West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has agreed to a deal with Democratic leaders on a major domestic policy bill to combat climate change and lower healthcare costs, while paying down the national debt. The agreement caps nearly two years of negotiations that saw Manchin repeatedly foil efforts by fellow Democrats in the narrowly divided Senate to pass President Biden’s legislative agenda.
The emerging deal seeks to slash U.S. emissions by roughly 40% through the end of the decade, at a cost of around $400 billion, with tax credits and rebates for home insulation, solar panels, electric vehicles and more. The bill would also place a $2,000 cap on seniors’ annual out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and would for the first time allow Medicare to negotiate the price of drugs. The agreement with Manchin does not include a tax increase on wealthy Americans; instead, it seeks to raise about three-quarters of a trillion dollars over the next decade through a 15% minimum tax on corporations. It’s not known whether another conservative Democrat — Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema — will support the deal.
On Capitol Hill, progressive Democrats joined climate activists Wednesday to demand that President Biden declare a national climate emergency. This is Ashley Engle, an activist with the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.
Ashley Engle: “As you may know, Oklahoma is firmly situated on the frontlines of the climate crisis and fossil fuel extraction. And currently we are the epicenter of the nation’s heat wave. In fact, we’ve experienced nearly a month straight of temperatures well over 100 degrees, with only hotter days ahead — wildfires, drought and man-made earthquakes brought about by fracking that are destroying our already impacted and neglected infrastructure. … With a dependency on an industry that endangers us, it couldn’t be clearer that we need a just transition now.”
This comes as parts of North America and Europe continue to experience record temperatures. Meteorologists now say scorching heat in the Pacific Northwest is expected to last longer than initially predicted, with triple-digit highs forecast again today in some areas.
The Federal Reserve voted Wednesday to raise interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point. It’s the fourth time this year the Fed has raised its benchmark federal funds rate, citing inflation rates that have surged to their highest levels in 40 years. Fed Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday dismissed the concerns of economists who say the Fed’s aggressive moves to raise the cost of borrowing will lead to higher unemployment and economic pain for working families.
Jerome Powell: “I do not think the U.S. is currently in a recession. And the reason is, there are just too many areas of the economy that are — that are performing, you know, too well.”
A former top adviser to President Trump’s chief of staff has recently cooperated with the Department of Justice investigation into the events of January 6. That’s according to ABC, which broke news of Cassidy Hutchinson’s cooperation Wednesday as the Justice Department signaled it’s investigating former President Trump as part of its criminal probe into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Also on Wednesday, the Justice Department said it has obtained warrants to search the phone of Trump lawyer John Eastman. Eastman was among speakers at the infamous rally near the White House on January 6 where Trump encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol — even though he knew many were armed.
Russia’s military has launched strikes on Ukraine’s capital region for the first time in weeks. A Ukrainian military official said six Russian cruise missiles struck a military base north of Kyiv overnight. Elsewhere, there were competing claims over whether Russia had seized a massive coal-fired power plant in Ukraine’s east.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has revealed its estimate of the number of casualties Russia’s military has suffered since it invaded Ukraine in February, saying 75,000 Russian troops have been killed or injured in the violence.
CNN reports the Biden administration has offered to exchange jailed Russian weapons dealer Viktor Bout for U.S. citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Bout is an infamous arms trafficker known by U.S. authorities as the “Merchant of Death.” In 2012, he was sentenced to 25 years in a U.S. prison for conspiracy to commit terrorism.
In Washington, D.C., Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Wednesday he expects to speak soon with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the first time since the war began and will raise the cases of Whelan and Griner.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal. And I’ll use the conversation to follow up personally.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said Thursday his nation is ready to respond with nuclear weapons if provoked by the United States or its allies. Kim’s remarks came during a ceremony in Pyongyang marking the anniversary of the 1953 armistice that ended hostilities in the Korean War.
Kim Jong-un: “Our armed forces are thoroughly prepared to respond to any crisis, and our state’s nuclear war deterrence is also fully ready to mobilize its absolute strength faithfully, accurately and promptly to its mission.”
Kim also blasted South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, saying he was pushing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war. His comments came as U.S. and South Korean officials said the North was preparing to carry out its first nuclear weapons test since 2017.
President Biden says he has recovered from COVID-19 and will resume his normal schedule. Biden spoke from the White House Rose Garden Wednesday, where he encouraged people to get vaccinated and boosted and to wear masks in public indoor settings.
President Joe Biden: “Here’s the bottom line. When my predecessor got COVID, he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Center. He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered. When I got COVID, I worked from upstairs of the White House and the offices upstairs, and for that five-day period. The difference is vaccinations, of course.”
Nearly all U.S. states have seen steady increases in daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past two weeks.
Judges in North Dakota and Wyoming on Wednesday temporarily blocked the enforcement of “trigger” bans on abortion, enabling reproductive health providers in those states to resume services after the Supreme Court’s decision in June striking down Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, the West Virginia House of Delegates has approved a bill to ban nearly all abortions. The bill passed with the support of three-quarters of lawmakers; it now moves to West Virginia’s state Senate for consideration.
A bill that would enshrine the right to same-sex and interracial marriage into federal law, the Respect for Marriage Act, is nearing a vote in the Senate. The legislation would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and requires states to extend “full faith and credit” to a marriage between any two people regardless of sex, race, ethnicity or national origin. House lawmakers approved the measure last week. Among those voting against it was Pennsylvania Republican Glenn Thompson, whose “no” vote came just days before he attended his gay son’s same-sex wedding.
A grand jury in Illinois has indicted the man accused of opening fire on a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, killing seven people. Twenty-one-year-old Robert Crimo is charged with 117 felonies over the attack, which also left more than 30 people wounded.
The indictments came as Democrats on Capitol Hill grilled the CEOs of U.S. gunmakers Daniel Defense and Ruger Firearms over their role in U.S. mass shootings. House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney said an investigation by her committee found major gun manufacturers have raked in over $1 billion in revenue from selling military-style assault weapons to civilians.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney: “Our investigation also found that gun manufacturers use dangerous marketing tactics to sell assault weapons to the public. That includes marketing to children, preying on young men’s insecurities and even appealing to violent white supremacists. Finally, we found that even as guns kill more Americans than ever, none of those companies take even basic steps to monitor the deaths and injuries caused by their products.”
In Minnesota, a federal judge has sentenced former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao for violating the civil rights of George Floyd. Kueng received a three-year sentence, while Thao was given a three-and-a-half-year prison term. Both officers were convicted in February of failing to come to Floyd’s aid as their colleague Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for over nine minutes, killing him. Kueng and Thao still face Minnesota state charges of aiding and abetting murder in a trial scheduled for January.