In our new wrap Wednesday, the federal government is buying another 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID vaccine, doubling its current order. Also, the federal budget deficit has hit an all-time high, Texas marked the end of its mask mandate, the Senate confirmed Federal Appeals Judge Merrick Garland for U.S. Attorney General, and Hawaii is under a state of emergency.
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A monumental COVID economic relief bill is headed for President Biden's desk tonight. It spends nearly $2 trillion on jobless benefits, vaccines, school reopenings, and $1,400 checks to most families, among many other things.
Final approval came in the U.S. House of Representatives, split almost entirely down party lines over how much aid is really needed.
Rep. Buddy Carter:
Now we see our economy opening up and coming back to full strength. What's more, what's more is that we have yet to spend $1 trillion that has already been enacted, that has already been appropriated, already been voted on. So, why do we need to pass another $1.9 trillion?
Rep. David Cicilline:
We can tell the American people help is on the way. and To listen to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you wonder, where do they live?
Because, according to them, all this has been resolved, the pandemic is gone, people are back to work, the economy has recovered. That's not reality. This bill will provide desperately needed relief to those we serve.
President Biden called it a historic victory. He plans to sign it into law on Friday. We will examine its implications for health care after the news summary.
The federal budget deficit has hit an all-time high, fueled by previous COVID relief spending. The red ink topped $1 trillion through the first five months of the fiscal year. That shatters the old mark by $350 billion.
The federal government is buying another 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine. The White House said today that it is for the second half of the year.
Separately, infection disease leader Dr. Anthony Fauci said the growing pace of vaccinations is moving the country toward normal.
Dr. Anthony Fauci:
Every day that you put two million to three million vaccinations into people makes society be more and more protected. So, you don't have to wait until you get full herd immunity to get a really profound effect on what you could do.
Also today, Texas officially ended its face mask mandate, and it lifted limits on restaurants and other businesses.
There's fresh evidence of a growing crush of migrants along the U.S. Southern border. New numbers show more than 100,000 people tried to cross illegally in February. That's up 28 percent from January, and the most since mid-2019. It's also taxing detention facilities to the limit.
The U.S. Senate today confirmed federal appeals Judge Merrick Garland for attorney general. He'd been nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016, but Senate Republicans blocked any action.
The Senate also confirmed Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge as secretary of housing and urban development and Michael Regan to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
President Biden's top diplomat has had to face off with Chinese officials for the first time. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with his Chinese counterpart and others next week in Alaska. Blinken told a House hearing today that he will raise a range of disputes, from Hong Kong, to trade, to the abuse of ethnic Uyghurs.
This is an important opportunity for us to lay out in very frank terms the many concerns that we have with Beijing's actions and behavior that are challenging the security, the prosperity and the values of the United States and our partners and allies.
The president's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, will also take part in the Alaska meetings.
Part of Hawaii is under a state of emergency after days of heavy rain touched off flooding and put dams at risk. Surging water has roared through streets and across neighborhoods. Officials have ordered several thousand people to evacuate from a community north of Honolulu.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed an expansive labor rights bill overnight, but it's unlikely to become law. The measure makes it easier for workers to organize, and it penalizes employers who interfere. Republicans are expected to block the bill in the Senate.
And on Wall Street, stocks mostly advanced on news that inflation remains in check. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 464 points to close at 32297. That's a new record. The Nasdaq marked time, losing five points. And the S&P 500 added 23.