Summary

  • Biden outlined his administration’s latest efforts to vaccinate more Americans against coronavirus. Among other initiatives, the Biden administration is urging states to offer $100 payments to newly vaccinated residents and requiring federal workers to get vaccinated or receive regular coronavirus tests. “People are dying and will die who don’t have to die. If you’re out there unvaccinated, you don’t have to die,” Biden said moments ago.
  • Biden has called on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium, which is set to expire at the end of July. While federal aid is available to renters who will not be able to make rent, housing advocates have said the aid has been slow, and many Americans are at-risk of eviction.
  • The US economy grew 6.5% in this year’s second quarter. The figure was lower than what analysts had expected, though bottlenecks in the supply chain of certain goods is a likely explanation.
  • The Senate and Congress passed a $2.1bn bill to bolster funding for Capitol security and help relocate Afghans who have assisted the US military. The White House has already indicated that Biden will sign the bill, which will provide much-needed funds for the US Capitol police and reimburse the National Guard for their Capitol mission in response to the 6 January insurrection.
  • The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said that he’s gotten the support from all 50 Democratic senators to advance the reconciliation bill, which would fund many of Biden’s “human infrastructure” proposals. The bill’s price tag is currently $3.5tn, although some moderate Democrats have indicated they want a less costly package.
  • Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democratic representative of Texas was arrested for civil disobedience while protesting against lawmakers’ delay in passing voting rights legislation. She was arrested while participating in a demonstration outside of the Hart senate office building and is the third member of the Congressional Black Caucus to be arrested for protesting.

– Joan E Greve and Maanvi Singh

Updated

Jackson Lee’s arrest came after a House oversight subcommittee hearing in which Texas Democrats who traveled to DC in order to detail voting restrictions in their state explained how the voting restrictions would disenfranchise Black and minority voters.

The Democrats had walked out to deny Republicans the two-thirds quorum required to carry out their plan to pass measures that would impose id-requirements on mail-in ballots and ban 24-hour and drive-through voting among other restrictions.

Texas is already one of the hardest places to vote in the US.

Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democratic representative of Texas was arrested for civil disobedience while protesting against lawmakers’ delay in passing voting rights legislation.

I engaged in civil disobedience today in the spirit of John Lewis in front of the Senate Hart Building and was arrested. #GoodTrouble pic.twitter.com/1CTpfiIQeu

— Sheila Jackson Lee (@JacksonLeeTX18) July 29, 2021

She was arrested while participating in a demonstration outside of the Hart Senate Office Building and is the third member of the Congressional Black Caucus to be arrested for civil disobedience.

“Once again we see a Black woman at the forefront of defending our civil rights and leading the fight to save our fragile democracy,” said Odus Evbagharu, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, in a statement. “Congresswoman Lee understands we are at a pivotal moment in the history of our nation, where our sacred right to vote is under grave threat. She recognizes that we all must take action to protect this right.”

Representatives Joyce Beatty of Ohio and Hank Johnson of Georgia were also arrested this month for participating in voting rights demonstrations.

Google becomes latest tech firm to delay reopening as Delta variant spreads

From Kari Paul and agencies:

Google has backtracked on plans to welcome most workers back to its sprawling campus in September, becoming the latest Silicon Valley company to delay reopening amid a surge in Covid cases.

The company announced Wednesday it is postponing a return to the office until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone who returns in person to be vaccinated.

The decision sees Google join Apple and Netflix in postponing calling employees back to the office due to concerns about the highly transmissible Delta variant, which now accounts for more than 80% of new cases in the US. Twitter also halted reopening plans and closed offices last week due to the Delta variant.

In an email to Google’s more than 130,000 employees worldwide, chief executive officer Sundar Pichai said the company is now aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices beginning 18 October instead of its previous target date of 1 September.

Google’s delay also affects tens of thousands of contractors who Google intends to continue to pay while access to its campuses remains limited.

“This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it,” Pichai wrote. This marks the third time Google has pushed back the date for fully reopening its offices.

Pichai said that once offices are fully reopened, everyone working there will have to be vaccinated. The requirement will be first imposed at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, and other US offices, before being extended to the more than 40 other countries where Google operates.

Facebook announced a similar policy on Wednesday, saying it will make vaccines mandatory for US employees who work in offices. Apple is reportedly also considering requiring vaccines.

“This is the stuff that needs to be done, because otherwise we are endangering workers and their families,” said Dr Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. “It is not fair to parents to be expected to come back to work and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with unvaccinated people who could be carrying a potentially deadly virus.”

Because children under the age of 12 aren’t currently eligible to be vaccinated, parents can bring the virus home to them from the office if they are around unvaccinated colleagues, Wen said.

