House Capitol attack panel issues subpoena to top Trump official Jeffrey Clark – as it happened

14 days ago

House Capitol attack panel issues subpoena to top Trump official Jeffrey Clark – as it happened

The Guardian

Today's politics wrap

  • The House committee investigating the 6 January Capitol attack said it’s prepared to pursue charges against witnesses who fail to comply with subpoenas. This would include former Trump aide Steve Bannon, who has refused to cooperate. The committee also issued a subpoena today to top Trump justice department official Jeffrey Clark.
  • The White House rejected Donald Trump’s most recent attempt to assert executive privilege in the investigation. Joe Biden instructed the National Archives to hand over documents requested by the house committee to investigate the 6 January insurrection over objections from Trump’s legal team.
  • The Justice Department has launched a civil rights probe of juvenile detention facilities in Texas. The probe will investigate whether there was a pattern of excessive use of force as well as sexual abuse. News reports have highlighted sexual abuse at several facilities as well as reports of staff members paying detainees drugs and cash to attack others.
  • The administration rolled out a slew of actions aimed at addressing the supply chain bottleneck. Biden touted commitments by major retailers like Walmart and carriers like FedEx and UPS to ramp up their hours, while the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles will move to round-the-clock operations to ease the cargo backlog.
  • More than 7m Americans will have received a coronavirus vaccine booster shot by the end of the day. Meanwhile, 66m eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, according to new figures released by the White House coronavirus task force.
  • Democratic negotiators are still struggling over how to proceed with the president’s sweeping social policy bill. With two centrist holdouts at odds on key initiatives around climate and prescription drug pricing.
  • The FDA on Wednesday released a set of new, voluntary guidelines to help Americans eat less salt. The long-awaited guidelines, aim to reduce the average daily sodium intake by 12% over the next 2.5 years by pressuring food manufacturers, restaurants and other food service companies to significantly reduce their use of salt.

– Lauren Gambino, Johana Bhuiyan, Sam Levine

Steve Bannon’s legal team has reasserted that the former Trump adviser will not cooperate with the House committee investigating the Capitol Riot.

This response, reported exclusively by ABC, comes after the select committee investigating the 6 January attack said it is willing to pursue charges against witnesses who do not comply with subpoenas.

In a letter obtained by ABC, Bannon’s team has asserted that he will not abide by the committee’s request for testimony and documents, citing the former president’s executive privilege – a broad, loosely defined shield for presidents’ confidential communications.

The Florida department of health has levied a $3.5m fine against a county government for requiring its employees to provide proof of a Covid-19 vaccination.

Amanda Holpuch reports:

The state is also investigating other government entities, schools and businesses, including a Harry Styles concert, for violating its ban on asking people to provide proof of vaccination. The ban went into effect last month and Texas put a similar ban in place on Monday.

Florida fined Leon county $5,000 for each of the 714 employees it asked to provide proof of vaccination by 1 October. The health department said 700 employees met this requirement and the 14 employees who did not were terminated several days later.

Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, said the state health department would continue to enforce the ban. “We’re going to stand up for Floridians’ jobs, stand up for Floridians’ livelihoods, and stand up for freedom,” DeSantis said in a statement.

The Florida and Texas bans challenge Joe Biden’s planned rule for companies with more than 100 workers to require proof of vaccination or weekly testing. Biden announced the rule in September but its details are still being worked out.

Read more:

White house rejects Trump's latest claim of executive privilege

Donald Trump’s most recent attempt to assert executive privilege in the congressional investigation into the Capitol Riots has failed. Joe Biden has instructed the National Archives to hand over documents requested by the house committee to investigate the 6 January insurrection.

In a newly publicized letter to national archivist David Ferriero, counsel to the president Dana Remus wrote “the president maintains his conclusion that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents provided to the White House on September 8, 2021”.

As many political analysts and legal scholars have pointed out, undercutting a tool that shields presidents could prove risky for Biden. Still, the letter states Ferreiro has 30 days to comply with the request for documentation, barring any legal challenge from Trump. The documents could play a critical role in the ongoing investigation into how a mob was able to enter the Capitol during Biden’s election certification. More than 650 people have already been criminally charged for their part in the insurrection.

