Biden says he’s ‘not open to doing nothing’ on infrastructure amid Republican criticisms of plan – as it happened

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Biden says he’s ‘not open to doing nothing’ on infrastructure amid Republican criticisms of plan – as it happened” was written by Maanvi Singh in Oakland and Joan E Greve in Washington, for theguardian.com on Thursday 8th April 2021 00.23 UTC

Summary

  • Joe Biden called on Congress to take action on his $2tn infrastructure plan. “We are not open to doing nothing,” the president said at the White House this afternoon. Biden noted he was open to compromise on his proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28%, echoing comments from the commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, earlier today.
  • The UK coronavirus variant is now dominant in the US, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Dr Rochelle Walensky said of the UK variant, “It is the most common lineage, period.” Studies have indicated the UK variant is more contagious and more likely to result in severe illness than the original virus.
  • An expert testified at Derek Chauvin’s trial that he should not have used force on George Floyd once the man was laid prone and stopped resisting. Sgt Jody Stiger, an outside expert brought in by the prosecution, told the jury, “No force should have been used once he was in that position.”
  • The treasury department announced it has distributed more than 150m checks as part of the coronavirus relief package. The news came on the heels of Biden announcing that his administration has administered 150m vaccine shots since he took office in January.

Updated

The National Nurses Union has condemned the Arkansas law banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth, and other laws like it.

“Nurses stand with the large community of LGBTQI and other human rights and medical professionals who are horrified at efforts to block access to healthcare for transgender youth,” said the National Nurses Union president, Jean Ross.

The “repressive laws” restricting care for trans youth and children “can cause severe, adverse long-term outcomes for LGBTQI young people to both their physical and mental health, even at the documented risk of suicide.”

Yesterday, Arkansas lawmakers overrode the state governor’s veto to enact a law banning doctors, nurses and health providers from providing gender-affirming healthcare. North Carolina is considering another bill to ban providers from performing gender confirmation surgery for transgender people younger than 21.

These bills have been criticized by human rights groups, child welfare advocates and medical groups.

Read more:

Updated

The White House is considering a promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030, Bloomberg reports.

From Bloomberg:

The emissions-reduction goal, which is still being developed and subject to change, is part of a White House push to encourage worldwide action to keep average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, according to the people. The administration of President Joe Biden is expected to unveil the target before a climate summit later this month.

Targets under discussion for the U.S. pledge include a range of 48% to 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, according to one person familiar with the deliberations. Another person said the administration, at the urging of environmentalists, is considering an even steeper 53% reduction. Both asked not to be identified in describing private communications.

The US is on track to meet an Obama-era commitment to bring emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

Read more on Bloomberg.

‘A system of global apartheid’: author Harsha Walia on why the border crisis is a myth

The rising number of migrant children and families seeking to cross the US border with Mexico is emerging as one of the most serious political challenges for Joe Biden’s new administration.

That’s exactly what Donald Trump wants: he and other Republicans believe that Americans’ concerns about a supposed “border crisis” will help Republicans win back political power.

But Harsha Walia, the author of two books about border politics, argues that there is no “border crisis,” in the United States or anywhere else. Instead, there are the “actual crises” that drive mass migration – such as capitalism, war and the climate emergency – and “imagined crises” at political borders, which are used to justify further border securitization and violence.

Walia, a Canadian organizer who helped found No One Is Illegal, which advocates for migrants, refugees and undocumented people, talked to the Guardian about Border and Rule, her new book on global migration, border politics and the rise of what she calls “racist nationalism.” The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Last month, a young white gunman was charged with murdering eight people, most of them Asian women, at several spas around Atlanta, Georgia. Around the same time, there was increasing political attention to the higher numbers of migrants and refugees showing up at the US-Mexico border. Do you see any connection between these different events?

