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The House of Representatives has approved sweeping legislation protecting the right to vote. The For the People Act, also known as House Resolution 1, is the most comprehensive voting bill since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It would curb partisan gerrymandering, provide automatic and Election Day registration, allow for two weeks of early voting and no-excuse absentee voting, and it would provide publicly financed matching funds for congressional and presidential candidates.
An amendment by Massachusetts Democratic Congressmember Ayanna Pressley to lower the voting age to 16 failed on the House floor. Another amendment to end the disenfranchisement of people who are incarcerated failed after 119 Democrats joined Republicans to defeat it. Missouri Democrat Cori Bush sponsored the amendment.
Rep. Cori Bush: “Right now more than 5 million people are legally barred from participating in our elections as a result of criminal laws. That is one in 44 Americans, 500,000 Latinx Americans, 1.2 million women and one in six Black folks. This cannot continue. Disenfranchising our own citizens, it is not justice.”
House Resolution 1 does grant people with felony convictions the right to vote after they have completed the terms of their prison sentences.
Also on Wednesday, the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The legislation would ban police chokeholds and eliminate qualified immunity for officers. It also seeks to ban racial and religious profiling and certain no-knock raids and would set up a national database to track police misconduct. Both bills now head to the Senate, where they’ll need 60 votes to clear the threat of a Republican filibuster.
The Capitol Police Department says it has uncovered a possible plot to attack Congress today, less than two months after a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol. The threat of violence prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move up votes on police reform and voting rights to Wednesday evening and to cancel Thursday’s session. Senate leaders, however, are proceeding with business today. Members of the QAnon conspiracy theory believe that March 4 is the “true Inauguration Day,” when Donald Trump will be sworn in to a second term in the White House. On Wednesday, Texas Republican Congressmember Michael McCaul called on Trump to intervene.
Rep. Michael McCaul: “I think President Trump has a responsibility to tell them to stand down. This threat is credible, and it’s real.”
On Wednesday, the head of the D.C. National Guard testified that Pentagon leaders put “unusual” restrictions on the deployment of troops to the Capitol complex ahead of January’s assault on Congress. General William Walker told a Senate panel it took over three hours to win approval from the Defense Department to send in National Guard soldiers after he received a frantic call from then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund early on the afternoon of January 6 requesting help. That delay was even longer than previously reported. General Walker contrasted the response with the rapid and aggressive deployment of National Guard troops used to suppress Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
President Biden has signed off on a plan to limit eligibility for a new round of stimulus checks as the Senate takes up its version of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. Biden’s decision meets a key demand of conservative Democrats. The lowered eligibility would bring benefits to about 12 million fewer adults and 5 million fewer children.
In Burma, at least 38 people were killed Wednesday, as security forces continue to use live fire on protesters. It was the deadliest day since the February 1 military coup. Over 50 people have died since protests started, with many more wounded. A local group says some 1,500 people have been detained.
The White House on Wednesday did not rule out a military response to a rocket attack on a military base housing U.S. troops in Iraq. A U.S. civilian contractor died from a heart attack, but no other casualties were reported. This comes almost one week after Biden ordered a strike on “Iranian-backed militant groups” in eastern Syria without congressional approval.
Brazil reported over 1,900 COVID deaths Wednesday, breaking its previous record death toll set just one day earlier. Brazil has topped a quarter of a million deaths, the second highest in the world after the U.S. A highly infectious coronavirus variant that crippled the health system in Manaus has spread elsewhere in Brazil and has been identified in at least two dozen other countries, including the U.S. It appears to be more likely to reinfect people who have already had COVID-19. São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, is going into a two-week lockdown. São Paulo Governor João Doria blamed President Jair Bolsonaro for the mounting crisis, saying, “This is your fault. It’s because of your denialism.”
Vaccines being delivered under the COVAX initiative have arrived in several more African nations this week, including Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Rwanda and Sudan. So far, some 10 million doses have been delivered to 14 countries as part of COVAX, which helps less wealthy nations procure vaccines.
In Chicago, over 100 activists are on hunger strike to protest the relocation of the General Iron metal shredding plant to the Southeast Side of Chicago — in an area with mostly Black and Brown residents and which already suffers from poor air quality due to industrial pollution. The scrapyard is being moved from its current location to make way for the controversial, multibillion-dollar Lincoln Yards development. This is Oscar Sanchez, one of the hunger strikers, speaking to Democracy Now!
Oscar Sanchez: “Our community is considered a sacrifice zone by the city, which continues policies of environmental racism. This is only the latest case of industry being pushed to Black and Brown communities in Chicago. We’re calling on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to break the racist legacy of exploiting Black and Brown communities as dumping grounds for industry, and allowing neighborhoods to breathe, to flourish.”
A rally is planned in front of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home later today to mark one month since the start of the hunger strike.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apologized Wednesday in response to multiple accusations of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.”
Cuomo has now been accused of harassment by two former aides and unwanted sexual advances and touching by a third woman, but has rejected calls for his resignation. New York’s attorney general is overseeing an investigation into the allegations. Cuomo is also under fire for covering up thousands of COVID deaths in New York nursing homes.
Lawyers for renowned political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal confirmed Wednesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19. This is professor Johanna Fernández making the announcement at a rally calling for his release.
Johanna Fernández: “I just got a call from Bob Boyle, one of Mumia’s — oh my god — one of Mumia’s attorneys. Mumia has COVID. He’s in the infirmary. Their attorneys called our attorneys. He had gotten a rapid test, and they conducted another test, and it came out positive. So Mumia Abu-Jamal has COVID-19.”
Sixty-six-year-old Abu-Jamal suffers from several preexisting conditions, for which advocates say he has not received proper care.
Country music legend Dolly Parton was vaccinated against COVID-19 on [Tuesday], less than a year after she made a $1 million donation to Vanderbilt University that helped fund research into Moderna’s mRNA shot. Parton shared video of her inoculation on social media with the caption “Dolly gets a dose of her own medicine.”
Dolly Parton: “Well, hey! It’s me! I’m finally going to get my vaccine! I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting a while. I’m old enough to get it. And I’m smart enough to get it. So, I’m very happy that I’m going to get my Moderna shot today. And I wanted to tell everybody I think you should get out there and do it, too. I even changed one of my songs to fit the occasion. It goes, 'Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I'm begging of you, please, don’t hesitate. Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, because once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late.’”