Updated

Vaccine hesitant New Yorkers consider leaving the city as mandates take effect

Bahar Ostadan reports:

Deysia Padilla’s family thought she was at work. Instead, she spent last Thursday afternoon unloading a mound of orange and pink baby socks in a sunny South Bronx laundromat – one-by one, in all their three-inch glory. She had 48 hours to consider an impossible choice: either get vaccinated or lose her job.

Padilla is one of thousands of unvaccinated New Yorkers affected by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ultimatum last week. Not only do city employees face the reality of losing their jobs, but without a shot, they’ll even forgo unemployment payments. Some unvaccinated Bronx natives would rather pursue a life outside New York City than be forced to take the vaccine.

“I feel like my dream is being shattered by the government,” said Padilla. “I’m being taken out of my home.” The 25-year-old mother had plans to become an art teacher one day. Now, she’s considering moving to Florida with her husband and three-month-old baby.

A pandemic-induced population shift to Florida – sometimes called the city’s sixth borough – is already under way. As of March, more than 33,500 New Yorkers permanently relocated to Florida – up 32% from the same period in the previous year. Experts say people flocked south for looser Covid restrictions, affordable housing, and access to in-person schools.

Most unvaccinated Bronx residents don’t fit neatly into the anti-mask, anti-vaccine framework that has spread nationally, according to Andrew Rasmussen, associate professor of psychology at Fordham University. The Bronx is still nursing its wounds after being hit tragically hard by the deadly virus – with the highest rates of hospitalizations, deaths and unemployment in New York City.

In the Bronx, where median per capita income in 2019 was $21,778 – over three and a half times lower than in Manhattan – 70% of the population works in face-to-face or essential jobs. Even now, people wear masks – sometimes two – while walking outdoors. Many are still nervous to shake hands with people outside their family. Building custodians diligently stroll the sidewalks, spraying Clorox.

“People are wearing double-masks, being really careful, but the vaccination rates in the neighborhood are still very low,” said Rasmussen. “That suggests that there’s something else going on there.”

Still, it is not unusual to hear Bronx residents voice more concern about the vaccine than the virus it is administered to prevent.

“I worry about the virus, but more importantly, I worry about the vaccine,” said Kelven Esbenel, 24. Six weeks ago, he started work at an Amazon fulfilment center in Staten Island, only to learn that the company may start requiring vaccinations under Biden’s new mandates. Now, he said he ponders a life in Connecticut, leaving his vaccinated family members behind.

“We can’t expect that medical systems who have earned the mistrust of many marginalized groups will now be trusted because of Covid. It doesn’t work that way,” said Tiffany Green, a population health scientist and economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Read more:

House Capitol attack panel issues subpoena to Trump official Jeffrey Clark

The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack on Wednesday issued a subpoena to top Trump justice department official Jeffrey Clark, escalating its inquiry into the former president’s efforts to reinstall himself in office and the 6 January insurrection.

The new subpoena underscores the select committee’s far-reaching mandate in scrutinizing the origins of the Capitol attack, as it pursues an investigation into Donald Trump’s role in pressuring the justice department to do his bidding in the final weeks of his presidency.

In targeting Clark, House select committee investigators followed up on a Senate judiciary committee report that last week detailed his efforts to abuse the justice department to support Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

The House select committee chairman, Bennie Thompson, said in a statement that he authorized a subpoena for testimony from Clark to understand how the Trump White House sought to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory during the joint session of Congress.

Read more:

Today so far

It’s been a lively day in Washington. Here’s a summary of where things stand before I hand over the blog to my colleague, Maanvi.

  • The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol said it’s prepared to pursue charges against witnesses who fail to comply with subpoenas, including Steve Bannon.
  • The administration rolled out a slew of actions aimed at addressing the supply chain bottleneck threatening to wreak havoc on the holiday season. Biden touted commitments by major retailers like Walmart and carriers like FedEx and UPS to ramp up their hours, while the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles will move to round-the-clock operations to ease the cargo backlog. Biden hailed the move as a “game changers” but warned that other private companies must also “step up”.
  • More than 7 million Americans will have received a coronavirus vaccine booster shot, while 66 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, according to new figures released by the White House coronavirus task force.
  • Social Security benefits are set to rise nearly 6% starting next year, the largest cost-of-living adjustment for seniors in decades.
  • Democratic negotiators are still struggling over proceed over the president’s sweeping social policy bill, with two centrist holdouts at odds on key initiatives around climate and prescription drug pricing.
  • Overnight, the administration announced that the US will also open land borders to Canada and Mexico to vaccinated travelers next month.

