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President Biden is moving on new fronts in his latest spate of policy actions Tuesday that include boosting COVID vaccine supplies and addressing racial equity. Biden's actions come as the U.S. Senate gears up to put his predecessor on trial. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor report.
President Biden is moving on new fronts tonight in his latest spate of policy actions. They include boosting COVID vaccine supplies and addressing racial equity, this as the United States Senate geared up to put his predecessor on trial.
Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins reports.
Rounding out his first full week in office, President Biden took on a longstanding American failing, racial discrimination, signing a series of executive actions.
White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice echoed the president's commitment to expand opportunities for Americans.
These aren't feel-good policies. The evidence is clear. Investing in equity is good for economic growth and it creates jobs for all Americans.
Mr. Biden targeted four areas, housing, federal prisons, tribal sovereignty, and harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The racial problem overlaps with the health one, with communities of color hit hardest by the coronavirus and government response. A CNN analysis of 14 states concluded that white Americans are getting COVID vaccines at more than twice the rate of Blacks and Latinos.
In the afternoon, the president announced that governors will receive 16 percent more vaccine doses next week, a total of 10 million.
President Joseph Biden:
This is going to allow millions of more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. We have got a long way to go, though.
The new administration is also watching the Capitol, where the U.S. Senate was busy, today confirming Antony Blinken as secretary of state inside.
The yeas are 78. The nays are 22. The nomination is confirmed.
As, outside, Vice President Harris conducted a ceremonial swearing-in of new Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
And committees continued moving through a stack of other Cabinet nominees, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as commerce secretary and Alejandro Mayorkas, nominated for homeland security secretary. He won committee approval, moving him closer to confirmation.
The Senate also worked on its own mission-critical business. Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell dropped his demand that Democrats guarantee they would keep the filibuster rule, which gives both parties power on most votes, this after two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, stressed they would not vote to dismantle it.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:
We have a higher calling than endless partisan escalation. We placed our trust in the institution itself and a common desire to do the right thing. I'm grateful that's been reciprocated by at least a pair of our colleagues across the aisle.
Now all sides expect an agreement allowing the new 50-50 Senate to fully function.
Majority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer:
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:
I'm glad we're finally able to get the Senate up and running. My only regret is that it took so long, because we have a great deal we need to accomplish over the next several weeks and months.
And there was more news. House managers last night delivered the article of impeachment to the Senate. As a result, senators were sworn in as jurors today for the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky challenged the trial a unconstitutional for targeting a president now out of office and his speech.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. :
Who hasn't used the words fight figuratively? And are we going to put every politician in jail, are we going to impeach every politician who has used the words fight figuratively in a speech?
Paul raised a point of order, but the Senate rejected his challenge on a mostly party-line vote.
As impeachment moves forward, a growing recognition that it is an uphill effort. President Biden told CNN last night he did not think there would be enough Republican votes to convict Mr. Trump.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.
And Yamiche Alcindor is at the White House with more on the Biden agenda.
So, hello, Yamiche.
We know the president's now been in office almost a full week. Today, he was speaking both about the vaccine distribution challenges around the country and about equity. So, tell us more about what he's doing on those fronts.
Well, President Biden is ramping up vaccine distribution around the country. And he's also pledging to put equity and fighting systemic racism at the center of everything he does.
On the COVID vaccine and the response he's doing, he said he's increasing weekly vaccine supply to states, tribes and territories by 16 percent. He is also increasing the total U.S. vaccine order by 50 percent, from 400 million doses to 600 million doses.
That means he says there is going to be enough vaccines for 300 million Americans by the summer. Of course, the U.S. population is 329 million Americans. So, that's a big deal there.
The other thing is that equity, he said, is important, not just for Americans of color and Black Americans, but for all Americans. He said that we will have a safer and more secure and more prosperous country if we all get together and fight systemic racism.
And, Yamiche, we know also, separately, the president had his first phone call today with Russia's President Vladimir Putin. What is the White House saying about that?
The White House said that President Biden telephoned the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and that the two men talked about a number of issues, including an arms treaty that's being negotiated. He also said that the U.S. really affirmed its support for Ukraine sovereignty. They also talked about Russia — alleged Russian interference in the 2020 election, as well as the poisoning of a Russian opposition leader, and the Russian alleged hack on U.S. governments, as well as U.S. businesses.
That is seen as really important, because President Trump was seen as too lenient on Russia and not being willing to really confront Vladimir Putin on a number of issues, including meddling in the U.S. election.
So, it's seen as President Biden really taking a tougher stance on Russia, which is what he pledged to do during the campaign.
Of course, we'd love to know more about that phone call, and I'm sure you will be reporting on it.
Yamiche Alcindor, thank you very much.
Thank you, Judy.
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