10 things you need to know today: February 6, 2021
Congress passes budget bill, paving way for $1.9 trillion aid package, Myanmar military imposes internet blockade as protesters rally against coup, and more
Congress passes budget bill, paving way for $1.9 trillion aid package
Congress approved a budget resolution Friday, unlocking the budget reconciliation process Democrats are likely to use to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The Senate first approved the resolution early Friday morning after a 15-hour "vote-a-rama" marathon, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the party-line tie at just after 5:30 a.m. The House then voted to approve the bill Friday afternoon, 219-209. The 25 committees in the House and Senate will now start actually writing the legislation. Biden and Harris met with congressional Democratic leaders and committee chairs Friday morning to discuss what comes next, but Democrats are hoping to get final legislation to Biden's desk before mid-March, when unemployment benefits expire. Biden said he doesn't expect the final bill will include a minimum wage increase, but he plans to continue pursuing the hike in separate legislation.
Myanmar military imposes internet blockade as protesters rally against coup
Thousands of people took to the streets in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, on Saturday to protest Monday's military coup. The demonstrators reportedly chanted "Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win," as they marched through Yangon. Police with riot shields reportedly blocked the main roads into the city center, but there have been no reports of violence. Per Reuters, the atmosphere was festive, and the protesters reportedly gave police officers roses and bottles of water, asking them to join them, rather than support the military regime, which seized control from and detained Myanmar's democratically-elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The military authorities have reportedly remained in the capital, Naypyitaw, and have not engaged with the protesters, but they do appear to have imposed a blockade on internet access. The monitoring group NetBlocks Internet Observatory reported a "national-scale internet blackout," with connectivity falling to 16 percent of ordinary levels.
Supreme Court lifts California ban on indoor worship, but maintains capacity limits
The Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision along ideological lines granted an appeal from a San Diego church Friday, ruling that California Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D) coronavirus pandemic restrictions cannot include a ban on indoor worship services because they violate the Constitution's free exercise of religion. The court's three liberal justices dissented, arguing their judgment should not stand in for the opinions of scientists and public health officials. However, the majority also ruled the state can limit attendance at indoor services to 25 percent capacity, and restrict singing and chanting, which can contribute to the virus' spread. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas would have granted those requests, as well, but their conservative colleagues, Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh opted for the middle-ground position.
U.S. economy showed 'sluggish' jobs growth in January
The U.S. economy gained jobs last month, but showed "sluggish" improvement almost a year into the coronavirus crisis. The Labor Department said Friday the U.S. economy added 49,000 jobs in January, while the unemployment rate declined from 6.7 percent to 6.3 percent. Economists were anticipating about 50,000 jobs would be added, though some projected a higher number. The Friday report comes after the economy previously lost 140,000 jobs in December in the first monthly loss in jobs since April, though that number was later revised to 227,000. The number for January signaled a "sluggish recovery," CNN reported, while NBC News wrote that it pointed to the recovery's "ongoing fragility." "Though we gained jobs in January after a December loss, this is not a we've-turned-the-corner report," Navy Federal Credit Union economist Robert Frick said.
Biden suggests Trump shouldn't receive intelligence briefings
In an interview with CBS News' Norah O'Donnell, President Biden said he doesn't think former President Donald Trump should receive classified intelligence briefings, though it's unclear if that will be the official White House policy going forward. Cutting off Trump's access to intelligence briefings, which Biden has the authority to do, would be unprecedented — former presidents have traditionally been allowed to request and receive them. But Biden told O'Donnell he doesn't think there's any "value" in sending them to Trump. He didn't specify exactly what he fears could happen if Trump was briefed, but he suggested his predecessor's "erratic behavior" could lead to him revealing sensitive national security information. Trump, who was not known for devoting much attention to his daily intelligence briefings while in office, has not submitted any requests to the Biden administration so far.
NFL offers all stadiums as mass COVID-19 vaccination sites
The NFL has offered all of its 30 teams' stadiums to be used for mass COVID-19 vaccinations. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote a letter to President Biden saying "each NFL team will make its stadium available for mass vaccinations of the general public in coordination with local, state, and federal health officials," noting that "this is currently being done at seven NFL stadiums today." The letter comes days ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl LV, which will include an audience of 22,000 fans, including 7,500 vaccinated health care workers. The White House, CNN reports, is looking to "use this Sunday's event to combat vaccine hesitancy" and has "been in touch with the NFL and other brands involved in the Super Bowl on ways to integrate pro-mask and pro-vaccine messaging."
Air Force launches review after trespasser entered plane at Joint Base Andrews
Security forces at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, D.C., detained a man Thursday after he allegedly entered the base and got into a C-40 airplane. He now faces a federal charge of trespassing and was turned over to local law enforcement for two outstanding warrants, a statement from the base said. The Air Force will "launch a comprehensive review of installation security and trends" across the force after the incident, as well as investigate it further, Defense Department Press Secretary John Kirby said at a Friday press conference. The plane was part of the 89th Airlift Wing, which encompasses most aircraft used by the president, vice president, and Cabinet officials. President Biden boarded Air Force One for the first time as president on Friday.
Greene claims she's 'fine with' getting kicked off her House committees
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on Friday declared she's been "freed" after being removed from her House committee assignments, claiming continuing to serve on them would have been a waste of time. The House on Thursday voted to remove the controversial Georgia lawmaker from her committee assignments over a string of racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim comments and support for baseless conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric. In a press conference Friday, Greene said it was freeing to admit she "believed things that were wrong" in a speech the day before, during which she did not apologize but rather expressed regret for being "allowed to believe things that weren't true." Greene claimed "my conservative values wouldn't be heard" if she was still on the committees, though she also asserted removing her from them "stripped my voters of having representation to work for them."
Fox News cancels Lou Dobbs Tonight
Fox News has canceled Lou Dobbs' nightly program on the Fox Business Network, The Los Angeles Times reported Friday. Lou Dobbs Tonight reportedly had its final airing the same day. Beginning next week, Fox Business Tonight will run in its stead with rotating hosts Jackie DeAngelis and David Asman, who filled in for Dobbs on Friday. Fox said the decision to take Dobbs off the air is not related to the fact that he was one of three hosts, along with Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, named in a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Smartmatic, an election technology company. Dobbs, an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, amplified unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud on air. Dobbs is still under contract, but it is reportedly unlikely he'll appear on television for Fox again.
The Sound of Music star Christopher Plummer dies at 91
Christopher Plummer, the legendary actor known for his performance in The Sound of Music, has died at 91. Plummer died at his home in Connecticut with his wife by his side, his family confirmed to Deadline on Friday. In addition to playing Georg von Trapp in the classic 1965 musical The Sound of Music, he starred in over 100 films throughout his decades-long career. When he won an Academy Award in 2012 for his performance in Beginners, he became the oldest actor to win a competitive Oscar. Plummer also won two Tony Awards and two Emmys. "Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashion manners, self deprecating humor and the music of words," said Plummer's friend and manager, Lou Pitt.