A year into the pandemic, more than 13,500 Covid-19 patients are languishing in hospitals across Texas. With only 586 ICU beds left statewide and some regions already running out of space, “hospitals can’t take much more”, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) recently tweeted.
Yet Covid is still raging: about one in six molecular tests in Texas comes back positive right now, well over the 10% threshold Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican governor, once viewed as a “warning flag” for high community spread.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is at its worst in Texas,” DSHS wrote online earlier this month, and “it’s likely never been easier to catch”.
Abbott has categorically rejected another lockdown, a successful but blunt instrument that would undoubtedly cause him political grief. And, though he has instituted business occupancy reductions and bar closures in regions with high hospitalizations, those restrictions have proven half-baked and mostly ineffective.
In fact, other than championing therapeutic treatments and boasting about the state’s vaccine rollout, Abbott’s administration has made shockingly little effort to mitigate the virus’s carnage in recent months, even as a new, highly contagious variant threatens further devastation.
“Republican politicians are acting like it’s business as usual,” said Abhi Rahman, communications director for the Texas Democratic party. “They’re acting like the pandemic never existed in the first place.”
Last March, Dan Patrick, Texas’s lieutenant governor, stoked widespread backlash when he advocated for a swift reopening, insinuating that the nation’s elderly were willing to put their lives on the line to save the US economy. But despite Texas’s hasty emergence from lockdown in May, its struggling workforce has failed to bounce back, with the unemployment rate still lingering at 7.2% as of December, compared to 3.5% the year before.
Read more of Alexandra Villarreal’s report here: Texas governor’s hands-off approach to Covid-19 has allowed the virus to thrive
The single article of impeachment against Donald Trump will this evening be delivered to the Senate, where Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer is promising a quick but fair trial.
“It will be a fair trial but it will move relatively quickly,” Schumer, from New York, told reporters on Sunday. The trial would not take up too much time, he said, because “we have so much else to do”.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi will walk the article from the House, through the Capitol and to the Senate at 7pm ET (midnight GMT), marking the formal start of the impeachment trial. But there will be a two-week lull in proceedings, after Schumer and Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell reached an agreement on Friday.
“During that period,” Schumer said, “the Senate will continue to do other business for the American people, such as cabinet nominations and the Covid relief bill, which would provide relief for millions of Americans who are suffering during this pandemic.”
The delay will give both legal teams two more weeks to prepare. Pelosi has named the House managers who will prosecute Trump, led by Jamie Raskin. An attorney from South Carolina, Karl “Butch” Bowers, will lead Trump’s defense.
Bowers’ most high-profile cases to date include defending a controversial Republican-backed transgender bathroom bill in North Carolina and representing a governor of his own state, Mark Sanford, when he faced impeachment.
Though the Senate is now controlled by Democrats, two-thirds of senators must vote against Trump if he is to be convicted. That means 17 Republicans must go against a former president from their own party. As of Friday, according to a tally by the Washington Post, 42 senators had said they supported impeachment, 19 were open to conviction, 28 were opposed and 11 had made no indication.
Read more of Amanda Holpuch’s report here: Schumer promises quick but fair trial as Trump impeachment heads to Senate
Joe Biden on Monday will sign an executive order that aims to fulfill his “Buy American” campaign promise by tightening the rules to increase federal spending on products that are manufactured in the United States.
During his campaign, Biden vowed that his administration would invest an additional $400nn in federal purchases of domestically-made products as a way of reviving American manufacturing. Previewing the directive on Sunday night, an administration official emphasized that the order was only a “first step” toward that goal.
The order directs agencies to increase domestic content requirements and close existing loopholes available for purchases of foreign products. It also creates a central review of waivers to the Buy American rules that allow agencies to purchase products manufactured overseas.
As a candidate, Biden offered his “Buy American” plan as a direct counter to Trump’s “America First” agenda, as they competed for support from white working class voters. Trump signed an executive order early in his presidency to buy American products and hire American workers, but the Biden administration official on Sunday said Biden’s directive contained more mechanisms for enforcement.
“The prior administration issued numerous releases and orders but when you look at the outcome, there was no real material change,” the official said.
Key elements of the executive order will include:
- Updating how government decides if a product was sufficiently made in America.
- A change in the price threshold over which the government can buy non-US manufactured goods.
- Appointing a Director of Made-in-America at the Office of Management and Budget to oversee the implementation.
In a statement, the administration say that:
This order is deeply intertwined with the president’s commitment to invest in American manufacturing, including clean energy and critical supply chains, grow good-paying, union jobs, and advance racial equity.
Monday’s order is the latest in a rush of executive action Biden is taking to unwind what the administration views as the “gravest” pieces of his predecessor’s legacy as well as to create early momentum around his legislative agenda. Biden has said his first priority is to confront the coronavirus and the economic pain it has caused, emphasizing equity as a part of his response. More directives are expected throughout the week on advancing racial and gender equality, combatting the climate crisis, expanding access to healthcare and reforming aspects of the immigration system.
Chris McGreal has been in Kansas City for us talking to activists who are hopeful but cautious as president Joe Biden acknowledges that the ground has shifted in the US on racial justice after the police killing of George Floyd:
Jeanelle Austin, an African American activist who lives a few blocks from where George Floyd was killed and who tends his memorial constructed piecemeal in the street, said that the early promises of police reform in Minneapolis have come to little.
“Nothing has really changed. That’s why we’re still filling the street,” she said. “They’ve only offered verbiage in terms of what they want to do or the ideas that they have. We haven’t seen anything concrete in terms of reforming the Minneapolis police department.”
“Racism is deep within the DNA and the bones of the structures of our nation, and so it is a tall order for any one person to change it. Now, the president has a lot more power than anyone else to be able to set right some of the systems and policies and structures,” she said.
“It will be interesting to see which systems Biden plans on addressing head on because race impacts everything. The police, the education system, the financial system, the housing system, the criminal justice system, the health care system. He’s going to have to decide what he’s going to push.”
Read more of Chris McGreal’s report here: ‘Racism is in the bones of our nation’: Will Joe Biden answer the ‘cry’ for racial justice?
Here is a run-down of some of what we know so far about Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment:
What happens on today?
Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi will send the article of impeachment to the Senate at 7pm EST (at midnight in the UK). The charge will be carried by Democratic impeachment managers in a small, formal procession through National Statuary Hall, where just weeks ago rioters paraded, waving Trump flags. In the Senate, Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, will read the article of impeachment on the floor of the chamber.
What happens next?
Traditionally the trial would begin almost immediately but under the deal struck by Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, and Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, the president’s team and the House managers will have until the week of 8 February to to draft and exchange written legal briefs.
What is the charge?
Trump is accused of “inciting violence against the government of the United States”, for his statements at a rally prior to his supporters launching the attack on the Capitol in which five people died.
Will witnesses be called?
That is not yet known. In Trump’s first impeachment trial, over approaches to Ukraine for dirt on political rivals, the Republican-held Senate refused to call witnesses. Now the Senate is in Democratic hands but many in the party are hoping for a speedy trial so as not to distract from Biden’s first weeks in the White House.
If Trump is convicted what happens next?
If Trump is convicted, there will be no immediate consequences as he has already left office. However, lawmakers could hold another vote to block him from running again. A simple majority would be needed to block him from holding “any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States”, blocking a White House run in 2024.
Read more of Lauren Gambino’s explainer here: Impeachment guide – how will Donald Trump’s second Senate trial unfold?