Republicans slap down Manchin’s voting rights compromise – US politics live

  • Mitch McConnell says proposal is ‘rotten to the core’
  • Manchin’s plan tries to attract bipartisan support in Senate

Christopher Staudinger reports for the Louisiana Illuminator and Floodlight, a nonprofit that partners with the Guardian:

One morning in September, word of layoffs began to spread quickly through Marathon Petroleum’s refinery in the small industrial community of Garyville, Louisiana.

Related: A US oil company cut nearly 2,000 jobs – and reaped $2.1bn in pandemic benefits

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Most of the city’s attention was focused on the supreme court yesterday, as the justices dismissed a Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act. However, there were also some significant developments on Capitol Hill.

Democrats can change the packaging, but their plan for a power-grab of America’s electoral system is still rotten to the core. My full statement: https://t.co/HLRuDSZ3lS

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US supreme court upholds Obamacare after Republicans seek to gut law

Justices affirm constitutionality of Affordable Care Act amid Republican attacks on key provision

The US supreme court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, after Republicans attempted to gut an important provision of the law during the Trump era.

In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled Republican states ultimately did not have “standing” or the right to sue. The ruling avoided the issue of whether the tax provision of the law called the “individual mandate”, and therefore the entire law, was unconstitutional.

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US failing to offer ‘Havana syndrome’ sufferers adequate care, diplomats say – live

  • Officials ‘invalidating our injuries and experiences’, letter states
  • Biden says US must redouble efforts to investigate virus origins
  • Senate Republicans want to lower cost of $1.7tn infrastructure plan

Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, was on the front lines of the protests and election disinformation fueled by Trump’s “Big Lie” about election fraud as the battleground state’s chief election official.

In a new interview with the Associated Press, Benson warns that the ongoing disputes and conspiracy theories around the 2020 election are only the beginning of what she sees as a sustained attack on American democracy that will culminate in a renewed attack on election legitimacy in 2024.

AP: Across the country, we are seeing several GOP-controlled legislatures seeking to exert more control over election officials. How concerned are you that we could end up seeing more of these outside ballot reviews like in Arizona or even takeovers of local election offices?

BENSON: I feel very strongly that the battles that we saw around 2020’s election ... was just the beginning of what is clearly turning out to be a multi-year, strategic, nationally coordinated, partisan assault on the vote in our country and on our democracy. And we will see another battle in the 2022 elections around that truth and around the security of the vote, around access to the vote. But it’s also all going to culminate, I believe, in an effort to try again in 2024 what those democracy deniers attempted to do in 2020 but failed. And in 2024, the bad actors, I believe, will be more coordinated, more strategic, better funded and will have the benefit of doing this work for a number of years. I’m deeply concerned about the future health of our democracy.

Democrats Move to Fulfill Biden’s Election Promise on Healthcare ‘Public Option’

Two Congressional Democrats are pushing to create a “public option” for healthcare coverage to compete with private health insurance plans, and aim to introduce legislation by the end of the year, NBC News reports.

A federal public option will help lower health care costs and guarantee that health care is a right not a privilege.@FrankPallone and I plan to work with our colleagues to craft comprehensive legislation to create a federal public option. https://t.co/Df0YmgEN35

Unlike 2009, @JoeLieberman isn't around to kill the public option. But now Democrats have thinner majorities, no hope of Republican support and are guaranteed to face an assault from health industry groups who are prepared to fight this. https://t.co/nMXYoQzPhG

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Budget 2021 reaction: splash of cash but universities and renewables left in the cold – Australia politics live updates

Coalition budget delivers $30bn in tax breaks and money for fossil fuel projects but no measures to help struggling universities or clean energy projects. Follow all the latest news and reaction to the 2021 federal budget as it happens

And along with the fact the international border is expected to remain closed for another year at least (a whole other year – which means stranded Australians have up to a year to wait to come home) there is also the issue of wage growth which doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it should.

For me these are the most important number out of the budget - slower wages growth than ever before, and nothing predicted over 2.5% till 2025.

Remember the RBA says wages need to grow above 3% in order to get interest rates to rise https://t.co/6HBeBZMKqM pic.twitter.com/qLZ7es4Dw4

There was nothing in the budget (again) for dental.

It’s kind of amazing how little fuss there is about an entire section of health being excised from universal health care. If you have ever needed to get to a dentist and can’t afford one, so have had to wait for a publicly funded position, you know just how detrimental to your health and life lack of access to good dental care is. I grew up with the school dental van visits as my only access to dental care and have had to rely on dental vouchers more than once.

More than six out of 10 over-75s in Australia suffer from gum disease, while more than one in three Australians aged 75 and over have complete tooth loss,” she said.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety heard distressing evidence of older patients going without basic dental care such as toothbrushing and denture cleaning.

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Joe Biden touts $1.9tn Covid rescue package on anniversary of Affordable Care Act

Administration also extended the enrollment period for registering for subsidized health insurance coverage until 15 August

Joe Biden marked the 11th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act with a trip to Ohio on Tuesday, touting his efforts to reverse many Trump-era measures aimed at weakening the landmark health reform law, and pledging that his $1.9tn Covid rescue package would build on the ACA’s promise.

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Biden calls on Congress to pass assault weapons ban after Boulder shooting – live

President also urges Senate to pass bills to close background checks loopholes

Americans can now sign up for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) until 15 August. The window to sign up for insurance through the program normally closes on 15 February, but the Department of Health and Human Services has initially moved the deadline to May, before extending it to the summer.

