Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 31, 2021

Domestic travel soars as Americans mark Memorial Day, Democrats block Texas voting restrictions, and more

1

Domestic travel reaches pandemic-era high over Memorial Day weekend

Domestic travel surged to a pandemic-era high over Memorial Day weekend, as the U.S. reported the fewest new COVID-19 cases in more than a year. There were 11,976 new cases in 24 hours on Saturday, the lowest since March 23, 2020. The Transportation Safety Administration reported that more than 1.9 million people traveled by air over the three-day weekend, a record since the start of the pandemic. Across the United States, communities are taking advantage of the improving situation to honor the nation's fallen troops in traditional ways that were not possible last year. "We're breathing a sigh of relief that we've overcome another struggle, but we're also now able to return to what this holiday is all about — remembering our fallen comrades," Craig DeOld, a 50-year-old retired Army captain, said at a Boston cemetery. This year, Americans attending Monday ceremonies and other events also will be remembering tens of thousands of veterans who died from COVID-19.

2

Democrats block Texas voting restrictions, for now

Texas Democrats walked out of the state House on Sunday to block final approval of a voting bill that would limit early voting hours, reduce local voting options, and tighten mail-in voting. Without Democrats, the House didn't have enough members present to hold a vote before a midnight deadline. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced that he would order lawmakers to return for a special session to approve the bill. The Republican-controlled state House and Senate had passed their versions along party lines. Democrats argued the restrictions would make it harder for voters of color to cast ballots. Republicans said it would make elections more "secure and accessible." Texas is the latest GOP-run state to push new voting restrictions since former President Donald Trump lost, falsely claiming the election was stolen.

3

Israeli opposition reaches deal to oust Netanyahu

A broad coalition of Israeli opposition parties said Sunday they had reached a deal to form a unity government and push aside conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has served 12 years, longer than anyone in Israel's history. Under an agreement that came out of weeks of negotiations led by centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid, former Netanyahu defense minister and ally Naftali Bennett will lead the new government after several elections ended in deadlock. "We could go to fifth elections, sixth elections, until our home falls upon us, or we could stop the madness and take responsibility," Bennett said. Negotiations to finalize the deal continued Monday. Netanyahu sought ways to block the deal, saying Bennett, a former protege, was committing the "fraud of the century" and betraying right-wing voters.

4

Republican negotiator says 'real compromise' possible on infrastructure

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), the lead GOP negotiator on a possible infrastructure deal, said Sunday that "real compromise" is possible between Republicans and President Biden. Biden set a Memorial Day deadline for major progress toward a deal. He has trimmed his proposal to $1.7 trillion from an initial $2.3 trillion. Republicans have gone up to $928 billion from an opening proposal of just under $600 billion to upgrade the nation's aging bridges, roads, and other infrastructure. The two sides remain far apart on covering costs. Biden wants to raise taxes on corporations and the super-rich, while Republicans are proposing repurposing funds approved for pandemic relief. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said there must be signs of progress by June 7, a week after the old deadline, or the administration would look at pushing through a bill without GOP support.

5

Biden honors fallen service members on 'toughest day of the year'

President Biden, speaking at a Delaware event ahead of Memorial Day on Sunday, reached out to relatives of fallen service members, saying "your sons, your daughters, they live on in your hearts and in their children as well. And we have to carry on without them, but I know how hard it is for you." Biden spoke about his late son Beau Biden, who was deployed to Iraq in 2008 and died of brain cancer exactly six years ago on Sunday. "You all know, better than I do or as well as I do, that the moment that we celebrate it is the toughest day of the year," Biden said. He added: "We are not Democrats or Republicans today; we are Americans. It's time to remind everyone who we are."

6

Miami-Dade police leader calls for tightening gun laws after shooting

Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo "Freddy" Ramirez on Sunday called for stronger gun-control laws in the wake of a mass shooting outside a local rap concert that left at least two dead and 20 injured. Ramirez said on CBS' Face the Nation that stricter regulations were necessary to fight "the scourge of gun violence" that has resulted in a wave of mass shootings across the country. "They need to come out of their own corners — the left and the right — and come to the middle, which is where most Americans are," he said. "We need to have universal background checks, we need to make burglarizing these licensed gun stores a federal crime with mandatory sentencing ... Because without legislation ... we're never going to get through this summer without much more death and destruction."

7

Democrats vow House investigation after GOP blocks Jan. 6 commission

Democrats will continue to pursue an investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot even after Republican senators blocked the creation of a bipartisan commission last week, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told The Hill. "Using the filibuster to cover up the truth about Jan. 6 is a scandalous abuse of power that should bring the filibuster to an immediate and long overdue end," said Raskin, who served as Democrats' top prosecutor during former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial. "Until that happens, we will now have to move forward without the Senate to figure out how to create the nonpartisan, objective investigation into the events and cause of Jan. 6 that America deserves." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has hinted she might create a special committee with subpoena power to conduct an investigation.

8

China announces 3-child policy

China announced Monday that it would let couples have three children in a major policy shift to reverse falling birth rates. The change "will improve the population structure of China," the party leadership said after a meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping. China long had a one-child policy aimed at preventing overpopulation. In October 2015 it adopted a two-child policy, although researchers at the time said the change would not do much to address the aging of the country's population. The latest change came weeks after the release of partial census data indicating that births were continuing to decline. The timing of the policy change suggested that the detailed census data is "scary," said Yi Fuxian, an expert on China's demographics. "It probably frightened the decision makers," Yi said. 

9

Dozens of students abducted from Nigerian school

Gunmen abducted "an undetermined number" of students from an Islamic school in the north-central Nigerian state of Niger on Sunday, the state government said. There were about 200 children at the school, and dozens appeared to be missing. The school's owner, Abubakar Tegina, said about 150 students were abducted. A spokesman for Niger state police said the armed men arrived, riding motorcycles, in the town of Tegina, "shooting indiscriminately," and took the students from Salihu Tanko Islamic school. One person was killed and another seriously injured in the attack, which came a day after 14 students from a university in northwestern Nigeria were freed after 40 days in captivity. Since December, more than 700 students in northern Nigeria have been taken by armed groups demanding ransom.

10

Osaka fined $15,000 for refusing to speak to French Open media

French Open officials on Sunday fined star player Naomi Osaka $15,000 for not participating in a mandatory press conference after her first-round win against Patricia Maria Tig. Before the tennis tournament, Osaka announced she wasn't going to speak to the media, saying she wanted to raise awareness for athletes' mental health issues. She said press conferences subject players to "questions that bring doubt into our minds and I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me." Tournament organizers said they "tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue, and what might be done to address it on site." They said Osaka could face "more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions" if she doesn't follow the rules.

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