I think they are deeply connected. The newest invocation of a “border surge” and a “border crisis” is again creating the spectre of immigrants and refugees “taking over.” This seemingly race neutral language – we are told there’s nothing inherently racist about saying “border surge”– is actually deeply racially coded. It invokes a flood of black and brown people taking over a so-called white man’s country. That is the basis of historic immigrant exclusion, both anti-Asian exclusion in the 19th century, which very explicitly excluded Chinese laborers and especially Chinese women presumed to be sex workers, and anti-Latinx exclusion. If we were to think about one situation as anti-Asian racism and one as anti-Latinx racism, they might seem disconnected. But both forms of racism are fundamentally anti-immigrant. Racial violence is connected to the idea of who belongs and who doesn’t. Whose humanity is questioned in a moment of crisis. Who is scapegoated in a moment of crisis.

How do you understand the rise of white supremacist violence, particularly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim violence, that we are seeing around the world?

The rise in white supremacy is a feedback loop between individual rightwing vigilantes and state rhetoric and state policy. When it comes to the Georgia shootings, we can’t ignore the fact that the criminalization of sex work makes sex workers targets. It’s not sex work itself, it’s the social condition of criminalization that creates that vulnerability. It’s similar to the ways in which border vigilantes have targeted immigrants: the Minutemen who show up at the border and harass migrants, or the kidnapping of migrants by the United Constitutional Patriots at gunpoint. We can’t dissociate that kind of violence from state policies that vilify migrants and refugees, or newspapers that continue to use the word “illegal alien”.

Read more:

Biden to nominate gun control group adviser Chipman to lead ATF – reports

Joe Biden intends to nominate David Chipman, a former federal agent and a senior adviser to the gun control group Giffords, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to multiple reports.

The AP reports:

If confirmed, Chipman would be the agency’s first permanent director since 2015.

Two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that Chipman’s nomination is expected to be announced Thursday. The people could not discuss the matter publicly ahead of an official announcement and spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity.

Chipman is a retired ATF agent who has for years worked as a senior policy adviser at Giffords, which advocates to strengthen gun laws.

The White House said earlier today that the president intends to make an announcement on gun regulations tomorrow.

A number of Biden’s allies have pressed him to take executive action to end gun violence after the mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado.

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 called on Congress to take action on his $2tn infrastructure plan. “We are not open to doing nothing,” the president said at the White House this afternoon. Biden noted he was open to compromise on his proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28%, echoing comments from commerce secretary Gina Raimondo earlier today.
  • The UK coronavirus variant is now dominant in the US, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Dr Rochelle Walensky said of the UK variant, “It is the most common lineage, period.” Studies have indicated the UK variant is more contagious and more likely to result in severe illness than the original virus.
  • An expert testified at Derek Chauvin’s trial that he should not have used force on George Floyd once the man was laid prone and stopped resisting. Sgt Jody Stiger, an outside expert brought in by the prosecution, told the jury, “No force should have been used once he was in that position.”
  • Biden is expected to make an announcement on gun policy tomorrow. Many of the president’s allies have been urging him to sign executive orders to address gun violence since the mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado.
  • The treasury department announced it has distributed more than 150 million checks as part of the coronavirus relief package. The news came on the heels of Biden announcing that his administration has administered 150 million vaccine shots since he took office in January.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Chauvin used deliberate and excessive pain technique on Floyd, expert says

An expert police witness has told the Derek Chauvin murder trial in Minneapolis that the accused former officer used a technique designed to deliberately inflict pain and subjected George Floyd to it for an extended period.

Sgt Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles police specialist on the use of force, said on Wednesday that video shows Chauvin applying a “pain compliance” procedure by pulling the 46-year-old Black man’s wrist into the handcuffs, which can be heard clicking tighter.

Stiger said the technique, which also involves squeezing the knuckles together, is normally used to inflict pain in order to persuade a person to comply with an officer’s commands – but at that point Floyd was not resisting and was lying prone on the ground.

The procedure was also used for much longer than was necessary, Stiger told the jury.

The prosecutor asked Stiger what the effect is of using the pain compliance procedure if there is no opportunity for compliance.

