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1/ Senate Democrats agreed to lower the federal unemployment benefits to $300 a week – down from the $400 approved by the House – as part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Under the amendment, benefits would be extended through September instead of August, and the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits would be non-taxable income. The White House praised the agreement, with press secretary Jen Psaki tweeting that it would “provide more relief to the unemployed than the current legislation.” Passage of the relief bill, however, stalled for hours after Joe Manchin said he was unsatisfied with the concession. Manchin was also seen talking with Rob Portman, who has pushed an alternate unemployment amendment that would extend unemployment benefits at their current $300-per-week level into July, but without the new tax relief. The developments came as part of the Senate’s hours-long marathon of amendment votes on the relief package, known as a vote-a-rama, which followed Ron Johnson’s earlier demand that the clerks read the entire 628-page plan word by word. Meanwhile, seven Democrats joined with Republicans in voting down an effort by Bernie Sanders to restore raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour to the bill. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona voted down the minimum wage increase with a dramatic thumbs-down. (Wall Street Journal / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / NPR / CNN / NBC News / Bloomberg)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~115,922,000; deaths: ~2,577,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~28,882,000; deaths: ~523,000; fully vaccinated: ~8.4%; partially vaccinated: ~16.3%
2/ Senate Democrats are reportedly warming to the idea of eliminating the filibuster as fears grow that Republicans will block Biden’s agenda, including his plans for climate change, immigration, gun control, voting rights, and LGBT protections. Pressure started building last week after the proposed minimum wage increase had to be removed from the coronavirus relief package, forcing the White House to cut deals. However, two Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — have said they will oppose any effort to do away with the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to end debate on major bills. (New York Times / Washington Post)
3/ There are about 9.5 million fewer jobs today than a year ago despite the U.S. economy adding 379,000 jobs in February. About 4 million people have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. The unemployment rate in February was 6.2%, down from 6.3% in January. (NBC News / New York Times / Bloomberg / ABC News / CNBC)
4/ New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s senior aides rewrote a June nursing home report by state health officials to hide the higher Covid-19 death toll. The public report said 6,432 nursing home residents had died, when nearly 10,000 residents had actually died. Cuomo released the complete data after the state attorney general said thousands of deaths of nursing home residents had been undercounted. Cuomo claimed that he had withheld the true data out of fear that it could be used against the state by the Trump administration. State officials now say more than 15,000 residents of nursing homes and long-term-care facilities were confirmed or presumed to have died from Covid-19 since March of last year – about 50% higher than earlier official death tolls. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN)
5/ Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan rejected an allotment of 6,200 Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines because he wants Detroiters to get “the best vaccines,” which he said are the Moderna and Pfizer shots. The White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response called Duggan’s comments a “misunderstanding.” Nationwide demand for a coronavirus vaccine, meanwhile, continues to outpace available supply. (Detroit Free Press / CNN)
6/ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis received a $250,000 donation from a resident of a private, gated community about a month after the Key Largo club received enough coronavirus vaccine doses for 1,200 residents over the age of 65. Ocean Reef Club resident and former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner made the donation to the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC on February 25 after the club was chosen as a “pop-up” vaccination center. All 17 people from Key Largo who donated to DeSantis’ political committee live in Ocean Reef. Since DeSantis started using pop-up vaccinations sites, his political committee raised $2.7 million in February – more than any other month since he first ran for governor in 2018. DeSantis, meanwhile, said the state “wasn’t involved in it in any shape or form.” (Miami Herald / ABC News / CNN / Washington Post)
7/ Former House impeachment manager Eric Swalwell sued Trump, Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, and Rep. Mo Brooks, alleging that they and others were “responsible for the injury and destruction” of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. In the 65-page suit, Swalwell alleges that they “directly incited the violence” by putting out “a clear call to action” and then “watched approvingly as the building was overrun.” It’s the second major lawsuit seeking to hold Trump and his allies accountable for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol. Rep. Bennie Thompson previously sued Trump for inciting the riot, accusing him of violating the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act by trying to prevent Congress from carrying out its official duties. (ABC News / CNN / Axios)
8/ The FBI arrested a Trump-appointed State Department aide on charges related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, including assaulting an officer with a dangerous weapon, unlawful entry, violent and disorderly conduct, and obstructing Congress and law enforcement. Federico Guillermo Klein, now a former State Department aide, is the first arrest of a Trump administration official in connection with the insurrection. Klein was seen on camera wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and shoving a riot shield into an officer and inciting the crowd as it tried to push past the police line, shouting, “We need fresh people, we need fresh people.” (Politico / Washington Post / Associated Press / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)
9/ The Trump appointee at the agency that oversees Voice of America spent more than $1 million investigating his own staff. Michael Pack was reportedly “irate” last summer when he couldn’t fire or suspend U.S. Agency for Global Media executives, who had warned him that some of his plans might be illegal. Instead of using the inspectors general to determine what – if any – wrongdoing the executives might have committed, Pack personally signed a no-bid contract to hire a law firm to review social media posts, “news articles relating to Michael Pack,” and an inspectors general “audit on Hillary Clinton’s email breach.” (NPR)
poll/ 69% of Americans intend to get a Covid-19 vaccine or already have – up from 60% who said they planned to get vaccinated in November. (Pew Research Center)
poll/ 60% of Americans believe that the Covid-19 situation is improving, while 26% say it’s staying the same, and 14% believe it is getting worse. (Gallup)
poll/ 60% of Americans approve of Biden’s job performance so far. 70% approve his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. (Associated Press)
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