Republican running for Congress praised Proud Boys, video shows

Walt Blackman, an Arizona Republican running for Congress, praised the Proud Boys in a September speech. He said that having members of the far-right extremist group was “one of the proudest moments of his life,” according to a new report from CNN’s KFile.

On Tuesday, Blackman announced that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) included him in their Young Guns recruitment program led by House minority leader Kevin McCarthy.

He is seeing to unseat Democrat Tom O’Halleran in Arizona’s first congressional district, who is a top Republican target in 2022.

“I believe those are the Proud Boys back there,” Blackman said at a rally in Phoenix in late September, in footage unearthed by CNN. “Let me tell you something about the Proud Boys. The Proud Boys came to one of my events and that was one of the proudest moments of my life. Not because of what the media portrayed them to be, but the patriots they showed young people: the example on how to be an American.”

According to CNN’s analysis of court documents, dozens of people with ties to the Proud Boys have been charged in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

Updated

The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it was launching a civil rights probe of juvenile detention facilities in Texas, examining whether there was a pattern of excessive use of force as well as sexual abuse.

The Department announced the probe after a review of publicly available news reports and other information from advocates. Kristen Clarke, the head of the department’s civil rights division, noted there have been reports of sexual abuse at several facilities as well as reports of staff members paying detainees drugs and cash to attack others.

“State officials have a constitutional obligation to ensure reasonable safety for children in these institutions,” Clarke said. “The Department of Justice stands ready to protect the rights of children who end up in juvenile facilities and our investigation will ensure that the treatment of these children comports with constitutional standards.”

Advocates filed a formal complaint with the Justice Department last year, saying that children in the care of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department suffered widespread sexual abuse and other constitutional violations, according to the Texas Tribune. In 2018, federal data showed roughly 10% of youths in juvenile justice facilities reported being sexually abused, significantly higher than the 7.1% who reported it nationwide.

One of the places under review will be the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex. In 2018, KTXS reported that 34 employees had been fired from the facility over the previous 5 years.

Updated

The father of a journalist murdered on live television six years ago on Tuesday launched a complaint asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to act against Facebook for failing to remove footage of her death.

Andy Parker argues that the company is engaging in “deceptive practices” and violating its terms of service by hosting “material that glorifies violence” on its platforms Facebook and Instagram.
Parker’s daughter, TV news reporter Alison Parker, and cameraman Adam Ward were killed by a former co-worker while reporting for a TV network in Roanoke, Virginia in August 2015.

Parker, 68, who lives in Collinsville, Virginia, filed a similar complaint last year against Google and YouTube but received no response. He was inspired to act now against Facebook by whistleblower Frances Haugen’s congressional testimony last week.

“I’ve maintained for years that Facebook and Google profit from the video of my daughter Alison’s murder in 2015 and violate what they advertise to the public, that they don’t allow violent content on their platforms,” Parker told reporters in Washington. “Now, both these companies have denied it over and over again, but we know better.

“And it’s one thing for me to say it and keep saying it but when someone with insider firsthand knowledge like Frances Haugen confirms, as she did last week in her Senate testimony, that this is what they do, it validates what I’ve maintained for all these years. Posting violent content and murder on social media is not free speech. It’s savagery.”

The complaint was filed on Tuesday by Parker and attorneys with the Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic. Acknowledging that the FTC could fine Facebook but has limited powers, he called for the abolition of Section 230, which gives platforms immunity from liability for content posted by users.

“The point is, it’s time to act,” added Parker, who has never watched the video of his daughter’s death. “I hope my FTC complaint gets traction but ultimately Congress is going to have to fix social media before it ruins our country and the world.”

