Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 14, 2022

The House sends voting rights legislation to the Senate, the Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate on big companies, and more


House sends voting rights legislation to Senate

The House on Thursday passed voting rights legislation, sending it to the Senate under a procedure Democrats are using to prevent Republicans from using a filibuster to block debate. "Nothing less is at stake than our democracy," Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said after the House approved the measure 220-203 along party lines. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Senate would start debate Tuesday after Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, to highlight state voting restrictions approved by Republican-led legislatures that Democrats say will make it harder for many Democratic-leaning minority voters to cast ballots. Republicans say Democrats are exaggerating fears of voter suppression. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said she opposed weakening the filibuster to pass the legislation, dimming its prospects in the Senate.


Supreme Court blocks Biden vaccine mandate for large companies

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Biden's coronavirus vaccine-or-test mandate for workers at large companies, but let a similar requirement stand for health-care workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's emergency measure, which applied to businesses with 100 or more employees and would affect 80 million workers, required workers to get vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test weekly. It also required non-vaccinated workers to wear masks at indoor workplaces. The court's conservative majority said Congress had "indisputably" given OSHA power to regulate occupational dangers, but not "to regulate public health more broadly." Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented, saying the majority was telling "the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so."


Biden says administration will buy another 500 million COVID tests

President Biden announced Thursday that his administration would buy 500 million more COVID-19 tests for Americans, and dispatch military medical teams to help at hospitals overwhelmed with patients sickened in the Omicron coronavirus variant wave. The test purchases will double the number of kits the Biden administration plans to distribute to people free of charge. The 120 military medical personnel will go to six states where medical facilities have been swamped with new COVID-19 cases. Biden also promised to unveil a plan next week to provide high-quality N95 and KN95 masks, also free of charge, as part of an effort to increase protection and slow the spread of the virus. "As I've said in the last two years, please wear a mask," Biden said. "I think it's part of your patriotic duty."


Oath Keepers founder indicted on seditious conspiracy charges

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the extremist Oath Keepers group, has been indicted and arrested for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters, according to indictments unsealed Thursday. Rhodes, 56, was at the Capitol during the insurrection but has denied entering the building. The Oath Keepers leader is the most high-profile suspect charged to date in the investigation of the riot. Rhodes and 10 other Oath Keepers and associates have been charged with seditious conspiracy. Prosecutors say the suspects developed and participated in a plan to try to disrupt lawmakers on the day they certified President Biden's 2020 election victory over Trump.


Queen strips Prince Andrew of military titles, patronages

Prince Andrew has been stripped of his military titles and remaining royal patronages after failing to get a sexual abuse lawsuit against him dismissed. Buckingham Palace said Thursday that Andrew gave them up with the "approval and agreement" of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. Andrew will no longer use the "His Royal Highness" title in an official capacity. The queen will redistribute his roles immediately to other members of the royal family, a source told CNN. The changes came a day after a U.S. judge ruled that a sex-abuse lawsuit filed by Virginia Giuffre can proceed. Giuffre says she was forced into sex with Andrew when she was 17 by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died in prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. Andrew denies the allegations.


Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Facebook, Google, Reddit, Twitter records

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack has subpoenaed Google-parent Alphabet, Facebook- and Instagram-parent Meta Platforms, Reddit, and Twitter, seeking records on the spread of misinformation, efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, domestic extremism, and foreign meddling in the 2020 election. The select committee's chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said in a statement that the panel was trying to determine "how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps — if any — social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalizing people to violence." He said the committee had been seeking the documents for months. Meta said it had provided the requested documents and would continue to cooperate.


Russia says Ukraine talks at impasse as fear of war rises

Russia said Ukraine talks were hitting a dead end but diplomacy would continue, while Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau warned that "the risk of war" in Europe is the greatest it has been in 30 years. Russia has deployed about 100,000 troops to its border with Ukraine. The United States and Western allies fear Moscow is preparing to invade. Talks in three European cities this week were hampered by Russia's call for the West to bar Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which the U.S. and NATO said was a "non-starter." Russian Ambassador Alexander Lukashevich warned there could be "catastrophic consequences" without agreement on what Moscow says are security red lines. "The threat of military invasion is high," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.


Newsom rejects parole for Sirhan Sirhan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Thursday denied parole to Sirhan Sirhan, the 77-year-old Palestinian immigrant who assassinated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) in 1968. Kennedy, who was running for the Democratic presidential nomination, had just made a speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles and was walking through the hotel's pantry when Sirhan, then 24, walked up from behind and shot him point-blank in the back of the head. Sirhan has said he didn't remember the shooting and suggested he must have been hypnotized. Despite a parole board release recommendation, Newsom said that Sirhan has "failed to address the deficiencies that led him to assassinate Sen. Kennedy," so there's no guarantee he would not still pose a threat.


Navient Corp. agrees to cancel $1.7 billion in student debt

Navient Corp., a former unit of Sallie Mae, said Thursday it would cancel $1.7 billion in private student debt to settle allegations of deceptive lending practices. The agreement, which Navient reached with 40 state attorneys general, will affect about 66,000 borrowers. Nearly all the canceled loans originated at Sallie Mae from 2002 to 2010, when Navient serviced accounts at the student loan giant as student debt soared. Most of the affected loans, all of which were in default, were taken out by borrowers with poor credit who went to for-profit schools and other insitutions with less-than-stellar records, according to a website run by the settlement administrator. Navient denied it hurt any borrowers.


Australian minister cancels Djokovic's visa, again

Australia's immigration minister, Alex Hawke, canceled tennis star Novak Djokovic's visa on Friday, citing the need to protect "health and good order." Djokovic is unvaccinated against the coronavirus, but he entered the country last week with a medical exemption, based on the fact that he already had COVID-19 in December. The world's top-ranked men's player, who is seeking a record 21st Grand Slam title in the upcoming Australian Open, was detained after authorities determined he did not have documents adequately supporting the exemption, invalidating his visa, but a judge ordered his release. Authorities then found there was false information on his travel declaration. Djokovic has apologized for what he says was "human error" on the form, and his lawyers said they would appeal Hawke's decision.


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