Read more:

Updated

Congress passes bill funding Capitol security and visas for Afghanistan war allies

The $2.1bn was approved 416-11 in the House and 98-0.

The bipartisan agreement would amp up security at the US Capitol, repay debts from the 6 January insurrection and provide more visas for allies who worked with Americans in the Afghanistan war. A half-billion dollars in Pentagon funding and $600m in state department funding would also cover transportation and housing for those Afghans and their families.

A number of progressive Democrats, and some Republicans voted against the measure.

Updated

Some of what Biden addressed in his speech today was a partisan divide between states and counties with high vaccination rates, and those with low vaccination rates.

The reasons people have not been vaccinated are complex and multifaceted, ranging from misinformation to concerns about paid time off. But one thing is also clear amid that nuance – there is a partisan divide, and it has driven hesitancy in places such as Arkansas.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said resistance to the coronavirus vaccine "has hardened" in some areas of his state, blaming the hesitancy on "false information" and myths" https://t.co/Gdj0GhQxHr

— POLITICO (@politico) July 25, 2021

Biden addressed some of that in his speech today, telling Americans vaccine development and delivery had now been handled by both a Republican and Democratic administration.

“This is not about red states and blue states, it’s literally about life and death, it’s about life and death,” said Biden, “that’s what it’s about”.

He said he had to “compliment” Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who has been a consistent proponent of vaccines, and Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey, who encouraged people to get vaccinated in her states (while also divisively saying it was time to “blame” the unvaccinated).

However, even as some Republicans have begun to lobby in favor of Covid-19 vaccines, the rhetoric has been uneven in the party and comes after more than a year of downplaying the virus under former president Donald Trump’s leadership.

“I know people talk about freedom,” said Biden, referencing a frequent talking point for the vaccine hesitancy who identify as Republicans, “but I learned growing up... freedom comes responsibility… Your decision to be unvaccinated impacts someone else”.

Some major employers, such as Google and Facebook, have said they will require vaccines. But other industries and unions have approached mandates cautiously.

The American Federation of Teachers, which also represents nurses, said this week vaccine mandates must be negotiated.

The American Health Care Association, an industry group that represents nursing and long-term care homes, said in a statement it supports providers who institute vaccine mandates, but the pandemic has “exacerbated workforce challenges”, and that vaccine mandates could “further challenge” recruiting generally low-paid workers in the context of an existing labor shortage. More than 40% of long-term care home workers have not been vaccinated.

Biden implicitly acknowledged some of these challenges later in the press conference, saying, “a lot of this is timing”.

Side effects of vaccines authorized in the US are generally mild and short-term. Independent scientific panels have found they are safe and highly effective against severe Covid-19 and hospitalization.

Biden urged Americans to “Go get the vaccine now, now”.

Updated

President Biden announced a list of mandates and incentives to get more Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 as hospitals across the country see a new surge of coronavirus cases in a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.

“We are not fully out of the woods yet,” said Biden, and later that hospital wards filled with individuals battling Covid-19, 99% of whom are unvaccinated, are “unnecessary, avoidable and tragic”.

New cases are not expected to lead to the same level of deaths and hospitalizations seen last winter, because 190 million Americans have had at least one shot. However, new modeling has sparked concern, as forecasters predicted 60,000 more Americans could die by mid-October, adding to the more than 609,000 who have already died.

Among Biden’s announcements, he said federal government workers will be required to attest they have been vaccinated against Covid-19 vaccine or get tested at least weekly for Covid-19. A similar standard will apply to federal contractors. The plan mirrors a vaccine mandate for health workers in New York City’s public hospitals announced last week.

Biden also said he would call on the Department of Defense to determine when Covid-19 vaccines should be added to required shots for the military; said the federal government would reimburse employers who give employees paid time off to get a vaccine; and that local governments should use stimulus funding to give $100 incentives to Americans who get newly vaccinated.

“It’s time to impose requirements on key groups to make sure they’re vaccinated,” said Biden. He later said he would like to see employers “move in that direction” of mandating vaccines.

The justice department has said vaccine mandates are legal, they have a history that goes back to the Revolutionary War, and have been required for years for some workers and schoolchildren for diseases such as influenza and measles.

Updated

China’s talks with Taliban could be a positive thing, US says

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has said that Beijing’s interest in Afghanistan could be a “positive thing”, after China gave a warm and very public welcome to a senior Taliban delegation.

Nine officials from the militant group, which is eager for political recognition to bolster the impact of its military victories across much of Afghanistan, met China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, in the coastal city of Tianjin on Wednesday.

