Biden faces Democratic and Republican hurdles over $2tn infrastructure plan – live

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Risk of surface transmission of coronavirus is low, CDC director says

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Rochelle Walesnky, noted the agency has updated its guidance on cleaning surfaces to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“People can be infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects. However, evidence has demonstrated that the risk by this route of transmission is actually low,” Walensky said.

The CDC director noted “regular cleaning of surfaces with soap and detergents” is enough to severely limit the risk of surface transmission of the virus.

Disinfecting surfaces is only recommended for indoors settings that have recently documented a confirmed case of coronavirus, Walensky said.

She also once again urged Americans to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing, which can further limit the risk of surface transmission of coronavirus.

The White House coronavirus response team’s briefing has now ended.

A reporter asked members of the White House coronavirus response team whether they anticipated coronavirus cases to fall as the weather warms up.

Dr Rochelle Walesnky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged the spread of other viruses usually decreases during warmer months. However, she expressed skepticism about a natural decrease in coronavirus cases in the coming months because of the surge in cases during last summer in the US.

Senior White House adviser Andy Slavitt emphasized vaccinations are the much stronger strategy for lowering the number of coronavirus cases.

Despite the encouraging news about the increase in vaccinations, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in the US, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Dr Rochelle Walensky noted the country’s seven-day average of new daily cases is approximately 64,000, representing a 7% increase from a week earlier.

“Please continue to hang in there,” Walensky said during the coronavirus response team’s briefing.

More than 4 million shots in a single day this weekend, White House says

The White House coronavirus response team is now holding a briefing to provide an update on vaccine distribution and case numbers.

Senior White House adviser Andy Slavitt announced the Biden administration is establishing three more federally funded mass vaccination sites.

The three sites will be located in Columbia, South Carolina; Pueblo, Colorado; and St Paul, Minnesota.

“These three new sites bring us closer to the president’s goal,” Slavitt said, noting the existing sites have already helped the administration “reach communities that have been hurt the most by the pandemic”.

White House COVID-19 Response Team (@WHCOVIDResponse)

The President committed to open at least 12 more federally run mass vaccination sites. Last week, we announced 5 new sites: Maryland, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Missouri and Indiana.

Today, we’re announcing 3 additional new sites:

- Columbia, SC
- Pueblo, CO
- St. Paul, MN

April 5, 2021

Vaccinations continue to ramp up, Slavitt said, and more than 4 million vaccinations were administered in a single day this weekend, setting a new record.

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans and over 40% of US adults now have at least one shot, and nearly 1 in 4 adults are now fully vaccinated. But Slavitt emphasized the country must remain vigilant about limiting the spread of the virus, echoing Joe Biden’s comments on Friday.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” Slavitt said. “The worst thing we could do right now is to mistake progress for victory.”

Updated at 11.27am EDT

Supreme court dismisses case over Trump blocking Twitter critics

The supreme court has dismissed a case involving Donald Trump’s efforts to block some of his critics on Twitter, arguing the case is no longer relevant now that Twitter has permanently blocked the former president and he has left office.

The AP has more details:

The court also formally threw out an appeals court ruling that found Trump violated the First Amendment whenever he blocked a critic to silence a viewpoint.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate opinion arguing that the bigger issue raised by the case, and especially Twitter’s decision to boot Trump, is ‘the dominant digital platforms themselves. As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms.’

Thomas agreed with his colleagues about the outcome of the case, but said the situation raises ‘interesting and important questions.’

Twitter banned Trump from its platform two days after the Capitol insurrection, which resulted in five deaths. Trump had used his Twitter account to encourage people to attend the Washington rally that culminated in the insurrection.

Joanna Walters

It’s looking increasingly likely that we will get Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo on the stand for the prosecution today.

Arradondo (often known informally in the Twin Cities as “Rondo”) became chief in 2017. He very quickly condemned the killing of George Floyd, calling it murder last summer. He had swiftly fired Derek Chauvin and the three officers who helped him in the arrest of Floyd.

We expect that Arradondo will work hard to keep the focus on Chauvin and make efforts to show that the former officer stepped outside his training and police principles when he pinned down Floyd and knelt on his neck, even after the man was unconscious. (Floyd subsequently died on May 25, 2020. Chauvin denies murder.)

However, it will be difficult for the chief to divorce the department from the officer. Chauvin had been a police officer in Minneapolis for 19 years and had multiple complaints against him. There has also been evidence that he had used his knee to hold people down before, including by the neck.

Chauvin trial resumes, with police chief's testimony expected

Derek Chauvin’s trial has resumed in Minneapolis, where the former police officer is facing murder charges over the killing of George Floyd last May.

The sixth day of the trial may include testimony from Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo, who is expected to be called as a witness for the prosecution as early as today.

Last week, the court heard gut-wrenching testimony about the final moments of Floyd’s life as Chauvin kept his knee on the man’s neck for more than nine minutes.

Several witnesses became emotional and started crying as they testified, expressing guilt over not having prevented Floyd’s death.

Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded a video of Floyd’s death, told the jury last week: “When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad. I look at my brother. I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black.”

She added: “It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing, and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life.”

