Biden to address voting rights in Georgia amid mounting pressure
President Joe Biden will issue an urgent call to protect the constitutional right to vote and safeguard the integrity of the nation’s elections while in Atlanta Tuesday. Biden’s planned remarks, on the heels of his blunt post-mortem on the Jan. 6 2021 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, will come as he braces for a bruising fight over voting rights legislation that has stalled in the Senate. Biden’s choice of Georgia for a major voting rights address is no accident. The state has a rich history entwined with the struggle for civil rights – one that activists warn is under assault. After Biden beat Trump in Georgia by less than 12,000 votes in 2020, the state became one of the first to put in place more restrictive voting laws.
Students in LA return to schools; Chicago isn’t far behind
Los Angeles students will return to in-person instruction Tuesday – as long as they produce a negative COVID-19 test, regardless of vaccination status. Meanwhile, students in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest school system, are due back in school Wednesday after city and union leaders reached a tentative agreement late Monday on COVID-19 safety protocols. Teachers were expected to return to work Tuesday, but the union’s 25,000 members must still vote on the agreement. With COVID infections fueled by the omicron variant surging after holiday breaks, about 5,400 public schools nationwide closed or shifted to remote instruction last week, Burbio, a tracking site, reports. Teachers unions for some large districts say in-person instruction during the latest surge is dangerous because their districts aren’t supplying the necessary resources, such as ample COVID tests and higher-quality face masks. Education experts have increasingly cautioned the time for districtwide shutdowns has passed and that kids need to be in school.
Fauci, Walensky to testify before Senate on COVID variants
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Rochelle Walensky and others will testify before a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday about the federal response to COVID-19 variants. The U.S. is now averaging more than 700,000 new coronavirus cases per day, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows, as the more transmissible omicron variant sweeps across the nation. President Joe Biden has faced recent criticism for a shortage of at-home rapid tests and the administration is now working to make the tests more accessible. Later this month, the federal government will launch a website to begin making 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests available via mail. And starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans.
US, Russia still far apart on Ukraine. What’s next?
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will brief NATO and European Union allies Tuesday after an intense day of high-stakes talks in Geneva over Russia’s military buildup on its border with Ukraine. On Monday, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said “no progress” was made on Moscow’s central demand: that Ukraine is permanently barred from joining NATO. But Sherman called that proposal a “non-starter.” Though this week’s talks are not expected to yield any major progress, it may buy more time as the U.S. looks to rally more allies behind potential economic sanctions should Russian President Vladimir Putin decide to escalate tensions. Sherman said while Russian officials have expressed a desire to move swiftly, “we must give diplomacy and dialogue the time and space required to make progress on such complex issues.”
Ahead of hearing, Fed’s Powell says high inflation ‘exacts a toll’ on families
High inflation is taking a toll on American families, “particularly for those less able to meet the higher costs of essentials like food, housing, and transportation,” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged in remarks to be delivered at a Tuesday congressional hearing. The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on Powell’s nomination to a second four-year term Tuesday. President Joe Biden announced Powell’s reappointment in late November. Inflation has soared to the highest levels in four decades, and on Wednesday the government is expected to report that consumer prices jumped 7.1% over the past 12 months, up from November’s 6.8% annual increase. Powell’s nomination is likely to be approved by the Senate with bipartisan support but members of Congress are sure to interrogate Powell and ask tough questions about whether the Fed can successfully take steps to rein in inflation without slowing the economy so much that it falls into recession.
Contributing: The Associated Press