Photographs showed Wang welcoming Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar , the Taliban’s co-founder and head of its political commission, with open arms, then sitting down for talks with the Taliban delegation.

China hosted Taliban representatives in 2019, and is thought to maintain unofficial links with the group through its ally Pakistan.

Wang said the withdrawal of American and Nato troops, which will be officially completed by the end of August, “marks the failure of the US policy toward Afghanistan”. He called the Taliban “an important military and political force in Afghanistan”, and urged the group to make progress in peace talks.

Although the US might once have fiercely resisted Chinese attempts to increase their influence inside Afghanistan, now Washington’s priority appears to be staving off a collapse into full civil war.

Read more:

Today so far

Joe Biden’s speech on vaccination efforts has now concluded, and that’s all from me for today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Biden outlined his administration’s latest efforts to vaccinate more Americans against coronavirus. Among other initiatives, the Biden administration is urging states to offer $100 payments to newly vaccinated residents and requiring federal workers to get vaccinated or receive regular coronavirus tests. “People are dying and will die who don’t have to die. If you’re out there unvaccinated, you don’t have to die,” Biden said moments ago.
  • Biden has called on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium, which is set to expire at the end of July. While federal aid is available to renters who will not be able to make rent, housing advocates have said the aid has been slow, and many Americans are at-risk of eviction.
  • The US economy grew 6.5% in this year’s second quarter. The figure was lower than what analysts had expected, though bottlenecks in the supply chain of certain goods is a likely explanation.
  • The Senate unanimously passed a $2.1bn bill to bolster funding for Capitol security and help relocate Afghans who have assisted the US military. The White House has already indicated that Biden will sign the bill, which will provide much-needed funds for the US Capitol Police and reimburse the National Guard for their Capitol mission in response to the January 6 insurrection.
  • The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said that he’s gotten the support from all 50 Democratic senators to advance the reconciliation bill, which would fund many of Biden’s “human infrastructure” proposals. The bill’s price tag is currently $3.5tn, although some moderate Democrats have indicated they want a less costly package.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Biden outlines vaccination incentives and mandate for federal workers

Joe Biden outlined the new initiatives his administration is launching to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated against coronavirus.

As previously announced, the president noted his administration is urging state, local and tribal governments to provide $100 payments to newly vaccinated residents.

Biden acknowledged those incentives may frustrate some of the millions of Americans who are already fully vaccinated, but he emphasized the entire country would benefit from these efforts.

“Here’s the deal: if incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them,” Biden said.

The president also confirmed that his administration is asking all federal workers and on-site contractors to attest to their fully vaccinated status or submit to regular coronavirus tests.

“With incentives and mandates, we will make a huge difference and save a lot of lives,” Biden said.

'You don’t have to die': Biden pleads with unvaccinated Americans to get their shot

Joe Biden delivered yet another urgent plea to unvaccinated Americans, encouraging them to get their shot as quickly as possible.

“Make no mistake: vaccines are the best defense against you getting severely ill from Covid-19,” Biden said.

The president acknowledged there have been some breakthrough infections among vaccinated Americans, but he emphasized that those cases remain rare and almost all involved mild symptoms.

Biden credited the vaccines with a lower rate of coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths even as cases rise because of the spread of the Delta variant.

“People are dying and will die who don’t have to die. If you’re out there unvaccinated, you don’t have to die,” Biden said. “This is not about red states and blue states. It is literally about life and death.”

Joe Biden is now delivering his remarks on his administration’s ongoing efforts to vaccinate more Americans against coronavirus.

Biden began by noting that the US is now seeing a surge in coronavirus cases among unvaccinated Americans because of the Delta variant, which is more highly transmissible than the original variant.

“We need some straight talk right now,” the president said. “Because there’s a lot of fear and misinformation in the country, and we need to cut through it — with facts, with science, with the truth.”

Pres. Biden gives remarks on the COVID pandemic: "We need some straight talk right now. Because there's a lot of fear and misinformation in the country, and we need to cut through it—with facts; with science; with the truth." https://t.co/ZHmyyZGIxU pic.twitter.com/Ml5RyyQ8YL

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) July 29, 2021

Federal employees will be required to provide vaccination status, White House confirms

The White House has just released a fact sheet outlining the initiatives Joe Biden will announce in his speech on vaccination efforts this afternoon.

As expected, the Biden administration is requiring all federal employees to “attest to their vaccination status” or comply with restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus in government offices.

“Anyone who does not attest to being fully vaccinated will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel,” the fact sheet says.

The rule applies to all federal workers and on-site contractors, which accounts for about 4 million people. The White House is urging all private employers to develop a similar model.