Updated

Schiff: January 6 panel prepared to 'move very quickly' to enforce subpoena requests

California congressman Adam Schiff said lawmakers serving on the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol are prepared to pursue criminal charges against witnesses who refuse to comply with their subpoenas, including Steve Bannon.

In an interview with MSNBC, Schiff said the committee was “deadly serious about getting to the bottom of everything that happened up to January 6 and thereafter.”

“If witnesses don’t appear when they’re supposed to, if they don’t produce the documents, we intend to move very quickly to have a vote in the House to hold them in criminal contempt, refer it to the Justice Department for prosecution,” he said.

Schiff added that Bannon would be on “very perilous grounds” if he refused to comply with the subpoena at Trump’s request.

Steve Bannon after testifying at the Roger Stone trial in November 2019.
Steve Bannon after testifying at the Roger Stone trial in November 2019. Photograph: James Lawler Duggan/Reuters

As the panel ramps up this phase of the inquiry, more subpoenas are expected, according to new reporting in the Washington Post.

The Post reports that the panel is planning to subpoena as early as today Jeffrey Clark, a Trump Justice Department official who sought to deploy department resources to support former president Donald Trump’s false claims of massive voting fraud in the 2020 election.

In addition to Bannon, the panel has issued subpoenas for Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff, Dan Scavino, the former deputy chief of staff, Kash Patel, who was serving as chief of staff to the acting defense secretary on the day of the attack on the Capitol.

Updated

Biden said the administration’s efforts to address global transportation supply chain bottleneck could be a “game changer” that will help move products like bicycles and sneakers from ships to ports to shelves faster and more reliably.

He began his remarks on Wednesday by noting that many Americans may be struggling to buy everyday household items like toasters bedroom furniture.

“Today’s announcement has the potential to be a game-changer. I say potential because all of these goods won’t move by themselves,” he said. “For the positive impact to be felt all across the country and by all of you at home we need major retailers who ordered the goods and the freight-moves who take the goods from the ships to factories and stores to step up as well.”

He praised Walmart for committing to a 50% increase in off-peak hours while FedEx and UPS committed to “significantly increase the amount of goods they are moving at night.” He said Target, Home Depot, Samsung and other companies are also ramping up their efforts.

“This is an across-the-board commitment to going 24/7,” Biden said. ‘This is a big first step in speeding up the movement of materials and goods through out supply chain. but now we need the rest of the private sector chain to step up as well. This is not called a supply chain for nothing.”

He concluded his remarks as he often does, by tying these efforts to a greater struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. “We’re in the competition for the 21st Century,” Biden said, arguing that the US was still a global economic leader but that the rest of the world was “closing in.”

“We risk losing our edge if we don’t step up,” he reiterated, saying the US needed to improve its capacity to manufacture more goods in the US and move those products more efficiently around the world.

“We need to think big and bold,” he said, urging the passage of two bills that comprise the centerpiece of his Build Back Better agenda.

“We’re proposing to make the biggest investment to ports in our history,” he said of the legislation. “We’ve seen the cost of inaction in the pandemic - the delays and the congestion that affect every American. But it’s fully within our capacity to act to make sure it never happens again. It’s going to take a little time - and that we unlock the full might and dynamism of our economy and our people. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Updated

Progressives have recently started to suggest that the 31 October deadline for passing both pieces of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda - the hard infrastructure bill and the much larger social policy bill – is more of a target than a fixed date.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday and again on CNN on Wednesday, Jayapal said Democrats are not tied to that date if negotiations are still ongoing. She continued to push senators Sinema and Manchin to detail their demands so that the talks could move forward.

Updated

Psaki declined to comment on ongoing negotiations with senator Sinema, saying only that the White House has had “consistent contact” with the Arizona Democrat.

The president is “deeply committed to lowering the cost of prescription drug prices, Psaki said, but wouldn’t expand on what Sinema has relayed to Biden and White House officials about her position on the issue.

The president “absolutely” wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, believes it is “long overdue” and is “still committed” to ensuring the pay hike happens.

The briefing ended after roughly a half an hour. We will hear more from Biden on the actions the administration is taking to relieve supply change bottlenecks shortly.