The extension will give Americans who lost health coverage during the pandemic more time to sign up, and allow more Americans to take advantage of new federal subsidies to reduce insurance premiums granted via the coronavirus relief package.

Asked about the push from senators Tammy Duckworth and Mazie Hirono for Joe Biden to appoint more AAPI to his administration, and the senators’ pledge to vote against Biden nominees until the president pays heed, Biden dodged:

“We have the most diverse cabinet in history. We have a lot of Asian Americans that are in the cabinet and in sub-cabinet levels,” he said, according to the White House press pool reports.

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Biden and Harris head to Georgia to meet community leaders after Atlanta shooting – live updates

President and vice president will also visit the CDC while in Georgia

A qukck one from Reuters here, that fresh from his talks with top officials from China – there’s a further meeting in Anchorage, Alaska today – Antony Blinken will be headed to Europe on his next diplomatic mission.

He will visit Brussels next week to meet with Nato foreign ministers and European Union officials, the US Department of State said, as the Biden administration seeks to repair transatlantic ties.

Joan Biskupic, CNN’s legal analyst has an interesting piece this morning arguing that the Supreme Court’s conservatives want to topple abortion rights – but can’t seem to agree on how. She writes:

The aims of individual justices, based on their recent writings, range from reversing Roe v. Wade to forbidding clinics from challenging restrictions on behalf of women to relaxing the standard that states must meet to limit women’s access to the procedure.

New internal tensions in the age-old controversy have emerged, as the six Republican-appointed justices on the right wing diverge on curtailing precedent and more sharply clash with the court’s three remaining Democratic-appointed liberals. The justices could move a step closer to their next chapter as they meet privately on Friday to consider whether to take up Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

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Coronavirus live news: at least 3,000 nurses have died in year since WHO declared Covid pandemic

3,000 nurses dead, Covid exodus looming warns global federation; Brazil again suffers record deaths; five countries suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine

Interim data from a late-stage study of their experimental Covid antibody therapy showed an 85% reduction in hospitalisation or death in patients, Vir Biotechnology Inc and GlaxoSmithKline Plc said on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Following the data an independent panel has recommended stopping the trial, the two companies said, adding they were planning to submit an emergency use authorisation application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment.

US nursing home residents vaccinated against Covid can get hugs again from their loved ones, and all residents may enjoy more indoor visits, the government said Wednesday in a step toward pre-pandemic normalcy.

AP: The policy guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, comes as coronavirus cases and deaths among nursing home residents have plummeted in recent weeks at the same time that vaccination accelerated. People living in long-term care facilities have borne a cruel toll from the pandemic. They represent about 1% of the US population, but account for 1 in 3 deaths, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Government officials acknowledged that isolation deepened the misery for residents as long-term care facilities remained locked down much of last year. Loneliness contributed to physical as well as mental decline. The ban on visits went into effect almost one year ago and only in the fall were facilities allowed to begin socially distanced outdoor visits and limited indoor ones.

“There is no substitute for physical contact, such as the warm embrace between a resident and their loved one,” CMS said in its new guidance, “Therefore, if the resident is fully vaccinated, they can choose to have close contact (including touch) with their visitor while wearing a well-fitting face mask and performing hand-hygiene before and after.”

So while hugs are OK again for residents who have completed their vaccination, precautions such as wearing masks and using hand sanitiser remain in place as a counterbalance to risk. CMS also underscored that maintaining 6 feet of separation is still the safest policy, and outdoor visits are preferable even when residents and visitors have been vaccinated.

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The Ten Year War review: Obamacare, Trump and Biden’s battles yet to come

Jonathan Cohn’s study of the fight for healthcare coverage delivers depth, dish and much for Democrats to ponder

Once upon a time, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was unpopular, viewed by many as welfare redux. Barack Obama’s promise that “If you like your healthcare plan, you’ll be able to keep your healthcare plan”, didn’t exactly work out. By the middle of the 2010s, so-called Obamacare had cost the Democrats both houses of Congress.

Related: The Good American review: Bob Gersony and a better foreign policy

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Biden to set out his foreign policy in state dept speech – live updates

President has promised US will re-engage globally after isolationist Trump era

A Texas county judge has temporarily blocked the state’s efforts to remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid, report CNN. Caroline Kelly writes:

A slew of Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates asserted in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission failed to issue “a proper notice of termination” from the program. The state had promised to remove the groups from the Medicaid program Thursday.

The chief press officer for the Texas Health & Human Services Commission, Christine Mann, declined to comment on the case citing pending litigation.

Sam Baker and Andrew Witherspoon have a relatively upbeat analysis of the coronavirus situation across the US today for Axios. They write:

New coronavirus infections slowed by nearly 16% over the past week, continuing a trend of rapid improvement. The US still has a ton of coronavirus, and there’s still the potential for dark days ahead. But this is progress, and the improvement is significant. If this trend keeps going, the country will be in a far better and safer position as vaccines continue to roll out.

Nationwide, the US is averaging about 139,000 new cases per day — a 16% improvement over last week, which was a 16% improvement over the week before. The number of new hospitalizations was also down last week, by just over 26%. And deaths fell by about 6%, to an average of 3,097 deaths per day.

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