Biden will also call on the Pentagon to “look into how and when they will add Covid-19 vaccination to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military”.

The blog will have more details coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated

Ouch, that’s got to hurt: Jill Biden will undergo a procedure at Walter Reed medical center today to remove an object that became lodged in her foot last weekend.

Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s spokesperson, said in a statement provided to the White House press pool: “Last weekend, prior to her two official events in Hawaii, the First Lady stepped on an object on the beach which became lodged in her left foot. She will undergo a procedure today at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to remove the object. The President will join her.”

The first lady visited Hawaii over the weekend after traveling to Tokyo for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Updated

New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, has already followed the treasury department’s advice, announcing yesterday that anyone who goes to a city-run vaccination site for their first dose of the vaccine will receive $100 starting Friday.

STARTING FRIDAY:

Get your first dose of the #COVID19 vaccine at a City run site and you’ll get $100.

It’s that simple.

➡️ https://t.co/V1jusyFv1K https://t.co/etaipgbCtd pic.twitter.com/w7V1nKrk9S

— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) July 28, 2021

On Monday, De Blasio also announced a vaccine mandate for all of New York’s roughly 340,000 city employees. Starting 13 September, all city workers – including public school teachers, police officers and firefighters – will need to show proof of vaccination or receive weekly coronavirus tests.

Joe Biden is expected to soon announce a similar mandate for federal workers when he delivers his speech on the White House’s vaccination campaign.

Updated

Biden calls on states to offer $100 payments to newly vaccinated Americans

Joe Biden is set to soon deliver a speech on his administration’s efforts to vaccinate more Americans against coronavirus, and the treasury department is now previewing one of those initiatives.

The department released a statement urging state, local and tribal governments to use funds they received from the American Rescue Plan to offer payments to newly vaccinated residents.

“For these governments and the communities they represent, no task is more urgent than turning the tide on the pandemic, and there is no better tool than vaccination. This is why Treasury is encouraging state, territorial and local governments to use the funds to enhance their vaccination efforts, including by providing individual vaccine incentives,” the statement says.

“Today, the President is calling on state, territorial, and local governments to provide $100 payments for every newly vaccinated American, as an extra incentive to boost vaccination rates, protect communities, and save lives. Treasury stands ready to give technical assistance to state and local governments so that they may use the funds effectively to support increased vaccination in their communities, and Treasury will partner with the Department of Health and Human Services throughout this effort.”

Biden’s speech is scheduled to start in about 20 minutes, so stay tuned.

Updated

Well, this is moving quite quickly. The House has already taken up the $2.1bn Capitol security funding bill that passed the Senate this afternoon.

The House is debating for up to 40 minutes @rosadelauro motion to suspend the rules and concur with the Senate amendment H.R. 3237 - emergency supplemental bill.

— House Press Gallery (@HouseDailyPress) July 29, 2021

However, Republican congressman Chip Roy has just introduced a motion to adjourn the session, which will slightly delay the final vote on the security bill. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, over on Capitol Hill, the House will vote today on the $2.1bn Capitol security bill that unanimously passed the Senate this afternoon.

House today plans to debate & vote on Senate-passed $2.1B US Capitol security/Afghan relocation emergency supplemental spending bill "upon receipt of the papers" per Hoyer. House will consider bill under suspension of the rules w/40 mins for debate,no amdts & 2/3rds vote to pass. pic.twitter.com/p7PxnpTIXj

— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) July 29, 2021

The office of the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer ,has just said the chamber will consider the bill under suspension of the rules, meaning the legislation will need a two-thirds majority to pass.

The White House has already indicated that Joe Biden will sign the bill if it passes the House. Stay tuned.

Updated

Karine Jean-Pierre avoided providing specifics on the expected vaccine mandate for federal workers, but she argued the White House has a responsibility to set the best standards for their employees.

As the largest employer in the US, the federal government has “an obligation to be good stewards of the workforce and ensure their health and their safety”, the deputy press secretary said.

“We’re taking action to protect the federal workforce so that they can continue to execute on the hard and important work of government,” Jean-Pierre said.

She also argued that the steps the federal government is taking are not all that dissimilar from action initiated by other workplaces across the country.

Updated

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not provide any details on Joe Biden’s speech this afternoon about the administration’s vaccination efforts.

Using one of press secretary Jen Psaki’s favorite answers, Jean-Pierre told reporters: “I don’t want to get ahead of the president.”

Biden is scheduled to deliver his speech in about an hour, and the president is expected to announce a coronavirus vaccine mandate for all federal employees.

Updated

The deputy White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, is now holding the daily briefing with reporters, and she started her comments by praising the new bipartisan infrastructure deal.

