In our news wrap Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a vote to change the filibuster rule and pass a Democratic voting rights bill, but Sen. Mitch mcConnell warned against it. Black lawmakers in Michigan sue to block new district maps for congressional and state legislative seats. The U.S. Labor Department reports a record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November.
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President Biden is trying to ease the national angst over the Omicron surge of COVID-19, as cases keep hitting new records.
He argued today that those fully vaccinated and boosted are very unlikely to get seriously ill. At the same time, he said his administration is working hard to address a nationwide shortage of COVID tests.
Joe Biden, President of the United States: On testing, I know this remains frustrating. Believe me, it's frustrating to me. But we're making improvements.
In the last two weeks, we have stood up federal testing sites all over the country. We're adding more each and every day.
In other developments, the CDC approved booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine, five months after the first two doses. That is down from six months.
And the state of Maryland declared an emergency and activated the National Guard, due to overwhelmed hospitals.
In the day's other news: Party leaders butted heads over the future of the filibuster in the evenly divided U.S. Senate. Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed again to schedule a vote on a rules change, because Republicans have blocked voting rights legislation.
But Republican Mitch McConnell warned against eliminating the need for 60 votes to end a filibuster. They spoke at separate news conferences.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY):
If Republicans continue to hijack the rules of the chamber to prevent action on something as critical as protecting our democracy, then the Senate will debate and consider changes to the rules.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
This is genuine radicalism. They want to turn the Senate into the House. They want to make it easy to fundamentally change the country.
It would take all 50 Senate Democrats to force a filibuster change, but one of them, West Virginia's Joe Manchin, voiced renewed doubts today about acting without Republican support.
Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush has announced he will retire when this term ends. The 75-year-old Democrat and former Black Panther has spent nearly 30 years in Congress. He is the 24th House Democrat to decide not to run for reelection.
Black lawmakers in Michigan, both current and former, are suing to block new district maps for congressional and state legislative seats. They say the plans illegally dilute Black voting strength by reducing the number of districts with Black majorities. A new independent commission drew the maps.
The winter storm that socked the Mid-Atlantic on Monday left hundreds of people marooned on an interstate highway in Virginia all night and into today late. They waited long hours in freezing weather along a 40-mile stretch of I-95 without food, water, or restrooms.
Virginia's Senator Tim Kaine got stuck trying to drive from Richmond to Washington.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA):
It was nerve-wracking overnight. And I will tell you, I had two things. I had a heavy coat and I also had a full tank of gas. And the problem is, a lot of people, when you're stuck that long between five miles from an interchange and the traffic isn't moving, folks are running out of gas.
The storm also played havoc with rail travel. An Amtrak train heading north from New Orleans was stalled at Lynchburg, Virginia, until late today by downed trees.
A Canadian court has ruled that Iran owes $84 million in damages for mistakenly downing an airliner in 2020. The Ukrainian jet was hit by two missiles, killing all 176 people on board.
More than 100 of the victims had Canadian citizenship. The Canadian ruling involved the families of six victims, but it is unclear if Tehran will ever pay the judgment.
In Sudan, a new round of mass protests filled the streets of Khartoum today, as the country's political paralysis deepened. Pro-democracy demonstrators again denounced the October military coup, and troops fired tear gas to break up the crowds. It followed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok's resignation on Sunday.
Sami Saleh, Sudanese Citizen (through translator):
Today, after Hamdok's resignation, the people are confirming the need for all parties to move forward despite the repression. They are facing off against the state and, as you can hear, the gas bombs being fired at those on the front lines who are facing this abuse for the sake of a free, peaceful, and just state.
Security forces have killed nearly 60 protesters and wounded hundreds more since the coup.
Record numbers of migrants braved the English Channel in small boats last year, crossing from France to England. Reports said today more than 28,000 people made that dangerous journey. That is triple the previous year's total.
Back in this country, a congressional committee is asking FOX News host Sean Hannity for information related to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. That word came in from a committee statement late today. It did not say give any specifics.
We will return to January 6 after the news summary.
In economic news, the U.S. Labor Department reports a record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November, mostly to take better jobs. Meanwhile, manufacturing hit an 11-month low in December, amid supply chain bottlenecks.
Japanese automaker Toyota has dethroned General Motors as the top-selling car company in the U.S. Toyota sold more than 2.3 million vehicles nationwide in 2021. GM sold 2.2 million. GM had led U.S. auto sales since 1931.
And on Wall Street today, blue chips were up, tech stocks were down. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 214 points to close near 36800, a record. The Nasdaq fell 210 points, 1 percent. The S&P 500 slipped three.