Asked about the timeline for Biden’s reconciliation package, Psaki said that the president and his team are directly involved in discussions to move along the negotiations and “find a way to unify around a package that can deliver.”

“Time is not unlimited,” Psaki said. But as we noted earlier, two Democratic senators have yet to reach an agreement with their party.

Given all the action to ease supply change backlogs, can the administration guarantee that holiday packages will arrive on time?

We are not the postal service, or UPS or FedEx, we cannot guarantee,” Psaki said. “What we can do is use every level at the federal government’s disposal to reduce delays, to ensure that we are addressing bottlenecks in the system, including ports and the need for them to be open longer hours... and we can continue to press not only workers and unions but also companies to take as many steps as they can to reduce these delays.”

Walmart is among several major companies that have committed to stepping up their round-the-clock operations. It’s also the target of many Democrats, who have excused the company of under-paying employees. Asked if the White House sought to pressure Walmart to raise its wages, Pskai said the president has been “quite vocal” about an increase to the minimum wage.

“We are not taking our foot off the gas pedal for an increase to the minimum wage,” she said.

Updated

White House press secretary Jen Psaki opened today’s briefing by recapping the administration’s efforts to ease supply-chain bottlenecks during the holiday season.

“It was inevitable ... that there would be economic challenges coming out of the pandemic,” Psaki said.

She also announced that Biden signed into law HR 2278, an act “to designate the September 11th National Memorial Trail Route, and for other purposes.” Psaki called the bill a testament to the “resiliency and character” of the United States in the aftermath of the attacks.

Updated

As Democrats race to scale back their social policy bill – which, as initially proposed, would have spent $3.5tn over 10 years – new polling finds that 75% of Democratic voters would prefer their party leaders do the opposite.

According to a new CNN poll, three in four Democrats say the would prefer a bill that goes further to expand the social safety net and combat climate change over one that costs less and enacts fewer of those policies.

Support for the go-big approach was highest among Democrats who described themselves as “liberal” but two-thirds of “moderate” and “conservative” Democrats also shared that view, the poll found.

The all-important political independents – viewed as swing voters – are more evenly divided over how Democrats should proceed, according to CNN, “with 36% saying lawmakers should pass a more comprehensive bill, 32% that they should pass a smaller bill, and another 32% that they should pass nothing at all.

The survey also found that 50% of Americans approve of Biden’s performance, while 49% disapprove.

In the new poll, 50% approve while 49% disapprove, which has led to pushback among some analysts that coverage of Biden’s plummeting poll numbers is overblown.

The FDA on Wednesday released a set of new, voluntary guidelines to help Americans eat less salt.

The long-awaited guidelines, aim to reduce the average daily sodium intake by 12% over the next 2.5 years by pressuring food manufacturers, restaurants and other food service companies to significantly reduce their use of salt. The guidance outlines 163 categories, from baby food, to cheese, to cookies.

According to the FDA, a majority of the sodium intake in Americans’ diets - as high as 70% - comes from packaged food or meals prepared by restaurants. This makes it harder for Americans to make the changes on their own.

Americans consume an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, the FDA said. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises individuals 14 years and older limit their consumption to 2,300 milligrams a day. That is linked to high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Updated

Democrat Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s former governor who is running to recapture the office, cast an early ballot on Wednesday morning in northern Virginia.

Historically, the off-cycle Virginia governor’s race is a preview of how a new president’s party will fare in the upcoming midterm elections. Though the state has become more consistently Democratic in recent years, thanks to demographic changes that have fueled a political realignment in the suburbs, this year’s governor’s race is competitive.

(In Virginia, governors cannot serve consecutive terms.)

McAuliffe is trying to paint his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, as a Trumpian figure who wants to roll back abortion rights in a state that recently passed new protections.

“Donald Trump wants to use this election to get up off the mat and run in 2024,” McAuliffe told reporters before voting. To emphasize the point, his campaign placed “YOUNGKIN = TRUMP” signs near the site.

Youngkin, as the Guardian’s own Joanie Greve has reported, is walking a very fine line as he attempts to defy the state’s leftward tilt and become the next governor of Virginia.