“What was once BIF is now BID, and hopefully we’ll get it to BIB,” Jean-Pierre said.

For those who are fortunate enough to not recognize those acronyms, “BIF” refers to the bipartisan infrastructure framework, which has now become the bipartisan infrastructure deal (“BID”) as lawmakers try to craft the final text of the bipartisan infrastructure bill (“BIB”).

“That was my joke for the day,” Jean-Pierre said amid some chuckles from the White House press corps.

The White House released a statement of administration policy today, confirming that Joe Biden will sign the Capitol security bill if it passes the House.

“The bill provides critical resources to the United States Capitol Police for officer salaries, equipment, training, and mental health counseling. It also funds physical security upgrades to the Capitol Complex, including hardening windows and doors as well as installing new cameras,” the statement says.

“The Administration strongly supports the resources included in the bill to enable Federal agencies to begin relocating SIV applicants and their eligible family members,” the statement added, referring to the funding of visas for Afghans who have helped the US military in recent years.

The Senate has just unanimously passed the legislation, and the House is expected to take up the bill before members leave for their recess.

Updated

Senate unanimously passes $2.1bn Capitol security funding bill

This is Joanie Greve in Washington, taking over the blog again after a great assist from Lauren Aratani.

The Senate has just passed a bill that will provide $2.1bn in federal money to bolster funding for the US Capitol police, reimburse the national guard for their Capitol mission and help provide visas to Afghans who have assisted the US military in recent years.

The #Senate agreed to H.R. 3237, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 98-0 with Senators Marshall and Rounds absent.

— Senate Press Gallery (@SenatePress) July 29, 2021

The vote was unanimous, with all 98 senators present supporting the bill. (Two Republican senators, Roger Marshall and Mike Rounds, were absent.)

The bill must still pass the House before Joe Biden can sign the legislation, but the White House has already indicated the president supports the proposal.

The legislation’s Senate passage comes nearly seven months after the 6 January insurrection, which prompted major questions over how best to protect the Capitol and lawmakers.

Updated

Washington DC is reinstating its indoor mask mandate starting Saturday, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday afternoon. The mandate will apply to everyone over the age of two, including those who are vaccinated.

The city dropped most of its mask mandate in June, with exceptions for public transit, schools and government buildings.

News: DC will again require masks in all indoor settings, starting Saturday. Mayor Bowser’s order will apply to everyone over age 2, vaccinated or unvaccinated.

— Julie Zauzmer (@JulieZauzmer) July 29, 2021

With the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, governors and mayors have urged people to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination, but most have fallen short of reintroducing mandates. Los Angeles county reinstated its indoor mask mandate in July as the county started to see an increase in cases with the variant.

Updated

Afternoon summary

Here’s a quick summary of what’s happened so far today:

  • Joe Biden has called on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium, which is set to expire at the end of July. While federal aid is available to renters who will not be able to make rent, housing advocates have said the aid has been slow, and many Americans are at-risk of eviction.
  • A new poll from Monmouth University has Biden’s latest approval rating at 48%, with a disapproval rate of 44%. The rating is a drop compared with the president’s ratings in April, when approval was at 54% and disapproval was at 41%.
  • The US economy grew 6.5% in this year’s second quarter. The figure was lower than what analysts had expected, though bottlenecks in the supply chain of certain goods is a likely explanation.
  • The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said that he’s gotten the support from all 50 Democrats in his chamber to move a bill for social programs forward before the Senate goes to a recess in August. The bill’s price tag is currently $3.5tn, though it is likely to drop as negotiations begin.

Stay tuned for more live updates.

Updated

The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said he has the votes of all 50 Senate Democrats to begin the process of approving a $3.5tn bill that will broadly fund social and environmental programs.

Schumer said that Senate Democrats are ready to “move forward on both tracks”, referring to this $3.5tn spending bill and the $1.2tn infrastructure spending bill the Senate passed yesterday. Schumer said that all Senate Democrats pledged to move the spending bill forward.

Schumer says the Senate is "on track" to pass a budget resolution before August recess after last night's procedural vote on infrastructure

— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) July 29, 2021

The bill will not come without bumps though as the party’s moderate senators have already criticized its high price tag. Schumer has said he plans to have both the infrastructure bill and this social spending bill passed before the Senate breaks for recess in August.

Updated

The debate over student debt cancellation is heating up after House speaker Nancy Pelosi made her stance on the matter clear yesterday during a press conference. Pelosi said Joe Biden lacks the executive authority to cancel federal student loans – something progressives have been pushing him to do since he took office.

Pelosi said that the move may be frustrating to families who are not sending children to college. “You’re paying taxes to forgive somebody else’s obligations,” she said. “You may not be happy about that.”