“At that point it’s just pain,” he said.

US Capitol Police officers participated in a procession today to honor Officer William “Billy” Evans, who was killed in the car attack at the Capitol.

Evans will also lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda next week, House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer announced yesterday.

Evans died after a suspect rammed his car through a security barricade at the Capitol on Friday. The suspect, Noah Green, then exited the vehicle wielding a knife, causing a USCP officer to open fire. Green died of his injuries.

Evans’ passing marked the second line-of-duty death for the USCP force this year, after Officer Brian Sicknick died of his injuries from the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

EPA reverses Trump stance in push to tackle environmental racism

Michael Regan, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, has sought to revive the effort to confront environmental racism by ordering the agency to crack down on the pollution that disproportionately blights people of color.

On Wednesday, Regan issued a directive to EPA staff to “infuse equity and environmental justice principles and priorities into all EPA practices, policies, and programs”. The memo demands the agency use the “full array of policy and legal tools at our disposal” to ensure vulnerable communities are front of mind when issuing permits for polluting facilities or cleaning up following disasters.

The directive states there should be better consultation with affected communities and indicates the EPA will be tougher on companies that violate air and water pollution mandates. Regan’s memo calls for the EPA to “strengthen enforcement of violations of cornerstone environmental statutes and civil rights laws in communities overburdened by pollution”.

Enforcement of pollution violations dropped steeply under Donald Trump’s administration, with the EPA even suspending routine inspections of facilities while the Covid-19 pandemic raged in the US last year.

Joe Biden spoke to King Abdullah II of Jordan today, as the kingdom experiences turmoil over the alleged coup of a former crown prince.

According to the White House readout of the call, the US president took the opportunity to “express strong U.S. support for Jordan and underscore the importance of King Abdullah II’s leadership to the United States and the region”.

“Together they discussed the strong bilateral ties between Jordan and the United States, Jordan’s important role in the region, and strengthening bilateral cooperation on multiple political, economic, and security issues,” the statement says.

“The President also affirmed that the United States supports a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Guardian’s Martin Chulov has the latest details on the situation in Jordan:

Jordan’s king has claimed authorities foiled an act of sedition with the weekend arrests of a former crown prince and 17 other people, describing the events as the ‘most painful’ ordeal of his reign.

‘Nothing can come close to the shock and the pain and anger I felt, as a brother, and head of the Hashemite family, and as a leader to this dear people,’ the king said in a written statement on Wednesday.

Speaking four days after Prince Hamzah was detained, King Abdullah said his half-brother was ‘at home under my protection’ and that the former heir to the Jordanian throne had offered him his loyalty.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio had some great news this morning for Covid 19-weary residents: the city’s pools and beaches will be open this summer.

“Grab your towel and pack your sunscreen because summer is just around the corner and our beaches and pools will be BACK!” de Blasio says.

“We’re going to do it the safe way,” Bloomberg reports de Blasio also saying.

Indeed, a smiling de Blasio held up a giant flag to demonstrate safety measures.

De Blasio’s cheery tweets and flag-pose come as welcome news to New Yorkers.

Last spring, New York City, and state, became a global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. There have been 31,531 deaths in New York City and 50,239 in the state, according to New York Times data.

Restrictions to combat the pandemic in New York City and state were among the most strict across this country. While this has helped prevent a return to the chaos seen elsewhere, New Yorkers are tired after a year of emotional, economic, cultural, and social hardships.

Being able to fully enjoy the sun is one step back toward normalcy.

The opening of beaches and pools comes on the heels of more good news: a New York City health official recently said that the five boroughs “can be completely out of this within six to eight weeks of very aggressive vaccination,” WABC reports.

De Blasio said Tuesday that more than 4.6 doses had been administered in the city, and announced the launch of a mobile vaccination programme, with vans and busses headed to hard-to-reach residents.

Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo said earlier today that the Biden administration was open to negotiating over the corporate tax rate hike, echoing the president’s latest comments.

