The House of Representatives voted Monday to approve a measure that would increase stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000, sending the bill to the Senate where it faces a standoff today. The House also voted to override Trump’s veto of the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.
In the Senate, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to ask for unanimous consent today to override Trump’s veto of the NDAA. But independent Senator Bernie Sanders has said he will filibuster to delay the crucial vote unless the Senate also holds a vote on the $2,000 checks. Sanders tweeted, “If McConnell doesn’t agree to an up or down vote to provide the working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year’s Eve. Let’s do our job.” At least 12 Republicans would need to join with the Senate’s 48 Democrats to reach the necessary 60 votes to approve the $2,000 checks.
The United States recorded over 168,000 new coronavirus cases Monday and 1,900 deaths. Hospitalizations hit a new record high of more than 121,000, with 40% of all ICU beds nationwide now occupied by COVID patients.
In California, some Kaiser Permanente hospitals are now postponing non-urgent surgeries. The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles has converted its chapel and gift shop into makeshift COVID wards, and Huntington Hospital in Pasadena is rationing care for non-COVID patients who need ICU beds.
This comes as the Transportation Security Administration says it screened nearly 1.3 million people at U.S. airports on Sunday — the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic — as travelers shrugged off urgent pleas of public health officials to avoid travel during the pandemic.
Russian officials admitted Monday their nation’s COVID-19 death toll is more than three times worse than previously reported, saying more than 186,000 people have died of the disease. The new figure puts Russia’s death toll at the third highest in the world, after the United States and Brazil.
In Colombia, public health officials are condemning a plan by President Iván Duque to exclude undocumented Venezuelans from a mass vaccination program set to begin in February. Bogotá professor and public intellectual Alejandro Gaviria tweeted, “Not vaccinating Venezuelans is a bad idea from an epidemiological perspective. But it is above all an unethical proposal.”
President-elect Joe Biden on Monday accused the Trump administration of obstructing his transition team’s access to information from the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon. Biden spoke from Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden: “Right now we just aren’t getting all the information that we need for the ongoing — from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility.”
Republican Congressmember Louie Gohmert of Texas has sued Vice President Mike Pence in a long-shot effort to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory. The suit alleges that Pence has “exclusive authority” to decide which electoral votes count when he presides over Congress on January 6 for the counting of the Electoral College vote.
The Trump administration says it will open a U.S. consulate in Western Sahara, following its recognition of Morocco’s claim over the territory earlier this month. Morocco has occupied Western Sahara since 1975 in defiance of the international community. Click here to see our documentary, “Four Days in Western Sahara: Africa’s Last Colony.”
In news from Honduras, the Indigenous environmental activist Félix Vásquez was assassinated Saturday by armed, masked men in front of his family. Vásquez was a member of the Indigenous Lenca community and was planning to run for Congress in 2021. His killing comes four-and-a-half years after the assassination of Berta Cáceres, who was also a Lenca leader.
The city of Columbus, Ohio, has fired the police officer who shot and killed Andre Hill, a 47-year-old Black man. Officer Adam Coy also faces criminal and internal investigations after last week’s fatal shooting, when Coy opened fire just seconds after encountering Hill, who was unarmed. Officer Coy was not using his body camera properly at the time, and he failed to administer aid to Hill for several minutes as Hill lay dying. Coy has racked up dozens of citizen complaints since 2002, including a 2012 incident when he repeatedly smashed the head of a driver into a police cruiser during a traffic stop.
In housing news, the state of New York has enacted a new law to protect most renters from eviction until May 1 if they are suffering from financial hardship related to the pandemic. Meanwhile, in Tacoma, Washington, housing activists have occupied a Travelodge motel to house over 40 people. The occupation began on Christmas Day.
In Minnesota, police arrested a water protector Monday after she successfully delayed construction of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. Emma Harrison spent several hours dangling from a 20-foot-tall tripod, blocking access to an Enbridge pipe storage yard, before police were finally able to remove her. Indigenous activist and lawyer Tara Houska live-streamed the protest.
Tara Houska: “Police officers are threatening to cut down the young person who is suspended about 30 feet up in the air, risking her safety, risking her life. She could get really, really hurt. They just said that there’s an ambulance standing by. That’s their plan. Rather than pulling her out more safely, they do not seem to care, and they want to do it the quickest, fastest, cheapest way possible. Obvious disregard for human life, as Enbridge has already shown their obvious disregard for human life when they paused work for just a couple hours last week when one of their own workers was killed. That’s who we’re dealing with. That’s the kind of concern for human life that we’re dealing with.”
On Friday, a contractor working on the Line 3 pipeline was killed in an accident at an Enbridge construction yard. If completed, Line 3 would pump more than 750,000 barrels of tar sands crude oil each day across wetlands and fragile ecosystems in Canada, Minnesota and Wisconsin.