On Tuesday, before Pelosi made those remarks, Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has been a prominent supporter of student debt cancellation, said she is sure the president “has the power to do this with the stroke of a pen”.

On Wednesday, Mondaire Jones, a Democratic representative from New York, reference Pelosi’s remarks on Twitter saying “there’s been a lot of factually inaccurate talk about student debt cancellation today”.

“President Biden has the clear authority to liberate 43 million Americans from the crushing burden of student debt. He needs to use it,” Jones wrote on Twitter.

There’s been a lot of factually inaccurate talk about student debt cancellation today, so let’s clear a few things up.

President Biden has the clear authority to liberate 43 million Americans from the crushing burden of student debt. He needs to use it.

🧵🧵

— Mondaire Jones (@MondaireJones) July 29, 2021

Biden meanwhile said in the spring that he has instructed the Department of Education to create a memo looking into what executive power he has over federal student loans, though it is unclear when the memo will be released.

Updated

The firm leading a widely criticized, Republican-backed audit of election ballots in Arizona has received $5.7m in donations, the majority from supporters of Donald Trump, it revealed on Wednesday.

Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company with no prior experience in election audits, said it had received $3.25m from Patrick Byrne, the CEO of the furniture sales company Overstock, who has falsely described the 2020 election as “rigged”, with more money pouring in from figures who have peddled lies about the legitimacy of the vote.

The firm was hired by Arizona’s GOP-led senate to review the 2020 election in Maricopa county, home to Phoenix and most of the state’s Arizona’s registered voters.

Doug Logan, Cyber Ninjas’ CEO, released the detail on the company’s donors after the congressional House oversight and reform committee demanded the information, citing the Cyber Ninjas’ “lack of experience in conducting election-related audits” and “sloppy and insecure audit practices”.

The Arizona senate allowed Cyber Ninjas to collect private donations even though the company was being paid $150,000 for the audit.

Information from Cyber Ninjas showed that it has collected $976,512.43 from America’s Future, a rightwing non-profit organization chaired by the Trump ally and QAnon devotee Michael Flynn. The company received $605,000 from Voices and Votes led by Christina Bobb, a correspondent for the hard-right media organization One America News Network.

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy just signed into law a bill that will offer new parents free at-home nurse visits in the three months after a child is born or adopted. The program is voluntary and is meant to reduce the state’s maternal mortality rate, which is the fourth highest in the country.

New parents can request three nurse wellness checks in the first three months of a baby being born or adopted as soon as two weeks after the child’s birth.

The program will be offered to all new parents in the state, regardless of income level.

“We’ve seen… what it can mean to have a visit to a home during that critical time frame,” state senator Teresa Ruiz, a sponsor of the bill, told the New Jersey Star Ledger earlier this year. “For first time mothers experiencing this, it doesn’t matter what you look like, what language you speak, what faith you adhere to, it is a challenging time.”

A new poll puts Joe Biden’s approval rating at 48%, which is down slightly from earlier this year.

According to the latest survey from Monmouth University, 48% of Americans approve of the president’s job performance so far, while 44% disapprove.

In comparison, Biden’s approval rating in April stood at 54% approve and 41% disapprove, although the president’s June numbers largely mirror the latest survey.

According to the latest numbers, Biden has the approval of 93% of Democrats, 36% of independents and 10% of Republicans.

Biden’s approval rating has been relatively weak compared to other modern presidents during their first months in office, but it has been significantly better than Donald Trump’s initial numbers.

Meanwhile, US defense secretary Lloyd Austin has arrived in the Philippines, after visiting Singapore earlier this week.

The defense secretary exited his airplane wearing a full face shield and mask, as the Philippines grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases caused by the Delta variant.

Wheels down in the Philippines. pic.twitter.com/S8kjbTKMxW

— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) July 29, 2021

The New York Times has more details on Austin’s trip:

Going forward, a major challenge for American officials will be curbing Chinese influence in the region, especially in countries like Philippines, a treaty ally with which China has made significant progress in recent years.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has rarely criticized China for its expansionism in the South China Sea. On Monday, during his State of the Nation address, he called himself a ‘good friend of President Xi.’ ...

Mr. Austin said on Tuesday that he planned to discuss extending the longstanding military pact between the Philippines and United States during his coming visit. The pact, which allows Washington to move troops and equipment in and out of the country, is now in limbo.

This pain won’t be felt equally across the US. States with weak renter protections, such as Florida, are bracing for an “avalanche” of evictions while the federal moratorium’s expiration won’t be noticed in states with stronger protections, such as Washington.

