce”, Ms Haaland thanked the Senate for its confirmation vote.
“As Secretary of @Interior, I look forward to collaborating with all of you. I am ready to serve,” she said.
Chantal Da Silva16 March 2021 10:45