News Wrap: Republican Sen. Susan Collins backs Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court

In our news wrap Wednesday, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson picked up the support of Republican Sen. Susan Collins, President Biden is officially boosted for a second time, top Republicans and Democrats in the Senate negotiate on a pandemic funding bill, and heavy storms in Australia touch off major flooding forcing thousands to flee their homes.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson picked up her first support from a Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine.

    In a statement, Collins praised Jackson's experience, qualifications and integrity. And she lamented how partisan the confirmation process has become. Her support gives Jackson at least 51 votes, without Vice President Harris having to break a tie.

    On the pandemic, President Joe Biden got his second booster shot. He sat for another dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the White House. Federal regulators approved fourth shots for those 50 and older on Tuesday. The president, who is 79, also pressed Congress again for additional spending to control the pandemic. He said — quote — "This isn't partisan. It's medicine."

    Top Republicans and Democrats in the Senate kept negotiating today on a pandemic funding bill. They are aiming for roughly $15.6 billion, but have not agreed on how to pay for it.

    At a congressional hearing, a top Health and Human Services Department official warned of vaccine shortages if there's no agreement.

    Dawn O'Connell, Department of Health and Human Services: We have enough to be able to provide a boost to the 50-and-older population that was just authorized and recommended by FDA and CDC yesterday. We do have significant concerns about whether we would have enough vaccine if we were to do a general population boost campaign in the fall.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Republicans want to repurpose pandemic funds that were never spent. Democrats have balked at taking back money that was earmarked for the states.

    Also today, the Los Angeles City Council ended a mandate that businesses verify customers' vaccination status. And the CDC dropped a warning about taking cruises. It said that passengers can decide for themselves.

    In Australia, heavy storms touched off major coastal flooding for a second time in weeks, forcing thousands to flee their homes. The floods hit northern parts of New South Wales, including Lismore and Byron Bay, a popular tourist destination. Water submerged entire towns, with some regions hit by a month's rainfall in less than six hours.

    Locals could only watch as homes and businesses were destroyed.

  • Annick Nuylle, Byron Bay Store Owner:

    Oh, it's devastating. I have had this store for 17 years, so I have put many years and a lot of love and hard work. So, no matter if there is or there is not insurance, I think it's my livelihood, and it's my — has been my life for 17 years, so it's very sad.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The extreme storms have dropped more than 21 inches of rain on the Sydney area this month, its wettest March ever.

    Back in this country, federal prosecutors in Michigan rested their case against four men charged with plotting to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The judge in Grand Rapids then rejected a defense motion for acquittal. The men were arrested in 2020 for allegedly planning to abduct the Democratic governor, partly in anger over COVID restrictions.

    The nation's first state task force on reparations for slavery has decided to base eligibility on lineage. A California panel voted Tuesday to limit compensation to descendants of Black people who were in the U.S. before the 20th century. It will be up to state lawmakers to authorize any funding for a reparations plan.

    On Wall Street, a four-day stocks rally came to an end. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 65 points to close at 35228. The Nasdaq fell 177 points, more than 1 percent. The S&P 500 slipped 29.

    And one of Hollywood's best-known actors, Bruce Willis, is putting his career on hold due to a brain ailment. His family announced today that Willis has aphasia, a disorder that interferes with understanding or expressing speech. Willis is 67. And over four decades, he has starred in films of — in scores of films, including "Die Hard," "Pulp Fiction," and "The Sixth Sense."

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": we break down the details of a new plan in Congress to increase taxes on billionaires; a professor and entrepreneur prepare to head to space on Blue Origin's latest mission; a Florida school uses art displays from around the world to promote diversity and inclusion; plus much more.

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