Jeffrey Hittleman, a lawyer at Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida, said the moratorium has been important for the dozens of clients who lost their jobs, had issues collecting unemployment from the backlogged benefit system, then fell behind on rent. “Once the CDC moratorium expires, there will be no special eviction protections for people in south Florida,” Hittleman said.

Florida eviction cases move quickly and fighting them is hard. Just to get a court hearing, tenants have to pay the full back rent owed within five days of the eviction filing. Without the eviction moratorium as a defense, people will have only a few days to find months of unpaid rent just to get a court hearing.

Denise Forcer credited Hittleman and his firm for connecting her to the rental assistance program, getting her unemployment benefits delivered and enforcing the eviction moratorium, which her landlord was ignoring. “If not for them, I don’t know what I would have done,” Forcer said.

Even with the rental assistance, which Forcer said covered three or four months of rent, she still spent $3,000 from her savings and unemployment checks to pay off the remaining balance, including late fees her landlord had added to her bill.

For months, Denise Forcer would get stressed just by opening her closet. The crush of belongings stuffed inside reminded her she didn’t know where she would go or what she would do if her landlord followed through with the eviction notices they kept posting on the door of her south Florida apartment.

“I thought I was going to have a breakdown, I really did,” Forcer, 51, told the Guardian. “I didn’t know when those people were going to come banging on my door or put up another paper.”

Forcer, like millions of other Americans, has been protected from eviction by a moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that expires at the end of this week. Unlike most of these renters, Forcer was able to pay off roughly three months of owed rent thanks to the $47bn in rental assistance the government allocated to stave off evictions.

But only 6.5% of that money has been delivered and advocates are concerned evictions will rise next week when renters are suddenly on the hook for months, if not a year, of unpaid rent.

Roughly 12.7 million renters told the census in late June and early July that they had no or slight confidence in being able to make next month’s rent payment.

Biden calls on Congress to extend eviction moratorium as Delta variant spreads

Joe Biden is calling on Congress to extend the pandemic-related eviction moratorium, which is currently set to expire at the end of this week.

In a new statement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president does not believe he can unilaterally extend the moratorium because the supreme court ruled last month that Congress must authorize any extension beyond July 31.

“In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the President calls on Congress to extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families without delay,” Psaki said.

The press secretary also urged states to distribute unused funds from the Emergency Rental Assistance program as quickly as possible. The program still has billions of unspent dollars because of problems in distributing the money.

Federal and state officials have been working frantically in recent weeks to get that money out the door, but some housing advocates say those efforts are too little and too late.

“The Administration remains committed to doing everything in its power to keep people safely and securely housed, which is essential to the health, well-being and dignity of all of us,” Psaki said.

Biden’s message comes as the Delta variant of coronavirus continues to spread across the country, causing a surge in cases among unvaccinated Americans.

US economy grows at 6.5% rate in second quarter as more businesses reopen

The US economy grew at an annual rate of 6.5% in the second quarter of 2021, as coronavirus vaccines became widely available to Americans and more businesses reopened.

The AP reports:

Thursday’s report from the Commerce Department estimated that the nation’s gross domestic product — its total output of goods and services — accelerated in the April-June quarter from an already robust 6.3% annual growth rate in the first quarter of the year.

The quarterly figure was less than analysts had expected. But that was mainly because supply chain bottlenecks exerted a stronger-than-predicted drag on companies’ efforts to restock their shelves. The slowdown in inventory rebuilding, in fact, subtracted 1.1 percentage points from last quarter’s annual growth.

By contrast, consumer spending — the main fuel of the U.S. economy — was robust last quarter: It advanced at an 11.8% annual rate. ...

For all of 2021, the economy is expected to expand perhaps as much as 7%. If so, that would be the strongest calendar-year growth since 1984. And it would mark a sharp reversal from last year’s 3.4% economic contraction — the worst in 74 years — as a result of the pandemic.

There are concerns that the spread of the Delta variant could deal another blow to the US economy, but the chairman of the Federal Reserve has downplayed that possibility.

“What we’ve seen though is with successive waves of Covid over the past year and some months now, there has tended to be less in the way of economic implications from each wave,” Fed chair Jay Powell said at a press conference yesterday.

“And we will see whether that is the case with the Delta variety, but it’s certainly not an unreasonable expectation.”

The increasing polarization and disinformation around the Covid-19 vaccine has led to some people attempting to “disguise their appearance” and get vaccinated in secret, according to a Missouri doctor.

Dr Priscilla Frase, a hospitalist and chief medical information officer at Ozarks Healthcare in West Plains, said physicians had experienced a number of people who have asked to covertly receive the vaccine to avoid conflict with vaccine skeptical family, friends and co-workers.