“There is room for compromise. That is clear,” Raimondo said at this afternoon’s White House briefing.

The commerce secretary encouraged businesses to engage in discussions with the White House about Joe Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28%.

“Come to the table and problem-solve with us to come up with a reasonable and responsible plan,” Raimondo said.

Biden hints at willingness to negotiate on corporate tax rate

Joe Biden took a quick media question at the end of his address at the White House just now and signaled that although he wants to raise the corporate tax rate above the current 21% introduced by Donald Trump, it does not have to be as high as the 28% now being proposed by the White House and Treasury Department.

Joe Biden speaks at the White House on the American Jobs Plan. Vice President Kamala Harris is at left.
Joe Biden speaks at the White House on the American Jobs Plan. Vice President Kamala Harris is at left. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

“We have got to pay for this,” he said, indicating his $2tn American jobs plan, but added: “But I’m willing to negotiate that.”

He said he was open to talking with bipartisan groups and Republican-only groups of lawmakers at the White House, issuing an open invitation. But they had to be open to compromise.

And while he may be open to movement on corporate tax rates he reiterated his pledge not to raise taxes on any American making less than $400,000 a year.

And the president criticized Republicans who came to the White House with the purported intention of negotiating prior to the passage of the $1.9tn coronavirus relief bill titled the American Rescue Plan and then didn’t bargain.

Biden said they proposed a $600bn alternative plan.

“And that was it. I would have been prepared to compromise but they didn’t, they didn’t budge an inch,” he said.

He made a final appeal for a bipartisan deal on infrastructure.

“These are not Republican bridges, Democratic airports, Republican hospitals, Democratic power grid [upgrades]. We are one America, united and connected,” he said.

And Biden reminded Republicans in Congress that the improvements are popular with the general public.

Updated

Biden is talking up his “blue collar blueprint” for jobs for working class people in the US.

Of the programs and job creation he is proposing within the $2tr infrastructure bill, “almost 90% of jobs can be filled by people who do not have a college degree,” he said, and three quarters by people without an associates degree.

It’s amazing how Joe Biden can sound angry even when he’s talking about good things. It’s his way of being emphatic, he shouts his announcements, but he yells “jobs!” like it’s a curse sometimes.

Of course he is frustrated that Republicans have been bashing the plan outright as “too big” and a ridiculous wish list.

Minority leader Mitch McConnell called it a Trojan horse for “massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our economy”.

Biden said moments ago:“We have to show ourselves democracy works. That we can come together. It’s the United States of America, for God’s sake,” he says, impatiently. He called the plan “fiscally responsible”.

He called on Republicans to come to the White House for “good faith negotiations” and show that democracy in the US works and not with “trickle down economics from the very top”.

Updated

Biden: ‘We are not open to doing nothing’ on infrastructure legislation

Joe Biden is now talking at the White House about his “one in a generation” $2tn infrastructure plan.

The US president called his “American Jobs Plan” the “single largest investment in American jobs since World War II” and asserted that it doesn’t “tinker around the edges”.

Biden said that the plan, unveiled last week, said that debate was good, compromise over passing the legislation was “inevitable” but his conclusion was that “we are not open to doing nothing”, while Republicans criticize the program.

The president is criticizing not just crumbling roads and bridges and other such large-scale infrastructure, but the high incidence of lead in outdated drinking water pipes and a lack of high-speed internet in homes across the US.

Updated

Lawmaker who knocked on door at state capitol as Georgia governor was signing voter suppression legislation will not be charged, following her arrest.

State representative Park Cannon, a Democrat of Atlanta, is placed into the back of a Georgia State Capitol patrol car after being arrested by Georgia State Troopers at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta last month.
State representative Park Cannon, a Democrat of Atlanta, is placed into the back of a Georgia State Capitol patrol car after being arrested by Georgia State Troopers at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta last month. Photograph: Alyssa Pointer/AP

The Associated Press reports:

A district attorney in Atlanta today that she will not pursue charges against a Georgia state lawmaker who was arrested during a protest of the state’s sweeping new election law.

