- Joe Biden was on Capitol Hill for a meeting to discuss Senate Democrats’ $3.5tn “human infrastructure” plan. The president attended the Senate Democratic caucus’ weekly policy lunch this afternoon, one day after majority leader Chuck Schumer announced an agreement on the spending proposal. Speaking to reporters just before the lunch started, Biden said, “We’re going to get this done.”
- Schumer acknowledged it would be a “long” road to passing the $3.5tn proposal. Senate Democrats still need to hammer out the details of the spending package and get the entire caucus on board before they can move forward. “But we are going to get this done because we so fervently believe that we must make average American lives a whole lot better,” Schumer said.
- Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell dismissed Biden’s criticism of Republican voting restrictions, as experts warn that the US is facing a potential democratic crisis. The Republican leader specifically mocked Biden’s argument that the voting restrictions and the “big lie” of widespread fraud in the 2020 election represent “the most significant test of our democracy since the civil war”, as the president said in Philadelphia yesterday. “What utter nonsense,” McConnell said. “It would be laugh-out-loud funny if it wasn’t so completely and totally irresponsible.”
- The select committee investigating the 6 January insurrection announced it will hold its first hearing later this month. On 27 July, the panel will hear first-hand testimony from some of the US Capitol police and DC Metropolitan police Department officers who defended the Capitol as pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the building. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy has still not named anyone to the committee, and it’s unclear whether he will do so before the hearing occurs.
- The Biden administration said it will start evacuating at-risk Afghans by the end of the month. The announcement from Jen Psaki comes as the US military continues its withdrawal operation and the Taliban makes territorial advances across Afghanistan. “The reason that we are taking these steps is because these are courageous individuals,” Psaki said. “We want to make sure we recognize and value the role they’ve played over the last several years.”
Shortly before the deadly attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen Mark Milley, told aides the US was facing a “Reichstag moment” because Donald Trump was preaching “the gospel of the Führer”, according to an eagerly awaited book about Trump’s last year in office.
The excerpts from I Alone Can Fix This, by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, were reported by New York magazine on Wednesday. The authors’ employer, the Washington Post, published the first extract from the book a day earlier. It will be published next week.
Milley’s invocation of Germany under the Third Reich follows a report in another book, Frankly, We Did Win This Election, by Michael C Bender, that Trump told his chief of staff, John Kelly, “Hitler did a lot of good things”.
Trump denies having made the remark.
Leonnig and Rucker report that Milley spoke to an “old friend”, who warned the general that Trump and his allies were trying to “overturn the government” in response to Joe Biden’s election victory, which Trump falsely maintains was the result of electoral fraud.
Milley is reported to have said: “They may try, but they’re not going to fucking succeed. You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with guns.”
A cluster of midwestern and southern states have emerged as a new center of Covid-19 outbreaks, as the highly transmissible Delta variant sweeps across poorly vaccinated populations in the US.
The news marks a potentially serious setback for the Biden administration’s attempts to curb and control the pandemic as the Delta variant – which has wreaked havoc in the UK and elsewhere – is starting to spread more widely in America.
It also comes as life in much of the US has started to return to near normal, with many Covid-19 restrictions having been lifted, and as the vaccination program has slowed down.
Rates of Covid-19 cases in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi are among the highest in the country, and their vaccination rates among the lowest. Covid also appears to be gaining ground in the American west.
Even so, overall numbers of new Covid-19 cases are low. New infections are less than one-10th the average daily rate at the height of the pandemic in January, even as they have doubled in the last two weeks.
“We are not where we were in April 2020,” said Dr David Dowdy, an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University and an expert in infectious diseases. Nevertheless, he said, “We’ve seen those counts can go up substantially and quickly, so we need to be cautious but without panicking.”