The Guardian’s Joanna Walters will be providing updates and analysis of the trial as the day unfolds. Follow along:

Adam Gabbatt

Anthony Fauci has described attacks on him from Republicans as “bizarre”, after a barrage of criticism from senior GOP figures.

The infectious disease expert who has led the US effort against Covid-19 was forced to defend himself after a former Trump official called him “the father of the actual virus” and the senator Lindsay Graham followed other Republicans in urging Fauci – Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to travel to the US-Mexico border.

Speaking to Fox News, Fauci said he had become a scapegoat for rightwing figures.

“I’ve been a symbol to them of what they don’t like about anything that has to do with things that are contrary to them, anything outside of their own realm,” he said.

In a flurry of tweets on Friday, Graham, from South Carolina, told Fauci: “You need to go to the southern border and witness in person the biggest super-spreader event in the nation.”

“It’s a little bit bizarre, I would say,” Fauci said. “I mean … Lindsey Graham, who I like, he’s … you know, he’s a good person, I’ve dealt with him very, very well over the years, you know, equating me with things that have to do at the border? I mean, I have nothing to do with the border.”

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell released a statement this morning criticizing the outrage over Georgia’s law restricting voting access.

“We are witnessing a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people,” the Republican leader said.

Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell)

Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex. Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic left-wing signaling. My full statement: https://t.co/3Ck3qW4Mbe

April 5, 2021

McConnell added, “The President has claimed repeatedly that state-level debates over voting procedures are worse than Jim Crow or ‘Jim Crow on steroids.’ Nobody actually believes this. Nobody really thinks this current dispute comes anywhere near the horrific racist brutality of segregation. And a host of powerful people and institutions apparently think they stand to benefit from parroting this big lie.”

In reality, a number of voting rights activists, including Stacey Abrams, have compared the Georgia law to Jim Crow-era tactics.

It’s also worth noting McConnell’s use of the phrase “big lie,” which has come to refer to Donald Trump and his allies’ false claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

McConnell went on to say, “Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex. Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic left-wing signaling.”

The Republican leader’s statement comes three days after Major League Baseball announced it was moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta due to criticism over the voting law.

Lauren Gambino

Joe Biden has said his $2tn plan to rebuild America’s “crumbling” roads, bridges, railways and other infrastructure would rival the space race in its ambition and deliver economic and social change on a scale as grand as the New Deal. The president has also vowed his “once-in-a-generation” investment will reverse long-standing racial disparities exacerbated by past national mobilizations.

Embedded in his sprawling infrastructure agenda, the first part of which Biden unveiled this week, are hundreds of billions of dollars dedicated to projects and investments the administration says will advance racial equity in employment, housing, transportation, healthcare and education, while improving economic outcomes for communities of color.

“This plan is important, not only for what and how it builds but it’s also important to where we build,” Biden said at a union carpenters’ training facility outside Pittsburgh last week. “It includes everyone, regardless of your race or your zip code.”

His proposal would replace lead pipes and service lines that have disproportionately harmed Black children; reduce air pollution that has long harmed Black and Latino neighborhoods near ports and power plants; “reconnect” neighborhoods cut off by previous transportation projects; expand affordable housing options to allow more families of color to buy homes, build wealth and eliminate exclusionary zoning laws; rebuild the public housing system; and prioritize investments in “frontline” communities whose residents are predominantly people of color often first- and worst-affected by climate change and environmental disaster.

The plan also allocates $100m in workforce development programs targeting historically underserved communities and $20m for upgrading historically Black college and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs), and quadruples funding for the Manufacturing Extensions Partnership to boost investment in “minority owned and rurally located” businesses.

Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party (WFP), said it was clear Biden had been listening to activists and understood the interlocking challenges of racial injustice, climate change and economic inequality.

“This is not race-neutral – it’s actually pretty aggressive and specific,” he said, noting the coalition of Black voters and women who helped Biden clinch the Democratic nomination and win the White House.

Biden faces hurdles as Democrats and Republicans raise concerns with infrastructure plan

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Joe Biden and his administration are frantically trying to build momentum in Congress to pass the president’s $2tn infrastructure plan.

However, members of both parties are already raising concerns about the proposal, which Biden officially introduced last week.

Republicans have signaled they do not intend to support the plan because of Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to help pay for the legislation.

And now Democrats are making similar complaints. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he didn’t think paying for the full cost of the plan through tax increases was necessary. Mr. DeFazio said he would support an increase in the gas and diesel tax to pay for the new investments over time, as well as more borrowing to cover part of the cost. ...

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D., N.J.) said he wanted to see the Biden administration consider alternatives to the corporate tax increases to try to court Republican support. ‘I think on the corporate piece, if it’s a nonstarter for the Republicans and it means we can’t get bipartisanship, I’m eager to hear their other ideas,’ he said, listing user fees as one possibility.

Mr. Gottheimer and other lawmakers from the New York area have also insisted that Congress restore the deduction for state and local taxes, which was capped at $10,000 in the 2017 tax law. [House speaker Nancy Pelosi] said she was sympathetic to that idea, while the White House has said lawmakers should propose a way for paying for the deduction.

Given his party’s narrow majorities in Congress, Biden needs to convince nearly every Democratic member of the House and the Senate to support his plan in order to get it passed.

As of now, it’s still unclear whether Biden will be able to get his own party on board.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

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