10 things you need to know today: July 30, 2021
Biden unveils plan to boost vaccinations, the House passes a $2 billion Capitol security bill, and more
Biden calls for offering incentives to get people vaccinated
President Biden on Thursday unveiled his plans to get more Americans vaccinated to counter a surge of coronavirus infections driven by the virulent Delta variant. Biden encouraged local governments to pay people to get inoculated against COVID-19. He also unveiled a requirement for federal workers to show they've been vaccinated, or face regular testing, mask mandates, and travel restrictions. "With freedom comes responsibility. So please exercise responsible judgment. Get vaccinated for yourself, the people you love, for your country," Biden said. The mandates will affect millions of federal employees and contractors. The vast majority of new coronavirus cases are hitting unvaccinated people. About 164 million of the U.S. population of 330 million are fully vaccinated.
House passes $2 billion Capitol security bill
The House on Thursday passed a $2 billion Capitol Hill security spending bill in response to the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. The 416-to-11 vote sent the legislation to President Biden for his signature. The Senate voted unanimously in favor of the extra funding for the Capitol Police, the National Guard, and other law enforcement agencies to pay for their expenses during the insurrection. It also will pay for Capitol security upgrades, and costs linked to coronavirus response. "The last six months have pushed those who protect the U.S. Capitol to the limits. In the face of unprecedented adversity, they responded heroically," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). "We must support them now, as they so courageously supported us."
Biden urges Congress to extend eviction moratorium
President Biden on Thursday called on Congress to extend a nationwide moratorium on evictions that is set to expire Saturday. Biden extended the moratorium through July and supported keeping it going longer, but said a Supreme Court ruling prevented him from acting alone. The freeze was initiated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep Americans who fell behind on rent due to the coronavirus pandemic from losing their homes. Housing advocates warned that ending the nationwide ban would threaten millions of people with eviction and cause increased homelessness. "These rollbacks of lifesaving protections are premature and will lead to the worst eviction crisis in U.S. history," said Jaboa Lake, senior policy analyst with the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
Ex-cardinal McCarrick charged with sex abuse
Former Catholic cardinal Theodore McCarrick has become the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic official to be criminally charged for alleged sex abuse, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing court documents. McCarrick, 91, was accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy during a wedding reception at Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1974. McCarrick was among the most influential Catholic leaders in the country before the abuse allegations became public in 2018. The Vatican found McCarrick guilty of sex abuse in 2019 and expelled McCarrick from the priesthood, but many long assumed he would not be criminally charged. "This is extraordinary," said Marci Hamilton, an attorney with Child USA and a University of Pennsylvania professor. McCarrick's attorney said the defense looks forward to "addressing this issue in the courtroom."
GDP rises above pre-pandemic levels but falls short of expectations
U.S. gross domestic product grew by 1.6 percent in the second quarter of 2021, a 6.5 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department reported on Thursday. The growth marked a slight improvement over the 1.5 percent figure for the first quarter, and put the economy above pre-coronavirus-pandemic levels, demonstrating the positive impact of vaccinations and federal aid intended to boost the recovery. Despite the improvement, the second quarter fell well short of economists' expectations, partly due to supply-chain disruptions. The data raised concerns that the recovery could be disrupted by surging coronavirus cases driven by the virulent Delta variant, as well as the renewal of mask mandates and the end of federal pandemic aid programs.
Garland calls Texas immigration order 'dangerous and unlawful'
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday called for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to reverse the executive order he issued Wednesday seeking to restrict "ground transportation of migrants who pose a risk of carrying COVID-19 into Texas communities." Garland called the order "dangerous and unlawful" in a letter to Abbott. "The Order violates federal law in numerous respects, and Texas cannot lawfully enforce the Executive Order against any federal official or private parties working with the United States," Garland wrote. Garland said Abbott, a potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate who has clashed with Washington in the past over immigration policy, lacks the authority to challenge the federal government's "undoubted power over the subject of immigration."
Freedom Caucus urges booting Cheney, Kinzinger from GOP caucus
The conservative House Freedom Caucus on Thursday called for kicking Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) out of the Republican caucus as punishment for joining the select committee investigating the deadly attack on the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters. Both were appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to ensure the panel would be bipartisan. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pulled all five of his nominees after Pelosi rejected two of them over their past comments on Jan. 6 and the committee. "It was antithetical to have sitting in your conference, individuals who have professed they want to take out the minority leader," House Freedom Caucus Chair Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said in a Thursday news conference.
Japan extends state of emergency as coronavirus cases hit record
Japan on Friday extended a state of emergency beyond Tokyo and Okinawa in response to the country's record number of new coronavirus cases. The country's new daily coronavirus cases rose above 10,000 for the first time. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared an emergency in Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba, near Tokyo, and in the western city of Osaka, from Monday until Aug. 31. The move was expected to make it harder for authorities to soothe public fears that the outbreak will pose problems for the Tokyo Olympics. Spectators have been banned from the Games, and athletes are being required to respect strict protocols to reduce the risk of infection. Twenty-four new infections related to the Olympics were confirmed Thursday, bringing the total to 193 since July 1.
Hong Kong protester sentenced to 9 years in first case under security law
A Hong Kong court on Friday sentenced protester Tong Ying-kit to nine years in prison in the first case under the security law imposed on the former British colony by China's central government last year. Tong had faced up to life in prison after being convicted earlier this week of terrorism and inciting secession. Tong was arrested for crashing a motorcycle into police officers while carrying a protest flag. The case and others being pursued under the security law have fueled fears that China is reducing Hong Kong's autonomy and political rights in response to widespread pro-democracy protests in 2019, and increasing Beijing's control over the financial hub's judicial system, which is separate from mainland China's.
Sunisa Lee wins gold after Simone Biles withdraws
American gymnast Sunisa Lee won the women's gymnastics all-around gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, stepping into the spotlight after teammate and defending Olympic champion Simone Biles withdrew. Lee, 18, overcame injuries last year to become a rising star on Team USA. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil had a chance to overtake Lee on the final rotation, the floor exercise, but she stepped out of bounds twice and wound up with the silver medal. The Russian Olympic Committee's Angelina Melnikova won the bronze medal. "The past two years have been absolutely crazy with COVID and my family and everything else," Lee said. "This medal definitely means a lot to me because there was a point in time when I wanted to quit and I just didn't think I would ever be here, including injuries and stuff."