“After reviewing all of the evidence, I have decided to close this matter,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said in an emailed statement. “It will not be presented to a grand jury for consideration of indictment, and it is now closed.”

Representative Park Cannon, a Democrat from Atlanta, was arrested March 25 after she knocked on the door to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s office while he was on live television speaking about the voting bill he had just signed into law.

Police charged her with obstruction of law enforcement and disruption of the General Assembly. She was released from jail later that evening.

“While some of Representative Cannon’s colleagues and the police officers involved may have found her behavior annoying, such sentiment does not justify a presentment to a grand jury of the allegations in the arrest warrants or any other felony charges,” Willis said.

Informed of the district attorney’s decision by The Associated Press, Cannon’s attorney, Gerald Griggs, said, “We are appreciative of the decision of the district attorney after we provided witnesses to her and we plan to speak publicly very soon about our next steps.”

The Republican-backed rewrite of Georgia’s election rules adds a new photo ID requirement to vote absentee by mail, gives the State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials, prohibits people from giving water and snacks to people waiting in line, and makes some changes to early voting, among other things.

Read my colleague Sam Levine’s interview with Rep Cannon here.

Today so far

The White House press briefing has now concluded. Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • The UK coronavirus variant is now dominant in the US, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Dr Rochelle Walensky said of the UK variant, “It is the most common lineage, period.” Studies have indicated the UK variant is more contagious and more likely to result in severe illness than the original virus.
  • An expert testified at Derek Chauvin’s trial that he should not have used force on George Floyd once the man was laid prone and stopped resisting. Sgt Jody Stiger, an outside expert brought in by the prosecution, told the jury, “No force should have been used once he was in that position.”
  • The treasury department announced it has distributed more than 150 million checks as part of the coronavirus relief package. The president will likely highlight that achievement when he delivers a speech on his infrastructure plan in just a few moments.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Asked about when the US may start sharing more vaccine doses with other countries, Jen Psaki reiterated that Joe Biden is currently focused on vaccinating Americans.

The White House press secretary added the president is “absolutely committed to playing a constructive role” in distributing vaccines around the world.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer are not expected to attend Joe Biden’s announcement on gun policy tomorrow, according to Politico.

Other lawmakers, as well as gun safety groups and survivors of mass shootings, are expected to attend the White House event.

Biden to make announcement on gun policy tomorrow, White House says

Joe Biden plans to make an announcement tomorrow on gun regulations, the White House press secretary confirmed.

Jen Psaki would not provide further details on what executive actions the president will take to address gun violence. She told reporters that Biden will have “more to say” on the issue tomorrow.

Politico broke the news of Biden’s planned announcement, and the outlet has these details on the president’s thinking:

Biden will direct the administration to begin the process of requiring buyers of so-called ghost guns — homemade or makeshift firearms that lack serial numbers — to undergo background checks, according to three people who have spoken to the White House about the plans. He is expected to be joined at the event by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Other executive actions remain unclear. But stakeholders have speculated that the president could announce regulations on concealed assault-style firearms; prohibitions on firearm purchases for those convicted of domestic violence against their partners; and federal guidance on home storage safety measures.

Raimondo on corporate tax hike proposal: ‘There is room for compromise’

Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo took a few questions from reporters after delivering some prepared remarks on Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.

An NBC News reporter asked Raimondo if the Biden administration was open to a lower corporate tax rate than the 28% that the president has proposed.

“There is room for compromise. That is clear,” Raimondo said.

The commerce secretary urged businesses to participate in discussions with the White House on the corporate tax rate, rather than just walking away to criticize the 28% proposal.

“Come to the table and problem-solve with us to come up with a reasonable and responsible plan,” Raimondo said.

Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote will likely determine whether Democrats can pass an infrastructure bill, has expressed criticism of Biden’s proposal on the corporate tax rate, instead calling for raising the rate to 25%.

