10 things you need to know today: January 27, 2021

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Harold Maass
·7 min read
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1.

The Senate on Tuesday narrowly voted down a Republican proposal to dismiss the House's new impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump as unconstitutional. The 55-45 vote cleared the way for Trump's second impeachment trial to begin in February, but with the support of only five Republicans. Democrats need to convince 17 Republicans to cross party lines to muster the 67 votes necessary to convict Trump of the charge that he incited the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection by his supporters who attacked the U.S. Capitol. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who voted for dismissing the trial, reportedly believes Trump provoked the mob behind the deadly Capitol attack, but has not decided whether to vote to convict. [The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times]

1.

The Biden administration has ordered another 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna, President Biden said Tuesday. Adding the new purchase to the 400 million doses already ordered, the U.S. should have enough vaccine to inoculate every American who wants a vaccine by the end of summer. "It will be enough to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans to beat the pandemic," Biden said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 23.5 million doses had been administered in the U.S. as of Tuesday, with more than 3.4 million people fully vaccinated. Vaccine doses shipped to states are due to increase by 20 percent to 10 million per week, a Biden administration official said. Johnson & Johnson plans to release data on its single-dose vaccine, which soon could add to the supply. [NBC News, The Hill]

2.

Federal health officials on Tuesday called for returning children to schools as soon as possible, citing a "preponderance of available evidence" indicating that coronavirus infections can be prevented in classrooms with strict adherence to mask requirements and social distancing guidelines. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote in the journal JAMA that schools with in-person instruction have reported some COVID-19 cases, but they have not been major drivers of infections. Some indoor sports have resulted in infections, while many outdoor activities were far less risky. The report came as parents, teachers, and politicians debate how quickly to fully reopen schools, with President Biden vowing to return children to "safe schools" as soon as possible. [The Washington Post, The Hill]

3.

The number of coronavirus cases that have been reported worldwide surpassed 100 million on Tuesday, according to a New York Times database. More than two million deaths have been confirmed globally, including more than 420,000 in the United States. Experts say the true numbers are probably much higher. More than 500,000 new cases are being reported every day around the world. In a positive development, U.S. public health officials reported that the number of daily cases has started decreasing after a post-holiday surge, although the number of daily deaths has remained above 3,000. Health experts are concerned that the U.S. figures could rise again due to highly infectious new variants, as they have in Britain and South Africa. The U.K. became the first European country to surpass 100,000 deaths. [The New York Times]

4.

Russia and the United States have agreed to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty, the Kremlin announced Tuesday. The White House did not immediately confirm the deal, but said President Biden had held his first phone call since Inauguration Day with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House says Biden raised several "matters of concern," including the SolarWinds hack, Russia allegedly placing bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, election interference, and the poisoning and arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which has prompted protests in Russia. "President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies," the White House said. [Reuters, The Associated Press]

5.

President Biden on Tuesday told the Justice Department to stop using private prisons, as part of his administration's effort to create a more just and equitable society. Biden also directed his administration to identify and fix any racial bias in housing programs. "We need to make equity and justice part of what we do every day," Biden said, "today, tomorrow, and every day." Biden's remarks came as he signed four new executive orders that continued a wave of actions intended to address racial inequality. Susan Rice, head of Biden's Domestic Policy Council, said the administration also would address inequities through its economic agenda, citing estimates that racial discrimination has cost the economy $16 trillion in the last two decades. "The evidence is clear," she said. "Investing in equity is good for economic growth." [USA Today]

7.

The Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm Antony Blinken as the next secretary of state. Blinken, a longtime adviser to President Biden, was approved by a 78-22 vote. He has indicated he will move to undo many policies instated under former President Donald Trump, especially those focused on Trump's "America first" approach. Blinken has signaled he will rejoin global alliances, eventually including an effort to limit Iran's nuclear program. He also promised a tougher approach to Russia's cyberattacks and election interference. Though he breaks with his predecessor, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on many fronts, Blinken told lawmakers he believes the Trump administration "was right" in "basic principle" on its tough approach on China. [The New York Times]

8.

A federal judge in Texas on Tuesday temporarily blocked the Biden administration's order for a moratorium on deportations. The 14-day pause by Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump appointee, marked an early defeat for President Biden's immigration policies, which include rolling back strict restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump. Biden's 100-day pause on deportations took effect on Friday, but was immediately challenged by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. In the lawsuit, Paxton cited an agreement Texas and the Homeland Security Department signed near the end of Trump's presidency. The deal required the department to consult with the state before changing policies. [CNN]

9.

Yogananda Pittman, acting chief of the Capitol Police, apologized during a closed-door briefing to Congress on Tuesday for "our failings" during the riot at the Capitol that left five people dead earlier this month. "On January 6th, in the face of a terrorist attack by tens of thousands of insurrectionists determined to stop the certification of Electoral College votes, the department failed to meet its own high standards as well as yours," Pittman said. "I am here to offer my sincerest apologies on behalf of the department." Pittman told Congress that Capitol Police "should have been more prepared for this attack" as "we knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target." Pittman, who was not serving as acting chief when the attack occurred, also praised Capitol police officers who "performed valiantly" as "heroes." [CNN, The New York Times]

10.

The Baseball Writers' Association did not vote to admit any new players into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Tim Mead, president of the Hall of Fame, announced late Tuesday. The player who got closest was controversial pitcher Curt Schilling, who was named on 71.1 percent of the ballots, falling 16 votes shy of the 75 percent needed for induction. The next two top vote-getters were all-time home run leader Barry Bonds at 61.8 percent, and pitcher Roger Clemens, at 61.6 percent. Support for Bonds and Clemens has remained steady just below the cut-off point in recent years due to resistance to admitting players linked to professional baseball's steroid era. [ESPN]

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