10 things you need to know today: August 24, 2021
House Democrats stalemate on budget, the Taliban warns the U.S. not to extend withdrawal deadline, and more
Pelosi, 10 Democratic holdouts stalemate on budget and infrastructure bills
The House on Monday postponed a planned vote on advancing a $3.5 trillion spending proposal that is a key part of President Biden's economic agenda. The stalemate came as a group of 10 centrist Democrats failed to agree on a path forward for the budget and a separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The chamber will reconvene on Tuesday as Democrats try to strike a deal to move forward. The Senate has approved the infrastructure bill and the larger budget blueprint. The 10 Democratic holdouts, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), are demanding that the House clear the bipartisan bill before authorizing Democrats to write the larger package, but Pelosi, with Biden's approval, has lashed the bills together to keep all factions of the party invested in their success.
Taliban warns U.S. not to extend troop withdrawal deadline
A Taliban spokesman on Monday warned the United States not to leave troops in Afghanistan beyond the Aug. 31 deadline for a full withdrawal, saying that would amount to crossing a "red line" that would amount to "extending occupation." President Biden has said he was considering keeping some military forces in the country beyond the deadline to ensure that all Americans could be evacuated. British media has reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to request an extension. The Pentagon is accelerating the evacuation effort to get out U.S. citizens and Afghan allies desperate to escape Taliban rule. The Pentagon has deployed helicopters and special forces beyond the airport to help people get out.
FDA grants full approval for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration on Monday granted full, formal approval for the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The decision made the Pfizer vaccine the first to win the designation in the United States, potentially making more businesses and schools likely to impose vaccine mandates. Previously, the vaccine had only emergency-use authorization, which some vaccine skeptics cited as a reason not to take it. FDA regulators have been under pressure to make a decision since the drugmakers submitted the application for full approval in May. FDA scientists concluded that it met their "high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality," acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement, adding that "the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated."
NYC requires teachers to get vaccinated
New York City's public school district, the largest in the nation, will require teachers and other staffers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus following approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, officials said Monday. The city previously had said teachers, like other city employees, would have to be vaccinated or get tested for coronavirus weekly. The new policy will force about 148,000 school employees, as well as contractors, to get at least their first vaccine dose by Sept. 27. "We want our schools to be extraordinarily safe," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the union's priority is "keeping our kids safe," but the mandate should have been negotiated. The Pentagon also announced a vaccine mandate for service members on Monday.
Capitol Police: Officer who fatally shot rioter followed department policy
The Capitol Police officer who fatally shot pro-Trump rioter Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters will face no disciplinary action, the department said Monday. Capitol Police policy permits officers to use deadly force only when they believe their action is necessary to defend human life, including their own. Babbitt was shot when the crowd she was in pushed toward a barricaded doorway into the Speaker's Lobby that was guarded by Capitol Police. The Justice Department said in April there was no evidence to support charges against the officer, who was not identified because he has faced death threats. Lawyers for Babbitt's family have said they plan to file a civil rights lawsuit.
Cuomo defends record in farewell speech
Andrew Cuomo defended his record as governor in a farewell speech on Monday and said it was unfair that he had to resign, blaming a "media frenzy" over sexual harassment allegations. Cuomo stepped down and power was transferred at midnight to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who became New York's first female governor. Cuomo, a Democrat, announced his resignation just under two weeks ago rather than face likely impeachment over the allegations. The report that led to his resignation, which was created at the direction of Attorney General Letitia James, concluded that Cuomo had sexually harassed or inappropriately touched 11 women. Cuomo said it was "designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic, and it did work." Critics called Cuomo's remarks self-serving.
Proud Boys leader sentenced to 5 months
Henry Tarrio, the leader of the far-right Proud Boys, was sentenced Monday to more than five months in jail after admitting to burning a Black Lives Matter banner and attempting to possess a high-capacity ammunition magazine in Washington, D.C., where they are illegal. Tarrio, known to followers as Enrique, was arrested in January in connection with a rally in the nation's capital during which the banner was taken from a historic Black church, Asbury United Methodist. Prosecutors said the torching of the banner "had profound emotional and psychological effect upon the church and its members." Tarrio, who is from Miami, had bragged on social media that he was "damn proud I did it!"
Walmart launches last-mile delivery service
Walmart on Tuesday launched a delivery service called Walmart GoLocal that offers other merchants deliveries across the United States. The opening of the service ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season will let the world's largest retailer broaden its business. Walmart GoLocal will send workers from Walmart's Spark delivery network to pick up items from other businesses and deliver them to shoppers. In the past year, Walmart has doubled Spark's coverage to more than 500 cities. Walmart has this year started test runs for its first company-branded "last-mile" delivery vans, following the lead of online retail giant Amazon. Walmart's move came after e-commerce demand left delivery companies struggling to keep up last holiday season.
Hawaii governor urges people to avoid non-essential travel to islands
Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Monday urged visitors and residents to avoid travel to the islands except for essential business to help control a COVID-19 outbreak fueled by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. "It is a risky time to be traveling right now," said Ige, calling for limited travel through October. Ige, a Democrat, stopped short of banning travel, saying the current crisis was different from the one that prompted strict travel restrictions last year and essentially shut down the state's vital tourism industry. Now, vaccines are widely available and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say fully vaccinated people can travel domestically. Ige said he supports Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi's restrictions on gatherings, which modeling shows can dramatically reduce exposure risks.
Arizona GOP election 'audit' delayed after Cyber Ninjas COVID infections
The Florida firm hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to review the 2020 election results in Maricopa County was supposed to submit its final report on Monday, but the document was delayed because the CEO of the company doing the review and two others on the five-person audit team "have tested positive for COVID-19 and are quite sick," Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (R) said. Fann suggested on Twitter that some leaders of the company, Cyber Ninjas, are hospitalized. The audit of the results in Maricopa County, which gave President Biden his Arizona margin of victory in 2020, has split the state GOP. Arizona's Democratic secretary of state, Republican Maricopa County officials, and independent election experts have all criticized what they describe as serious flaws in the audit process.