“The self-described ‘political outsider’ and former investment firm executive is attempting to appeal to Virginia’s independent voters without angering a Republican base that remains loyal to Trump,” she wrote.

The election is on 2 November, but early voting began last month.

Asked about concerns from airline pilots about the long-term health impacts of the vaccine, Fauci said there is not “any true basis” for those worries. Murthy added that there is far more evidence around the long-term health impacts of contracting the virus that might affect their ability to fly.

In response to a question about herd immunity, Fauci said it would be hard to pinpoint exactly when the US will reach that threshold. A “reasonable assumption’ is likely around the point when there are fewer than 10,000 cases per day, Fauci said, adding quickly: “I would hope it’d be considerably less than 10,000.”

As to whether the future of Covid will look like a perpetual “bad flu season,” Fauci said perhaps not.

“The one thing that we do know is that we have a vaccine for Covid-19 that is far, far better than the vaccines that we have for influenza,” he said. “So that might be the wild card in there to make it not like the flu and to get much lower [infection rates] than we get with the flu season.”

He reiterated that the only way to get to that level is by vaccinating more Americans.

Updated

Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, implored Americans to get vaccinated. He said vaccines are the “answer to getting us to control” over the coronavirus.

“It is going to be very difficult to at least in the foreseeable future and maybe ever to truly eliminate this highly transmissible virus,” he said. That’s where vaccines are critical to reaching a “level of control of the virus that would allow us to be able to essentially approach the kind of normal that we are all craving for and that we all talk about.”

“We can get to control without a doubt,” he said. “It is within our power and within our capability.”

Vivek Murthy, US surgeon general, offered a robust defense of the FDA’s vaccine approval process. Because of that, he says has encouraged those in his life who are eligible for a booster to get one and will be vaccinating his five-year-old son when the FDA authorizes emergency use for children.

Updated

The White House coronavirus task force briefing is underway.

Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, offered new vaccination numbers. By the end of the day, more than 7 million Americans will have received their Covid-19 booster shot, with 3 million Americans receiving a third jab in the past week.

He said there are 66 million Americans eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine are still unvaccinated.

Rochelle Wolensky, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), outlined new research on the efficacy of covid-19 vaccinations and mask mandates.

A study of more than 1,000 schools in Arizona’s Maricopa and Pima counties found that schools without a mask requirement were 3.5x more likely to have a Covid outbreak than schools requiring students to wear masks.

According to the study’s findings, there were 113 Covid-19 outbreaks in school without a mask requirement compared with 16 outbreaks in schools with early mask requirements.

“Masks in schools work to protect our children to keep them and their school communities safe and to keep them in school for in-person learning,” she said.

A second study that included two million people from 800,000 families found that “as the number of family numbers vaccinated against covid-19 increased the risk to the unvaccinated family members decreased.

“Family members with three or more family members vaccinated provided greater than 90% protection for those who were unvaccinated.”

Wolensky said the best protection for children who are not eligible to be vaccinated is to make sure that everyone else in their household is vaccinated, and that they are wearing a mask when they attend school and participate in other indoor activities.

Updated

3...2...1... liftoff.

Actor William Shatner has boldly gone where no man (his age) has gone before: space.

william shatner
Blue Origin New Shepard rocket blasts off carrying Star Trek actor William Shatner Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

Shatner, 90, who famously played Captain Kirk in Star Trek, became the oldest person in space on Wednesday aboard a rocket built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

William Shatner
Star Trek actor William Shatner before lift off Photograph: Blue Origin/Reuters

Updated

Democrats are racing against the clock to pass both major pieces of the president’s Build Back Better Agenda by their self-imposed deadline of 31 October. And so far, negotiations have yielded far more tricks than treats. Spooky stuff, if you’re a Democrat waiting for a deal, like say, Terry McAuliffe, who thinks its passage will provide the Democrat a much-needed boost in the Virginia governor’s race next month. (more on that next.)

This morning, Politico reported that senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, two centrist holdouts on the president’s social policy package, remain far apart on major initiatives, including prescription drug pricing reform and climate change.

According to Politico, Manchin has been more forthright with his Senate colleagues about what he can and cannot live with in the legislation, while Sinema will only speak to the White House directly, a source of growing frustration for Democrats.

