10 things you need to know today: February 9, 2021
Schumer and McConnell agree on rules ahead of Trump impeachment trial, Georgia investigates Trump phone calls, and more
Schumer, McConnell agree on structure of Trump impeachment trial
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Monday that they had agreed on the structure and rules for former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. The fast-tracked proceedings will start Tuesday with four hours of debate over the constitutionality of trying a president who is no longer in office, followed by a vote on whether the Senate has jurisdiction. That vote will require a simple majority of the Democrat-controlled chamber. That is expected to clear the way for opening arguments on Wednesday, with up to 16 hours of arguments by the House impeachment managers and Trump's lawyers. Trump's lawyers asked the Senate to dismiss the charge, calling the case "political theater." House impeachment managers countered by saying Trump "willfully incited violent insurrection against the government."
Georgia investigates Trump phone calls
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has launched an investigation into phone calls former President Donald Trump made to state election officials seeking help overturning President Biden's election victory in the state. Walter Jones, a spokesman for the office, told ABC News that the office had received formal complaints from a law professor who argued that Trump broke the law during the conversations, triggering a "fact-finding and administrative" inquiry. "The secretary of state's office investigates complaints it receives," Jones said. Trump is heard in a recording made on Jan. 2 and obtained by ABC News telling Raffensperger to "find" the 11,780 votes he needed to erase Biden's margin of victory and win the state.
Myanmar's military imposes curfew as protests escalate
Myanmar's military junta on Monday imposed a curfew in the country's two largest cities, effectively banning peaceful protests against the military's takeover of the government and detention of civilian leaders. The restrictions are being applied on a town-by-town basis, and are expected to be applied in more areas soon. The crackdown came after police used water cannons against hundreds of people protesting in Naypyitaw, the country's capital. Demonstrators in Yangon carried placards reading, "Reject the military coup," and flashed the three-finger salutes of the resistance. The rising protests were unusual in a country where the powerful military has long responded to demonstrations with force.
Rep. Ron Wright dies after hospitalization for COVID-19
Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas) died Sunday less than three weeks after falling ill with COVID-19, his family and spokesperson confirmed Monday. He was 67. Wright, who was re-elected to a second term in November, also had been battling lung cancer. He was the first member of Congress to die of COVID-19. "Congressman Wright will be remembered as a constitutional conservative. He was a statesman, not an ideologue," his office said in a statement. Despite his treatment for cancer, Wright had maintained an active work schedule before he was infected with the coronavirus. He announced that had tested positive on Jan. 21.
Democrats consider raising minimum wage to $9.50 this year
House Democrats are discussing a plan to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, starting with an increase from the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $9.50 within the year. Democrats are looking to include the first hike to the federal minimum wage since 2009 in President Biden's coronavirus relief bill. They plan to revise the proposal Tuesday, but it currently calls for increasing the minimum annually until it reaches $15 in 2025. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a report released Monday that raising the minimum wage to $15-an-hour would lift 900,000 people out of poverty and raise 17 million people's income, but cost about 1.4 million jobs by 2025. Net pay to American workers would increase by $333 billion.
Senate confirms Denis McDonough as veterans affairs secretary
The Senate on Monday voted overwhelmingly to confirm Denis McDonough as President Biden's veterans affairs secretary. The 87-7 vote made McDonough just the second non-veteran to lead the department. McDonough has extensive government experience, including serving as then-President Barack Obama's chief of staff. He also has held several high-ranking national security positions. In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, McDonough vowed to apply his "deep and extensive knowledge of government" to overhaul the struggling department, which has been criticized for its complex benefits claims process, and has come under investigation for long wait times for medical care. "This won't be easy," McDonough said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs faces great challenges, challenges made even more daunting by the coronavirus pandemic."
WHO expert says coronavirus probably didn't leak from China lab
A World Health Organization expert said Tuesday that the coronavirus probably didn't leak from a Chinese lab, and most likely spread to humans from some other species. WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek made the statement in a summary of a WHO team's investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. A WHO team visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first COVID-19 cases were reported in December 2019, after months of resistance from the Chinese government. China has denied the virus could have leaked from a lab, and suggested, without evidence, that it might have originated elsewhere and reached Wuhan, possibly in imported frozen food packaging. China still won't agree to a fully independent investigation.
GOP Sen. Richard Shelby to retire when term ends in 2022
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) announced Monday that he'll retire at the end of 2022 rather than seek re-election for a seventh term. Unlike his GOP colleague Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is on his way out as well and cited increasing partisanship in Congress as a major factor in his decision, Shelby's choice was seemingly simple — the senator, who has been in Congress for over four decades, is 86 now and will be 88 in 2022. As he put it in a statement, "for everything, there is a season." Even if Shelby's departure was anticipated, the race to succeed him in Alabama, where the seat figures to remain Republican, could be crucial in shaping the future of the Senate GOP.
Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq set records
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq closed at record highs on Monday. The Dow and the S&P 500 rose by 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent after a sixth straight day of gains. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 1 percent. U.S. stock index futures inched lower early Tuesday. All three of the main U.S. indexes were down by less than 0.1 percent several hours before the opening bell. Wall Street has been getting a boost from strong earnings reports, improving coronavirus data, and Democrats' push for President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. "We are still very much in a bull market at the early stages of an economic recovery that's gaining momentum," Michael Wilson, chief U.S. equity strategist at Morgan Stanley, said in a note.
Mary Wilson, founding member of The Supremes, dies at 76
Singer Mary Wilson, who co-founded legendary Motown group The Supremes, died unexpectedly at her home near Las Vegas on Monday night. She was 76. No cause of death was disclosed. Wilson was just 15 when she formed The Primettes with Florence Ballard, Diana Ross, and Betty McGlowan. The group signed with Motown as The Supremes in 1961, then, pared down to a trio, started rising to stardom in 1963. Wilson sang on all 12 of the group's No. 1 pop hits, including "Where Did Our Love Go," "Stop! In the Name of Love," "Baby Love," "You Keep Me Hanging On," and "You Can't Hurry Love." Ross left to start her solo career in 1970. Wilson stayed with the group until it disbanded in 1977. She recorded a handful of solo albums and published four books.