“We’re serious about this,” Raimondo said. “We want to get this done.”

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, is now holding her daily briefing with reporters.

Psaki is joined by Gina Raimondo, the secretary of commerce, who is serving as a member of Joe Biden’s “jobs cabinet” to promote the president’s infrastructure plan.

Raimondo, the former governor of Rhode Island, said Biden’s infrastructure proposal was built to help vulnerable communities in the US.

The commerce secretary said America’s lack of investment in infrastructure “has hurt low-income folks and people of color the most”.

UK variant is now dominant in the US, CDC director says

The UK variant of coronavirus is now the most dominant variant spreading in the US, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.

During the White House coronavirus response team’s briefing this morning, Dr Rochelle Walensky said of the UK variant: “It is the most common lineage, period. So there are many different lineages. Of the many different potential variants, there are several different kinds – of sort of wild type variants – and this is, in fact, the most common lineage right now.”

Walensky noted the UK variant appears to be more contagious than the original virus, and studies have suggested it also carries a higher risk of severe illness and death.

Health experts have warned the rising number of coronavirus cases in dozens of US states is likely attributable to the spread of virus variants. Michigan has recorded the worst increase in infections over the past two weeks, at a rate not seen since early December.

Speaking at the White House yesterday, Joe Biden celebrated 150m vaccine shots being administered since he took office, but he also sounded a note of caution about the spread of coronavirus variants across the US.

“We’re making incredible progress. There is a lot of good news, but there is also some bad news,” the president said. “New variants of the virus are spreading and they’re moving quickly.”

Updated

Chauvin trial: expert witness says police should’ve stopped force once Floyd was prone

The trial of Derek Chauvin has resumed in Minneapolis, where the former police officer is facing murder charges over the killing of George Floyd.

Sgt Jody Stiger, an outside expert brought in by the prosecution, has told the jury that police involved in the restraint of Floyd should have ended any use of force at the point he was laid prone and had stopped resisting.

“No force should have been used once he was in that position,” Steiger told the jury under direct examination.

It’s a repetition of what other members of the Minneapolis police department have told the jury already, but the fact it is now being said by an outside expert gives this argument even more weight.

Steiger says at the point Floyd is laid prone by officers, including Chauvin, “He was not attempting to evade. He was not attempting to resist.”

He says the officers should have considered the fatal risk of positional asphyxia.

Follow the latest updates from the trial by reading the Guardian’s live blog:

Updated

Trump breaks silence on sex trafficking allegations against Gaetz

Donald Trump has released his first statement in response to the sex-trafficking allegations against Republican congressman Matt Gaetz, a close ally to the former president.

“Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” the former president said in a statement released by his political action committee. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

That unenthusiastic statement comes one day after the New York Times reported that Gaetz asked the White House for pre-emptive blanket pardons for himself and some congressional allies.

According to the Times, Trump was told of the request, but it’s unclear whether he discussed it directly with Gaetz. The request was ultimately denied.

The justice department is reportedly investigating whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him, in violation of sex trafficking laws.

Gaetz has denied the allegations and claimed to be the victim of an extortion plot by a former justice department official. That official has said Gaetz’s claims are “completely false”.

During Trump’s time in office, Gaetz was one of his fiercest defenders in Congress. Gaetz frequently sought to discredit investigations into Trump or his administration, often by spreading conspiracy theories about the former president’s critics.

Updated

Rudy Giuliani’s son, Andrew, who worked as a top aide to Donald Trump, said he’s “heavily considering” running for governor in New York during the 2022 election.

“I plan to run,” he has told the Washington Examiner in a 7 April story.

“Outside of anybody named Trump, I think I have the best chance to win and take the state back, and I think there’s an opportunity in 2022 with a wounded Democratic candidate, whether it’s going to be Governor [Andrew] Cuomo, whether it’s going to be a radical [Attorney General] Letitia James, whether it’s going to be a no-name lieutenant governor, I think there’s a very, very real chance to win,” Andrew Giuliani remarked.

