Muted celebrations ring in New Year » AUDIO: [Fireworks]
Revelers welcomed the new year with muted celebrations on Thursday.
In Australia, one of the first countries to hit January 1st, fireworks exploded over Sydney’s famed Opera House as usual. But few people saw them in person.
New York’s Times Square, normally filled with thousands of people, remained empty ahead of the iconic crystal ball drop at midnight.
South Korea canceled its annual New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony—the first time that’s happened since it began in 1953. And police across Europe enforced early curfews designed to keep crowds from gathering.
But in a few counties where COVID-19 cases remain low—Taiwan and parts of the South Pacific, including New Zealand—public celebrations carried on much like normal.
Census misses end-of-year deadline » The U.S. Census Bureau did not release the final figures for this year’s population count on Thursday, as required by law. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has that story.
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: It was the first time the bureau missed the December 31st deadline in 40 years.
Agency officials say they plan to deliver the final count by early this year. But internal documents obtained earlier this month by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform show the numbers might not be ready until after President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20th.
The missed deadline does not come with any penalties. But it could put an end to President Trump’s plan to exclude illegal residents from the official count before it’s approved.
The president has already directed the bureau to exclude illegal residents from the count used to reapportion congressional districts, but his successor could rescind that order.
In addition to redrawing the congressional map, census counts are used to divvy up $1.5 trillion in federal funding each year.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
McConnell again blocks stimulus check expansion » For the third day in a row, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked an attempt to increase the amount of COVID-19 stimulus checks.
MCCONNELL: Borrowing from our grandkids to do socialism for rich people is a terrible way to get help to families who actually need it.
The House bill would boost the checks headed to most Americans from $600 to $2,000. It passed with bipartisan support at the urging of President Trump.
But McConnell has resisted calls to approve the additional spending in the Senate—unless it’s targeted to the families who actually need it. The stimulus checks already approved in the $900 billion package will go to anyone earning up to $75,000, regardless of financial hardship.
McConnell proposed a compromise that would include the $2,000 dollar payments as well as repeal protections for tech companies and establish a bipartisan commission to review the election results.
But Minority Leader Chuck Schumer rejected that proposal.
SCHUMER: The House is gone for the session. Any modification or addition to the House bill can’t become law. Either the Senate takes up and passes the House bill or struggling Americans will not get $2,000 checks during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The Senate will reconvene today to vote on a measure to override President Trump’s veto of the defense policy bill.
Sen. David Perdue to quarantine in final days of campaign » Senator David Perdue announced Thursday that he will go into quarantine after being exposed to someone with COVID-19.
The Republican lawmaker is in the final days of a tight runoff race for one of Georgia’s two Senate seats. The statement issued by his campaign did not say whether he intended to leave quarantine before Tuesday’s vote.
Perdue is facing Democrat Jon Ossoff while fellow Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler is defending her seat against Democrat Raphael Warnock.
Both Republican candidates were scheduled to join President Trump Monday for a rally in heavily conservative northwest Georgia.