Monday morning news – March 8, 2021

Senate passes $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill » Senate Democrats over the weekend approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.

AUDIO: The yeas are 50. The nays are 49, and the amendment is agreed to. 

That was a straight party line vote. 

Among the measures in the bill, billions in funding for testing and vaccine development, relief for state and local governments, housing aid and child care and $1,400 stimulus payments for most Americans. 

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill will deliver badly needed relief. 

SCHUMER: It’s the most robust relief package to help working families and getting people out of poverty that we’ve seen probably since the New Deal.

But Republicans had a very different way of describing it. They say it’s not really a COVID-19 relief bill at all. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso…

BARRASSO: This was not really about coronavirus in terms of the spending. This was a liberal wish list of liberal spending, just basically filled with pork. 

Democrats used a process called budget reconciliation to pass the bill with a simple majority to avoid a GOP filibuster. 

Bluedog Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin said while no Republicans voted in favor of the bill, he made sure their voices were heard. 

MANCHIN: A lot of the things I was able to get into that bill and target the bill the way we had talked about came because of negotiations and talks with my Republican and Democratic colleagues. 

Manchin held up passage of the bill for hours to hammer out a last-minute compromise on federal unemployment benefits. Under the compromise, the Senate bill will renew $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits instead of the $400 per week in the House version of the bill. 

Saturday’s vote sets up final approval by the House next week. Lawmakers will then rush it to President Biden’s desk. 

Biden admin. continues to urge caution in reopening » As numerous states begin to ease coronavirus restrictions, the Biden administration is once again urging state and local governments to slow down. 

The president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CBS’s Face the Nation

FAUCI: It really would be risky to have yet again another surge, which we do not want to happen because we’re plateauing at quite a high level, 60-to-70,000 new infections per day is quite high. 

New infections peaked in early January at 300,000 per day, then fell off sharply for five weeks straight, but in the middle of last month, that progress ground to a halt. Over the past 3 or 4 weeks, the rate of new daily infections is virtually unchanged. 

And epidemiologist Dr. Michel Olsterholm warned on Sunday…

OLSTERHOLM: We are in the eye of the hurricane right now. It appears that things are going very well. We even see blue skies. But what we know is about to come upon us is this situation with this B117 variant, the virus that originated in the United Kingdom, which today is wreaking havoc in parts of Europe. 

Dozens of countries have renewed lockdowns to try to control spread of the variant. 

But even as the decline of new daily cases in the United States has leveled off since mid-February, new hospitalizations have continued to drop. So some governors say now that most high risk Americans have access to vaccines, it’s time to reopen. 

Biden voting executive order » President Biden signed an executive order on Sunday he says is aimed at expanding voting access.

He announced the plan on the 56th commemoration of the “Bloody Sunday” incident in Selma, Alabama, in which state troopers attacked voting rights activists.  

BIDEN: On the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, I’m signing an executive order to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote and improve access to voting. 

The order directs federal agencies to expand access to voter registration and election information, and pushes an overhaul of the government’s website. 

It also calls on the heads of agencies to come up with plans to give federal employees time off to vote or volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers.  

The move comes just days after House Democrats passed a sweeping voting and elections bill. But the legislation is likely to die in the Senate/ Republicans complain the bill is highly partisan and goes far beyond improving voting access. 

Myanmar plunges deeper into crisis » Myanmar plunged deeper into crisis Sunday, as the military continues its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. 

AUDIO: [Sound of protest] 

Police again clashed with demonstrators in the streets of Mandalay and other cities reportedly arresting hundreds of protesters. 

Police also occupied universities and hospitals. Taking over hospitals would allow the authorities to easily arrest wounded people presumed to be protesters.

Also on Sunday, a coalition of labor unions called for a nationwide strike to begin today in protest of the military coup. Workers in several industries have joined the protest movement, most notably from the state railway and the banking sector.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praises his Democratic Caucus at a news conference just after the Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, March 6, 2021. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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