New York’s current governor, Andrew Cuomo, is in his third term, and it’s thought that he will run again. He is the son of the former New York governor Mario Cuomo, who held the office for three terms.

The Washington Examiner story on Andrew Giuliani’s potential run has cast this race as a “Titanic battle of New York families, a liberal-conservative fight that the state hasn’t seen in years”, given Cuomo’s lineage and the fact that Giuliani served as New York City’s mayor and lawyer to Trump.

If the son of “America’s mayor” turned Trump lawyer did stick to his word, it wouldn’t be that surprising, and probably not all that “Titanic”, considering that Cuomo has recently been embroiled in several damaging scandals.

Reports have revealed that top Cuomo aides rewrote a report from state health officials to conceal Covid-19 deaths at care homes – and to secure his reputation as a strong, effective leader. More, Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by numerous women.

Federal authorities have launched an investigation into Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, including whether he and his senior staffers gave the US justice department false figures on deaths in these facilities, per The New York Times.

The state attorney general is investigating the sexual harassment claims, and New York lawmakers have launched an inquiry to determine whether they should bring articles of impeachment against him, Politico reports.

Updated

Fauci urges Americans to remain vigilant: the end is ‘on the way. Hang in there’

A reporter asked members of the White House coronavirus response team what the “finish line” of the pandemic looks like for the US.

The question comes one day after Joe Biden said at the White House: “We aren’t at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do.”

Senior White House adviser Andy Slavitt once again emphasized that more than half of American adults have not yet been vaccinated and cases are rising in dozens of US states.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said the country will see a significant decline in case numbers once more Americans are fully vaccinated.

Fauci said of the “finish line” of the pandemic: “It’s on the way. Hang in there.”

Updated

The White House coronavirus response team is now holding a briefing to provide an update on vaccine distribution and case numbers across the country.

Andy Slavitt, a senior White House adviser, announced the Biden administration is now making vaccines available at all community health centers nationwide, a move that is aimed at closing the racial gap in vaccinations.

“Many community health centers are located in underserved communities and serve patients that are predominantly either uninsured or underinsured,” Slavitt said.

Slavitt noted 108 million Americans have now received at least one dose of a vaccine, representing about 40% of all US adults. But Slavitt echoed Joe Biden’s warnings against becoming complacent about practicing social-distancing and wearing masks.

“Even as we vaccinate Americans in record numbers, we’re still not even halfway there,” Slavitt said.

The senior adviser offered reassurances that “better days are on the horizon”, but he added: “It’s in our power to limit death, disease and misery.”

Updated

Jill Biden is expected to announce today the next steps for the military family support program that she and Michelle Obama led during Barack Obama’s presidency, according to a new report.

The AP reports:

Biden says that military families are as important as a rudder is to a ship and that supporting their physical, social and emotional health is a national security imperative.

‘We have an all-volunteer force, and it continues only because generations of Americans see the honor, dignity and patriotism of this calling,’ the first lady will say during an event at the White House, according to her prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.

‘How can we hope to keep our military strong if we don’t give our families, survivors and caregivers what they need to thrive? If we don’t act on our sacred obligation?’ she asks.

Biden said her relaunch of the Joining Forces initiative will focus on employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for military families, education for the more than 2 million children with enlisted parents, and the overall health and well-being of these families.

Joe Biden frequently notes that his own family is a military family because his late son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, served in the Delaware army national guard, including a year in Iraq.

Updated

The federal government will not be distributing vaccine passports as many US states start easing coronavirus-related restrictions, the surgeon general reiterated this morning.

“The government will not be requiring or issuing vaccine credentials,” Dr Vivek Murthy told MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle.

Murthy, who also served as surgeon general under Barack Obama, said decisions about requiring vaccine verification will be left up to private businesses.

