COVID-19 CASES IN U.S. HAVE DOUBLED IN PAST THREE WEEKS: Covid-19 cases in U.S. are increasing again, driven by the highly-contagious Delta variant, after months of falling, and daily cases have now doubled over the past three weeks. Also feeding the increases is significantly slowed vaccine rates and the impact of people getting together for the Fourth of July. Every state except Maine and South Dakota have reported that case numbers have gone up over the past two weeks, and the five states with the biggest two-weeks increase in cases per capita have lower vaccination rates, namely, Missouri, Arkansas, Nevada, Louisiana and Utah.
BIDEN CONDEMNS VOTING RIGHTS RESTRICTIONS, CALLS ISSUE ‘NATIONAL IMPERATIVE’: President Biden delivered a speech at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center yesterday (July 13th) in which he condemned efforts in many states to restrict voting accessibility as “un-American” and “un-democratic,” saying that protecting voting rights through passing congressional legislation and restoring part of the Voting Rights Act is a, quote, “national imperative.” He also called attacks on voting rights a “21st century Jim Crow” assault and “the most significant test” of our democracy since its Civil War in the 1860s. At the same time, Biden offered few actual proposals to achieve it, and didn’t speak about changing the filibuster, which some Democrats have been urging in order to get voting rights measures passed in the Senate over Republican opposition. However, Biden did say that he would launch a nationwide campaign ahead of the 2022 midterm election so that voters have information about the rule changes and restrictions that have been passed in several Republican-led states since last November’s presidential election or that could still be passed before the midterms.
SENATE DEMOCRATS REACH $3.5 TRILLION BUDGET AGREEMENT: Senate Democrats said late last night (July 13th) that they’d reached agreement on a budget that would spend $3.5 trillion over the coming decade, which includes funding for climate change, health care and family service programs wanted by President Biden. But they face what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called a “long road to go” to get legislation done that will be acceptable to both moderates and progressives in the party, as well as get through the closely-divided Congress, with Republicans potentially unanimously opposed. There is also a separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure being negotiated. The Democrats are hoping to get a budget resolution reflecting this agreement in Congress before the August recess, however, that will only set broad spending and revenue guidelines.
FOUR CHARGED IN IRANIAN PLOT TO KIDNAP ACTIVIST IN U.S.: The federal government has charged four people, one of them an Iranian intelligence officer and three alleged members of an Iranian intelligence network, in a plot to kidnap a prominent Iranian opposition activist in the U.S. and bring her back to Iran, officials said yesterday (July 13th). An indictment alleges the plot was part of wider plan to also get three people in Canada and a fifth person in the U.K. back to Iran. Although the names of the people allegedly targeted wasn’t released, Masih Alinejad, who lives in Brooklyn, confirmed she was among them. Alinejad, who worked for years as a journalist in Iran, has been targeted by the country’s leadership since fleeing Iran in 2009. She became a U.S. citizen in 2019. The defendants are all fugitives, believed to be based in Iran.