Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 1, 2021

Congress passes bill averting a government shutdown, Manchin calls for slashing $3.5 trillion spending bill by more than half, and more

1

Congress approves bill to avert government shutdown

Congress on Thursday approved a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded, averting a shutdown just hours before a midnight deadline. President Biden promptly signed the legislation. The votes in the House and Senate came after Republicans blocked companion legislation seeking to raise the country's debt ceiling to prevent a potentially catastrophic default on federal debt. Democrats separated the two measures at the last minute, clearing the way for the stopgap bill's approval. The legislation keeps federal agencies funded until Dec. 3, but it leaves the question of the debt ceiling unresolved. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned lawmakers that the government will run out of ways to stave off a potentially catastrophic default by mid-October. 

2

Manchin calls for cutting $3.5 trillion spending bill by more than half

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Thursday that he would not vote for a spending plan costing more than $1.5 trillion, less than half what President Biden and other Democrats want to expand the social safety net. Manchin's comments outside the Capitol on Thursday marked the first time he has publicly stated what it would take for Democrats to get his vote. Democrats had hoped to push through a $3.5 trillion plan using a process known as budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve it with a simple majority and no Republican votes. But with the Senate evenly split 50-50, Democrats can't afford to lose a single vote, so Manchin and fellow moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have the power to sink it. Biden this week met with both of them in a bid to rescue the bill. 

3

COVID-19 death rates forecast to fall for 1st time since June

The rate of new U.S. COVID-19 deaths is expected to decrease over the next month for the first time since June, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast released Thursday. Hospitalizations are expected to fall, too. The figures marked the latest indication that a surge driven by the highly infectious Delta variant was starting to burn itself out. Nearly 2,000 people are dying of COVID-19 daily, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said this week that the Delta-driven surge could fade by Thanksgiving. "This is more people getting vaccinated. This is more people wearing their masks. Keep it up," said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear after announcing falling COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state. 

4

Senators accuse Facebook of disregarding research showing harm to teens

Senators grilled Facebook executives on Thursday, accusing them of ignoring internal research indicating that social media can harm teens. Lawmakers demanded that Facebook executives explain the company's efforts to attract young users despite evidence that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, makes body image issues worse for many teen girls, and is linked by teens themselves to anxiety and depression. "Instagram is that first childhood cigarette meant to get teens hooked early," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). "Exploiting the peer pressure of popularity and ultimately endangering their health." Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head of safety, said the company's platforms "actually add value and enrich teens' lives."

5

U.S. military suicides surge

The number of U.S. military suicides rose by 15 percent to 580 last year, up from 504 the previous year, according to data the Pentagon released Thursday. Suicides among Army National Guard troops jumped from 76 in 2019 to 103 in 2020, a 35 percent increase. Marine Corps suicides rose by more than 30 percent, jumping from 47 to 62. "The findings are troubling," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. "Suicide rates among our service members and military families are still too high, and the trends are not going in the right direction." The causes of the trend are not fully understood, but military leaders have said the coronavirus pandemic is intensifying already high stress levels for service members.

6

Ex-Nazi secretary in custody after skipping court appearance

A 96-year-old former secretary in a Nazi concentration camp failed to show up in court to face charges that she was an accessory to the killings of more than 11,000 people during World War II. The woman, Irmgard Furchner, was caught by police after she went missing. She had disappeared after leaving her assisted living home outside Hamburg and failing to go to the court. Furchner was 18 years old in 1943 when she started working at the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland. The case, which could be among Germany's last Nazi trials, hinges on how much Furchner knew about killings at the camp while she worked there. She has previously testified at Nazi trials, including one that led to the conviction of camp commander Paul-Werner Hoppe.

7

Stocks post biggest monthly loss since March 2020

U.S. stocks fell on Thursday, ending the last day of September with the biggest monthly loss since the plunge at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The S&P finished September down by 4.8 percent, its first monthly loss since January and its biggest decline since March 2020. The S&P 500 fell by 1.2 percent on Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq lost 1.6 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. After months of gains in 2021, Wall Street began tumbling in recent weeks as the highly contagious Delta variant drove a coronavirus surge that disrupted the economic recovery. Futures tied to the three main U.S. averages plunged further early Friday and were down another 0.5 percent several hours before the opening bell.

8

Democrats delay vote on $1 trillion infrastructure bill

House Democratic leaders on Thursday delayed a vote on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill as they tried to settle differences among party progressives and moderates over a separate but linked $3.5 trillion spending proposal that would expand the social safety net. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had said she would hold the vote on Thursday, but pushed it back to Friday as talks continued through the night without an agreement. With the Democrats' slim majority, they can't afford many defections, and progressives have said they would not support the bill unless the larger spending deal goes through, too. But moderates say they won't support the bigger package without significant cuts. 

9

National school board group asks for help investigating threats

The National School Boards Association on Thursday asked President Biden for federal help investigating verbal abuse and threats of violence dozens of its members have faced over mask mandates and other policies intended to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The organization represents more than 90,000 school board members in 14,000 school districts across the United States. Some of the members have said they are resigning or declining to run for reelection due to the alleged harassment. An Ohio school board member received a letter saying he would "pay dearly" for being a "filthy traitor" by upholding a mask mandate. "Whatever you feel about masks, it should not reach this level of rhetoric," said Chip Slaven, executive director of the National School Boards Association.

10

New immigration guidelines limit deportations of migrants

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo to immigration and border agency officials Thursday that officers could no longer deport migrants just because they are undocumented. Mayorkas said new guidelines call for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to focus on arresting and deporting only people deemed to pose a threat, such as terrorism, espionage, or other serious crimes. Under the new guidelines, ICE officers can't arrest and deport undocumented immigrants who have been "contributing members" of their communities, including those who are faith leaders, farmworkers, or frontline health workers. "We are guided by the knowledge that there are individuals in our country who have been here for generations and contributed to our country's well-being," Mayorkas wrote.

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