1/ The Senate parliamentarian ruled that the $15-an-hour minimum wage increase cannot be included in the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. Elizabeth MacDonough said the plan to gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 was not compliant with the rules governing the budget reconciliation process that Congress is using to pass the bill with a simple majority. Democrats used budget reconciliation to keep Republicans from filibustering the minimum wage increase in the Senate. Rep. Ilhan Omar, meanwhile, called for MacDonough to be fired and replaced, which Republicans did in 2001 when the parliamentarian ruled against their plans. The White House, however, said it will not support overruling or firing MacDonough. Despite the ruling, the House still plans to vote Friday to pass the stimulus relief package with the $15 minimum wage included and send it to the Senate. Biden has promised to support a standalone bill to raise the minimum wage to $15, but it’s unlikely to get Republican support. About 11.4 million workers will lose unemployment benefits starting March 14. (NPR / New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / Axios / The Guardian)
2/ Biden authorized retaliatory airstrikes in Syria against two Iranian-backed militia groups. The Pentagon said the buildings belonged to Iran-backed militia groups responsible for the recent attacks against American and allied personnel in Iraq. The strikes – seven 500-pound bombs – were just over the border in Syria at an unofficial crossing at the Syria-Iraq border used to smuggle across weapons and fighters. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Reuters)
3/ Biden won’t hold Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for approving the operation that led to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” a declassified intelligence report’s executive summary states. While the U.S. is preparing to levy sanctions against a group of Saudis implicated in the killing – but not Prince Mohammed himself – Biden’s national security team advised against bringing criminal charges or imposing travel sanctions that would bar MBS from entering the U.S., saying it would be “too complicated” and could jeopardized Saudi cooperation on counterterrorism and in confronting Iran. Biden’s aides said the administration would instead not invite MBS to the U.S. anytime soon. On the campaign trail, Biden promised to punish Saudi leadership for its role in Khashoggi’s murder in a way that Trump wouldn’t. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / ABC News / Wall Street Journal / CNN / New York Times / NBC News)
4/ The Biden administration is planning to open another tent facility in Texas in the coming weeks to house migrant families and children. The temporary U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Del Rio, Tex., is similar to the “soft-sided” structure that opened in Donna, Tex., three weeks ago to hold migrant family groups. The Del Rio tent facility also differs from the Carrizo Springs, Tex., facility that opened this week, which Health and Human Services uses to hold migrant teens who crossed the border without a parent. (Washington Post)
5/ The FDA advisory committee voted unanimously to recommend Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. If the agency agrees, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be the third one cleared for use in the U.S., it will be the first vaccine to require just one dose instead of two. (NPR / USA Today / New York Times / CNBC / Politico / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~113,268,000; deaths: ~2,514,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~28,465,000; deaths: ~510,000; fully vaccinated: ~6.8%; partially vaccinated: ~14.2%
6/ Mitch McConnell said he would “absolutely” support Trump as the 2024 Republican presidential nominee. Earlier this month, McConnell called Trump’s role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol a “disgraceful dereliction of duty,” saying “Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.” (NBC News)
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