White House and Republican governors clash over easing of restrictions.

Tensions between US president Joe Biden and Republican governors continued on Thursday, after several states moved to lift their Covid mask mandates in defiance of federal guidelines.

Texas and Mississippi eased Covid restrictions in their states this week amid an increase in vaccinations and stabilising infection numbers, prompting criticism from Mr Biden who declared: “The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking.”

Speaking at the White House briefing on Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki defended the president’s choice of words, saying they were a “reflection of his frustration and exasperation, which I think many American people have, that for almost a year now people across the country have sacrificed. At many times they haven’t had information they need from the federal government.”

It follows criticisms from some conservatives about the president’s language. Mississippi’s governor Tate Reeves, who announced measures to lift Covid restrictions in his state this week, said the people of Mississippi “can assess their choices and listen to experts”, as case numbers drop.

“I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them,” he said, referring to the president’s remarks. Later he said that Mr Biden is someone “who needs to get outside of Washington DC and actually travel to middle America”.

Two million a day

Health experts have warned Americans not to lower their guard, as the pace of vaccinations picks up across the country. The United States is now administering about two million vaccines a day, boosted in part by the authorisation of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine last weekend – the third Covid vaccine to be approved.

The director of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, warned Americans this week not to relax social distancing, mask-wearing and other precautions. “We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained . . . now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of Covid-19 in our communities,” she said.

During the briefing, Ms Psaki also dismissed suggestions that the Biden administration was not giving enough credit to former president Donald Trump for work done in advance of the vaccination rollout.

“I don’t think anyone deserves credit when half a million people in the country have died of this pandemic,” she said. “What our focus is on, and what the president’s focus is on when he came into office just over a month ago, was ensuring that we had enough vaccines – we are going to have them now.”

Covid stimulus plan

Negotiations are continuing on Capitol Hill about securing political support for Mr Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid stimulus plan. The Senate voted to take up the Bill on Thursday with vice-president Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote in the evenly split chamber. Debate on the Bill was expected to start later on Thursday, with Republicans vehemently opposed to the scope of the economic package.

Democrats are expected to push through the Bill using the budget reconciliation process, an archaic but important procedural measure that allows some legislation to pass with just a simple majority. If all 50 Democrats vote in favour, together with Ms Harris, the Bill will pass.

But Senate rules mean that some elements of the Bill – such as a $15 minimum wage – cannot be included in the budget reconciliation process.

While the Senate met on Thursday, the House of Representatives cancelled its session following warnings of a possible threat to the building from some adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Capitol police have requested that national guard troops remain near the Capitol building for a further two months. The department of defence is considering the request. The deployment of extra troops, to guard the complex following the January 6th riots, was scheduled to end on March 12th.

The Irish Times

The Irish Times online. Latest news including sport, analysis, business, weather and more from the definitive brand of quality news in Ireland.


Related news
Car on fire in Belfast during another night of violence in Northern Ireland.

Car on fire in Belfast during another night of violence in Northern Ireland.

FLAMES leap from a car set ablaze in another night of violence in Northern Ireland. PSNI officers came under attack from stones, bricks, bottles and petrol bombs. Read more: Belfast rioters hijack car setting it alight while launching rocks at pol...

Sky News Breakfast: Nation mourns Prince Philip and England’s pubs and restaurants prepare to reopen.

Sky News Breakfast: Nation mourns Prince Philip and England’s pubs and restaurants prepare to reopen.

On Sky News breakfast this morning, the Archbishop of Canterbury prepares to hold a Remembrance Service as Prince Charles thanks the public for its support and pays tribute to his late father, the Duke of Edinburgh. Sky's Gilian Joseph also speaks...

Chinese musical whitewashes human-rights abuse in Xinjiang - DW News.

Chinese musical whitewashes human-rights abuse in Xinjiang - DW News.

China's state-sponsored musical "Wings of Songs" defends government policies in Xinjiang province. The film tells the story of a Uighur, a Kazakh and a Han Chinese man who come together to fulfill their musical dream. The movie showcases the life ...

2 16

BAFTA praised for diverse set of nominees

BAFTA praised for diverse set of nominees

BAFTA has been praised for the diversity of this year's list of nominees which includes a record number of female and non-white people in line for awards. Four women have been nominated for Best Director and 16 of the 24 acting nominees this year ...

COVID-19: Shops and pubs prepare to reopen

COVID-19: Shops and pubs prepare to reopen

Retailers across England hope pent-up demand will bring people back to the shops after a year of restrictions and closures. Sky News videos are now available in Spanish here/Los video de Sky News están disponibles en español aquí SUBSCRIBE to our ...

Mozambique: How a massacre unfolded

Mozambique: How a massacre unfolded

More than two weeks on from the terror attack in the town of Palma in Mozambique, around 20-thousand people remain unaccounted for. The country's authorities have sent hundreds of soldiers into the town and have declared it free of terrorists, but...