Politico’s morning newsletter quotes a “source close to Biden who spent the last few days talking to senior White House officials” as saying: “Manchin and Sinema want very different things, both in terms of revenue and programs. If you just took their currently presented red lines you wouldn’t have enough left to get this past progressives in the House and Senate. It wouldn’t raise enough money and it wouldn’t do enough big programs.”

Sinema is reportedly opposed to a plan that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, one of the most popular policies in the package that is supported by 94% of her constituents, according to a recent poll. Manchin is open to supporting a version of the drug pricing reform, Politico reports, but he is insisting the bill include a plan to tax prescription opioids, which is “vehemently opposed by Sinema’s allies at PhRMA and one that would dilute the Democrats’s prescription drug pricing plan.”

The senators are also reportedly at odds over how to proceed on climate change. Manchin represents a state that relies heavily on coal and natural gas production while Sinema represents a state on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

Already, some Democrats are lowering expectations around meeting the 31 October deadline. But the longer negotiations drag on, the harder it may be to strike a deal.

Social Security benefits to rise 5.9% for roughly 70 million people, agency says

The Social Security Administration announced on Wednesday that as many as 70 million Americans will soon receive a nearly 6% increase in their benefit checks, the largest cost-of-living adjustment for retirees in decades.

The 5.9% boost is in response to a spike in inflation caused by supply chain bottlenecks, rising prices, worker shortages and other economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the agency, its more than 64 million Social Security beneficiaries will receive bigger checks beginning in January 2022, while increased payments to approximately 8 million recipients of Supplemental Security Income will begin on 30 December 30. Some Americans receive both benefits.

“Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $147,000 from $142,800,” the Social Security Administration announced Wednesday.

Updated

Border-state lawmakers hailed the administration’s decision to open land borders.

“Today’s long-overdue announcement is fantastic news for Mainers who have deeply missed having their Canadian relatives at holiday celebrations, family functions, and other milestone events,” said Senator Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine.

“Finally, the New York-Canadian border will be open again to vaccinated travelers from both nations,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat of New York. “The northern border is an indispensable economic partnership and ties our two nations together and I have repeatedly urged the Biden administration to enact this common sense policy now that 78% of Canadians over the age of 12 are vaccinated. This reopening will be welcome news to countless businesses, medical providers, families, and loved ones that depend on travel across the northern border.”

The US will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel in November, ending a 19-month freeze due to the Covid-19 pandemic as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the US and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic.

House approves bill to avoid risk of 'catastrophic' debt default

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of all things politics.

Late Tuesday, the House gave final approval to a bill that temporarily raises the government’s borrowing limit. The move avoids the risk of a “catastrophic” debt default – at least until early December.

The administration also announced that it will lift travel restrictions at the borders with Canada and Mexico starting in November for fully vaccinated travelers.

Today, Joe Biden will sign into law an act “to designate the September 11th National Memorial Trail Route” at 11.15am. The US president will then meet with senior officials and stakeholders to discuss collective efforts to address global transportation supply chain bottlenecks before delivering remarks on the subject.

The White House announced on Wednesday that three of the largest US goods carriers – Walmart, FedEx and UPS – will expand the hours of their operations during the holiday season to try to ease supply chain bottlenecks around the world, a senior administration official told reporters.

The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach will also move to 24/7 operations as a step toward helping ease the shipping backlog.

Here’s what else we’re watching today:

The White House Coronavirus task force will hold a public briefing at 11am and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will brief reporters at 1pm.

The first lady, Jill Biden, will visit Chicago and Allentown, Pennsylvania for conversations with Hispanic Americans.

Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, is casting an early ballot this morning in northern Virginia.

And, just days after runners from around the world competed in the Boston Marathon, the supreme court will hear oral argument in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the terrorist bombing of the race in 2013 that killed three people and injured hundreds more. The justices will consider whether to reimpose the death sentence for Tsarnaev after a federal appeals court voided it.

Congress is on recess this week, as Democrats scramble to reach an agreement on the president’s Build Back Better agenda. However, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on the recruitment of veterans to violent extremist groups at 10am.

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