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News Wrap: Biden denounces loosening of COVID restrictions in some states

In our news wrap Wednesday, President Biden denounced decisions some state leaders are making to loosen COVID restrictions a day after Texas and Mississippi lifted mask mandates, the U.S. House moved to pass major election changes, at least 34 protesters were shot dead in Myanmar amid a crackdown by security forces, and rockets struck a U.S. base in Iraq.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: President Biden denounced decisions some state leaders are making to loosen COVID restrictions.

    Republican governors in Texas and Mississippi lifted mask mandates on Tuesday.

    At the White House. Mr. Biden said it is a big mistake.

  • Pres. Joe Biden:

    We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we're able to get vaccines in people's arms.

    And the last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, in the meantime, everything's fine, take off your mask, forget it. It still matters.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves fired back in a tweet that said: "We should trust Americans, not insult them."

    The U.S. House of Representatives moved this evening to pass some of the biggest election changes in decades. Democrats said the bill would open up voting reform, campaign finance, and curb political gerrymandering. Republicans charged that it would fuel corruption. They debated much of the day.

  • Rep. Jamie Raskin:

    We should be defending everybody's right to vote, everybody's right to participate against all the schemes to undermine voting rights. And we should make sure that everybody knows who is putting money into the political system.

  • Rep. Andy Barr:

    Election laws should make it easy to vote and hard to cheat. But this bill would not only make it easy to cheat. It would effectively make it legal to cheat. And at a time when half of Americans have lost confidence in the integrity of our elections, this bill will only drive distrust and division higher.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the Senate, the legislation would need 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.

    The Senate Finance Committee deadlocked along party lines today on Xavier Becerra's nomination for secretary of Health and Human Services. Republicans objected to his defense of abortion rights, but he is still expected to be confirmed by the full Senate.

    Last night, Neera Tanden withdrew as nominee for budget chief. She faced opposition in both parties over previous comments about lawmakers.

    In Myanmar, local reports say that at least 34 protesters were shot dead, as security forces stepped up a violent crackdown. Demonstrators in Yangon set off fire extinguishers and smoke grenades for cover. On Sunday, 18 protesters were killed in the city.

    Rockets struck a base in Western Iraq today, and the Pentagon said that one American contractor died of a heart attack. The rockets targeted an installation in Anbar province that houses U.S. and coalition troops. The Pentagon said it would not shy away from retaliating once it determines who staged the attack.

  • John Kirby:

    We're going to let the investigation go. We're going to see where that takes us. And if there is a need to further respond, we will do that, as I have said, in a manner of our own choosing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Last week, a U.S. air raid hit Iranian-backed fighters in the region, in response to a previous attack.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Border Patrol now says that 13 people who died in a California highway crash had just been smuggled in from Mexico. All told, 44 migrants crammed into two large SUVs, came through a hole cut in the border fence early Tuesday. One of the vehicles was hit by a tractor trailer a short time later.

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said today that he will not resign over allegations that he sexually harassed three women. But he issued a new apology. In Albany, Cuomo said he never meant to offend anyone and has learned an important lesson.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

    I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional. And I truly and deeply apologize for it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Democratic governor also said that he will fully cooperate with an investigation by the state attorney general.

    The Texas Utilities Commission ordered cuts today to sky-high power fees from last month's winter storm emergency. That brought relief for power providers, but there was no vote on shielding consumers from the price hikes.

    Meanwhile, much of Jackson, Mississippi's water supply remained out of action after bitter cold severely damaged the system.

    Facebook says that it will lift a ban on political and social issue ads, effective tomorrow. The company imposed the ban after last year's presidential election. It said it wanted to block the spread of misinformation.

    And on Wall Street, new worries about interest rates and inflation hit tech stocks and the broader market. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 121 points to close at 31270. The Nasdaq fell 361 points. That's more than 2.5 percent. And the S&P 500 slipped.

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