In a video produced by Ozarks Healthcare, Frase said one pharmacist reported that several people: “Even went so far as to say: ‘Please, please, please don’t let anybody know that I got this vaccine.’”

Some 41% of people in Missouri are fully vaccinated. Nationwide 49.8% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last week the White House said Missouri, Florida and Texas account for 40% of new coronavirus cases in the US.

Vaccine hesitancy in the US has been fueled by social media disinformation and rightwing media personalities, who have repeatedly questioned the efficacy and even safety of the vaccine.

Bipartisan infrastructure bill clears first Senate hurdle

In case you missed it last night: the bipartisan infrastructure bill cleared its first procedural vote in the Senate, just hours after negotiators announced they had reached a deal.

The Senate voted 67-32 to take up the legislation, with 17 Republicans joining all Democrats to advance the bill.

If enacted, the bill would invest $550bn of new federal funding in roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure projects.

By a vote of 67-32, the #Senate invoked cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R.3684, the legislative vehicle for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, upon reconsideration.

— Senate Press Gallery (@SenatePress) July 28, 2021

Biden has already endorsed the legislation, describing it as “the most significant long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century”.

“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things,” Biden said in a statement yesterday.

“As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”

Of course, yesterday’s vote was only the first in a long series of votes before the bill can pass the Senate, and challenges remain in the House, where progressives have threatened to oppose the legislation unless they receive assurances about the separate reconciliation bill.

Read more about the vote and the negotiations here:

The Guardian’s Daniel Strauss reports on Republicans’ efforts to convince unvaccinated Americans to get their shot:

Almost like a switch had been flipped, a set of high-profile Republican political figures and conservative media personalities recently shifted their stance on the Covid-19 shots and became more outspoken and proactive in urging Americans to get vaccinated.

Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama, the state with the lowest proportion of fully vaccinated people in the country, said last week it was time to shame vaccination holdouts. Commentator Sean Hannity, who had previously called the pandemic a hoax, offered an on-air argument for viewers to get vaccinated. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, who had been selling merchandise mocking the use of masks, said the anti-Covid vaccines “are saving lives”.

All together it’s a shift among some of the most prominent voices within the Republican party and among conservatives toward encouraging vaccine use rather than leaving it up to personal choice.

Polls have shown that conservative Americans are much more likely to be unvaccinated and hesitant to get the shot. Some observers have welcomed the recent shift by high-profile Republicans, but others warn it may be too little, too late.

But in interviews with half a dozen Republican pollsters, including ones who have held focus groups on encouraging holdouts to get vaccinated, they say that there is still a block of Americans who won’t be moved even if it’s a Republican urging them to get the shot.

Read the full report here:

Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal workers is expected to mirror the requirement being instituted in New York by mayor Bill de Blasio.

Here’s how the New York mandate works: starting September 13, all 340,000 of the city’s employees -- including public school teachers, police officers and firefighters -- must show proof of vaccination or receive weekly coronavirus tests.

BREAKING: New York will require "the entire city workforce" to be vaccinated by mid-September or face weekly testing, NYC Mayor de Blasio announces.

"This is about our recovery. This is about keeping people safe. This is about bringing back jobs. You name it." pic.twitter.com/GpIRMZ986j

— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 26, 2021

Announcing the mandate on Monday, de Blasio said the vaccine requirement would allow New York to fully reopen in a safe manner, as the Delta variant spreads across the country.

“Let’s be clear about why this is so important: this is about our recovery. This is about what we need to do to bring back New York City,” de Blasio said.

“This is about keeping people safe. This is about making sure that our families get through Covid safe. This is about bringing back jobs. You name it.”

Biden expected to announce vaccine mandate for federal workers

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Joe Biden will deliver an update today on his administration’s coronavirus vaccination campaign, and he is expected to announce a vaccine mandate for federal employees.

The president previewed the plan on Tuesday, telling reporters: “That’s under consideration right now.”

One senior administration official told CNN that the mandate will be similar to the order being implemented in New York by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Biden’s speech comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended vaccinated people in regions with low vaccination rates resume wearing masks indoors, due to the spread of the Delta variant.

In a Tuesday statement, Biden described the CDC guidance as “another step on our journey to defeating this virus”.

“On Thursday, I will lay out the next steps in our effort to get more Americans vaccinated. Vaccinations are free, safe, and effective to every American,” Biden said in the statement. “By following the science, and by doing our part by getting vaccinated, America can beat Covid.”

The blog will have more details on the speech coming up, so stay tuned.

Contributors

Maanvi Singh, Joan E Greve and Lauren Aratani

The GuardianTramp

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