10 things you need to know today: May 3, 2021

Biden, GOP to hold talks on competing infrastructure plans, India court vows punishment for pandemic failures, and more

A construction sign in Miami, Florida.
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

1. Biden, Republicans to discuss rival infrastructure proposals

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Sunday that President Biden had invited leading Republican lawmakers to the White House to accelerate negotiations over their competing infrastructure proposals this week. One of those invited was Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), a leading GOP negotiator on the proposals. "We're going to work with Republicans," Klain said on CBS. "We're going to find common ground." Biden has proposed $2.3 trillion in spending on infrastructure programs and services over eight years. Republicans say Biden's plan goes beyond conventional infrastructure. They have proposed a $568 billion alternative plan. Republican lawmakers say compromise is possible on a package targeting roads, bridges, and other physical infrastructure.

The Wall Street Journal

2. India court says it will punish officials over pandemic failures

A New Delhi court on Sunday said it would start punishing public officials for failing to deliver a steady supply of oxygen and other materials needed to save lives during India's devastating coronavirus outbreak. Hospitals in the country have warned they are running out of oxygen needed by patients with the most severe breathing problems caused by COVID-19 as the country has set global records for daily new cases, and national records for daily fatalities. Hospital authorities asked the court to intervene after the government failed to provide a steady supply of oxygen as Delhi extended a lockdown to curb infections. "Water has gone above the head. Enough is enough," the New Delhi High Court said.

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The Associated Press

3. Two Republicans advance to runoff in special congressional election

Texas Democrats conceded Sunday that they had been shut out of a runoff election to fill the seat of the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas), who was fighting lung cancer when he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and died in February. Wright's widow, Susan Wright, was the leading candidate. Fellow Republican Jake Ellzey was narrowly leading Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez with nearly all the votes in Texas' 6th Congressional District counted, and held onto the lead as the count went on. Democrat Sanchez came in third, failing to qualify for the run-off by fewer than 400 votes. More than 18,000 ballots went to other Democrats. Twenty-three candidates were vying for the north Texas seat, which had been trending away from Republicans. "Yesterday's incredibly close margins showed that voters are invested in electing Democrats," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.

The Washington Post

4. Blinken: China acting 'more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad'

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a CBS 60 Minutes interview that aired Sunday that the United States is not trying to "contain China, to hold it back, to keep it down," but to uphold the "rules-based order that China is posing a challenge to." China, Blinken said, is "the one country in the world that has the military, economic, diplomatic capacity to undermine or challenge the rules-based order that we care so much about and are determined to defend." China has the world's largest Navy, three new warships patrolling the South China Sea, and jets flying over the western Pacific Ocean. Blinken also said that over the last few years China has acted "more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad."

CBS News

5. U.S. denies Iranian report of prisoner swap

The Biden administration on Sunday denied a report by Iranian state-run television that Tehran had struck a deal to release U.S. and British prisoners in exchange for billions of dollars. The conflicting stories came during a flurry of infighting in Iran over negotiations to revive the country's landmark nuclear deal with world powers. Some suspected hard-liners of spreading rumors about a deal on releasing prisoners in a bid to derail nuclear talks. Despite Washington's denial, a presenter on Iranian state TV repeated that sources were saying there was a deal involving the release of four "American spies" in exchange for four Iranians and $7 billion. Iran's ambassador to the United Nations later said the swap was "not confirmed."

The Associated Press

6. India's ruling party loses key state election

India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, lost a key state election in West Bengal, one of the few states where his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party lacks a parliamentary majority, in what was widely seen as a voter backlash against his handling of the country's devastating coronavirus outbreak. Modi's party had been expected to pick up seats Sunday in West Bengal. Instead, one of his prominent critics, Mamata Banerjee, won a third term as the state's chief minister with a strong majority of 216 seats in the 294-seat assembly. The BJP won 75 seats, far fewer than had been projected. Modi made numerous speeches in the state. His government has been criticized for allowing large religious festivals and political rallies in March and April ahead of the country's recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

The Guardian

7. 3 dead, dozens hurt as suspected smuggling boat capsizes off San Diego

At least three people were killed Sunday and more than two dozen were hospitalized after a small boat capsized and appeared to have broken apart off Point Loma, California. Officials said the boat was involved in a suspected human smuggling operation. Lifeguards reportedly pulled 25 people from the water. Five of them were in what rescuers described as "CPR status," indicating they were having difficulty breathing, said San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Jose Ysea. News video showed medics on a dock performing CPR on two men, with a Coast Guard helicopter lowering another onto a field in a basket. The boat, reportedly a kind of low-slung fishing boat often used by smugglers, flipped near Cabrillo National Monument.

San Diego Union Tribune

8. Poll: Americans more optimistic about future than they've been in years

Americans are the most optimistic they've been since 2006, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they liked the way things were heading in the country. The last time that nearly that many people felt so upbeat was in December 2006, when 61 percent reported that level of optimism — shortly before the 2008-2009 financial crisis struck. The optimism didn't translate into unity. Only 23 percent of respondents said they believed the country was more united under President Biden. Twenty-eight percent said the country had grown more divided. A plurality of Americans, at 48 percent, said there had been no change in that regard in Biden's first 100 days.

ABC News

9. Yellen says Biden spending proposals wouldn't cause inflation spike

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, said Sunday that President Biden's proposals to spend trillions on infrastructure, families, and education would not trigger an inflation spike because the programs would be phased in over a decade. "It's spread out quite evenly over eight to 10 years. So the boost to demand is moderate," Yellen said on NBC's Meet the Press. "I don't believe that inflation will be an issue, but if it becomes an issue, we have tools to address it." Recent economic data indicates that the recovery from the damage of the coronavirus pandemic is gaining strength. Americans' incomes made their biggest jump ever in March, with a boost from the latest $1,400 coronavirus relief checks, and the economy grew at a 6.4 percent annual rate in the first quarter.

The Associated Press

10. Viewing held ahead of Andrew Brown Jr.'s funeral as protests continue

Relatives, friends, and activists attended a public viewing of Andrew Brown Jr.'s open casket on Sunday ahead of a funeral scheduled for Monday, two weeks after he was shot to death outside his Elizabeth City, North Carolina, home by deputies serving search and arrest warrants. About 300 demonstrators marched to an auditorium at the Museum of Albemarle, where Brown's casket was moved after the earlier viewing at a funeral home. Officials have said Brown's shooting was justified, but protesters have gathered every night since the April 21 shooting, calling it an example of excessive force by police against Black people. Protesters also are calling for the authorities to release all the deputies' body camera video of the incident.

News & Observer

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.