“What the government and administration really believes, is that if the private sector is going to do that, that there need to be strict standards to ensure that people are protected, that their privacy is protected, and also to ensure that these are accessible to everyone and not only available to those who have economic means,” Murthy added.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, made a similar point during her briefing yesterday, telling reporters: “There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

Updated

At campaign rallies, Donald Trump specialized in crafting political slogans whose catchiness obscured the lack of actual policy behind them: lock her up, America First, build the wall, drain the swamp.

But there was one Trump slogan that turned out to have a shocking amount of policy behind it – hundreds of pieces of legislation nationwide in just the last three months, in fact, constituting the most coordinated, organized and determined Republican push on any political issue in recent memory.

The slogan was “stop the steal,” a tendentious reference to Trump’s big lie about the November election result.

And the policy behind it was aggressive voter suppression, targeting people of color, urbanites, low-income communities and other groups whose full participation in future elections is seen by Republicans as a threat.

For decades, conservatives have made limited government, lower taxes, “family” values, religious freedom, public safety, national security and restrictions on abortion the centerpiece of their pitch to voters.

In 2021, those issues have been joined on the party platform by – and sometimes seem to be eclipsed by – a bold new policy proposal: prevent voting.

Since the November election, Republican state legislatures across the country have introduced more than 250 bills creating barriers to voting, cutting early voting, purging voter rolls, limiting absentee options and now, in Georgia, outlawing giving someone stuck in a 10-hour line a bottle of water.

Treasury has distributed more than 150m checks from Covid relief package

The Biden administration has distributed more than 150m checks to Americans as part of the $1.9tn coronavirus relief package, the treasury department has just announced.

The department said in a statement that it is disbursing more than 25m checks in the fourth batch of payments from the relief package, which Joe Biden signed last month.

“Today’s announcement brings the total disbursed so far to more than 156m payments, with a total value of approximately $372bn, since these payments began rolling out to Americans in batches,” the treasury department said.

The president will probably highlight this news when he delivers remarks on his infrastructure proposal at the White House later today.

Biden used his speech on vaccines yesterday to celebrate 150m shots being administered since he took office in January, and he can now tout 150m checks as well.

Updated

Half of all American adults are on track to receive at least one Covid-19 vaccination by this weekend, according to a government adviser, although Joe Biden offered a reality check on Tuesday when he warned the US is still in a “life-and-death race” against the coronavirus.

Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response, said that 50% of adults are likely to receive a shot in the next few days.

The good news is tempered by some states seeing coronavirus cases rising at a rate not seen since late 2020, however, with Michigan seeing a surge among young people in particular.

“We do have to remember that there are 100 million-plus adults that still haven’t been vaccinated,” Slavitt told CNN in an interview on Tuesday night.

“They’re not there yet, and you don’t win the war until you bring everybody over with you.”

About 63 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and adults in more than 30 states are now eligible to receive the vaccine. A record 4m doses were administered on Saturday, but health experts have consistently warned against complacency when it comes to limiting the spread of the virus.

Biden administration races to vaccinate Americans as Covid variants spread

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Joe Biden announces yesterday that all American adults will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by 19 April, pushing up his earlier deadline of 1 May by about two weeks.

The president also said the US has administered 150m vaccine doses since he took office in January, bringing him closer to his goal of administering 200m shots by his 100th day in office. About one in three Americans have now received at least one vaccine dose, according to Bloomberg.

Joe Biden delivers a vaccination update at the White House on 6 April.
Joe Biden delivers a vaccination update at the White House on 6 April. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

But Biden made a point to stress that the steady increase in vaccinations should not deter Americans from continuing to wear masks and practice social distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Dozens of states have reported increases in new coronavirus cases over the past couple of weeks, as virus variants have spread at a rapid pace.

“We aren’t at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do,” Biden said. “We’re still in a life-and-death race against this virus.”

The White House coronavirus response team will probably echo that message when it holds a briefing in about an hour. The blog will have updates on that once it starts, so stay tuned.

Updated

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