President Biden cast getting vaccinated as a patriotic duty Wednesday, urging all Americans over 16 to protect themselves and help protect those in their community from getting the coronavirus and putting their lives at risk.

His comments came at an event at which Biden announced that the nation was about to reach his goal of 200 million vaccinations and that the government would underwrite the costs of businesses giving their workers time off to get vaccinated.

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NRA launches $2 million campaign to oppose Biden gun-control agenda

11:51 p.m.
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Even as National Rifle Association leaders are called to testify in the second week of a bankruptcy trial, the gun rights organization is launching plans to lobby Congress against gun-control measures backed by President Biden and leading Democrats.

On Wednesday evening, the group announced a $2 million campaign to fight Biden’s agenda, including opposing his nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, David Chipman.

More than $400,000 will be spent in Maine, West Virginia and Montana on television ads that say “Stop Biden’s gun grab.” The ads are designed to influence senators whose votes may be in play as the gun-control debate unfolds.

Harris casts tie-breaking vote on advancing Pentagon nominee

11:36 p.m.
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Vice President Harris cast her fourth tiebreaking vote in the Senate and her first on a nomination Wednesday night to advance Colin Kahl to be the Pentagon’s undersecretary for policy.

The Senate split 50-50 along party lines on a vote to discharge Kahl’s stalled nomination from the Armed Services Committee, which was deadlocked last month on moving him to the Senate floor for confirmation. Harris came in to make it 51.

Kahl served in the Obama administration as then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser. Kahl was publicly critical of the Trump administration’s foreign policy decisions, especially pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, which Kahl helped negotiate.

Senate Republicans have balked at Kahl’s blunt criticisms of Trump and Republicans.

Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), the lead Republican on the armed services panel, accused Kahl of reducing “complex national security conversations to partisan sound bites,” listing a series of examples, including Kahl once saying the GOP had a “death cult fealty” to Trump.

“The bare minimum for the Defense Department’s top policy position is good judgment and even temperament. Dr. Kahl lacks both of those qualifications,” Inhofe said in a floor speech.

Kahl will face more procedural floor votes before a final confirmation vote, and Harris will likely be called upon to break ties in those, as well.

Senate Republicans take step to revive debt ceiling brawls with a Democrat in the White House

10:15 p.m.
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Senate Republicans on Wednesday signaled they might oppose any future increase to the debt ceiling unless Congress also couples it with comparable federal spending cuts, raising the specter of a political showdown between GOP leaders and the White House this summer.

Republican lawmakers staked their position after a private gathering to consider the conference’s operating rules this session, issuing what GOP leaders described later as an important yet symbolic statement in response to the large-scale spending increases proposed by President Biden in recent months.

“I think that is a step in the right direction in terms of reining in out-of-control spending,” Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) told reporters after the meeting.

Republicans raised hardly any complaints about the debt ceiling during the Trump administration, voting frequently to increase it without demanding any spending cuts in return. In fact, the debt increased by roughly $7 trillion during the Trump administration as he pushed for large levels of military spending and tax cuts. But many Republicans now are arguing for reviving their spending cut demands, something they often do when Democrats control the White House.

Senate Republicans stick with earmarks ban

10:02 p.m.
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Senate Republicans chose to keep their decade-long ban on earmark spending, even as House Republicans moved to join Democrats in a return to doling out funds to specific member-directed projects.

The GOP Senate conference didn’t even hold a vote when it met Wednesday afternoon, choosing to maintain the ban for now rather than divide members over the contentious issue. Some Republicans see a return to earmarks as a reversion to a time of wasteful and corrupt spending. Others see it as a way to ensure their districts and states are getting money carved out for specific priorities.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Senate Republicans who want earmarks could still ask for them, but they’re not going to be handed out to every member like in the past.

“If you don’t want earmarks, don’t ask for one and even if you ask for one, you might not get one because the old earmark days, they’re gone,” Shelby told reporters. “They’re going to have to be meritorious, they’re going to have to be substantive in nature and meaningful for us to really consider.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she planned to request earmarks in the upcoming appropriations process. Collins said a “reasonable interpretation” of what the Senate GOP did was to keep the ban in place with the understanding that it is not binding.

Senior House Democrat reveals Capitol Police investigating whether units on Jan. 6 were ordered to target anti-Trump, not pro-Trump, rioters

9:38 p.m.
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The chairwoman of the House Committee on Administration suggested Thursday that Capitol Police investigators are looking into whether outside units responding to the Jan. 6 riot were told to target any anti-Trump figure “who wants to start a fight” instead of the pro-Trump demonstrators who made up the vast majority of the crowd.

The allegation is one of several being investigated by the force’s Office of Professional Responsibility, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) revealed, as she questioned the Capitol Police inspector general during a hearing.

Quoting from a statement made by an officer as part of the OPR review, Lofgren said that on the morning of Jan. 6, “a radio broadcast was sent to all outside units’ attention. All units on the field were not looking for any pro-Trump in the crowd, were only looking for any anti-pro-Trump in the crowd who wants to start a fight.”

Lofgren read the quote to Michael Bolton, the inspector general, and asked whether he had any information about the allegation. He said that he did not but that his office planned to review all radio and control transmissions from Jan. 6 and would report back to Congress once the reviews and investigations were completed.

Senior law enforcement officials have previously testified that more than 10,000 people swarmed the Capitol on Jan. 6, and more than 800 broke into the building, to try to subvert Biden’s win in the 2020 election. Though far-right groups openly promoted and participated in the insurrection in large numbers, several GOP lawmakers have suggested that things got out of control only because far-left activists took advantage of the excitable crowd and whipped them into a frenzy.

Disagreements about who should be investigated for the riot have stalemated negotiations over creating an independent commission to probe the matter.

An email to the Capitol Police press office was not immediately returned.

Faulty math: The claim that Biden’s infrastructure plan costs $850,000 per job

8:59 p.m.
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“Each job created in Biden’s ‘infrastructure plan’ will cost the American people $850,000.”

— Republican National Committee, in a tweet, April 19

President Biden’s $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan has come under attack from Republicans as being too expensive for the amount of jobs it creates. The tweet above puts the complaint in raw numbers — almost $1 million a job.

The figure has also come up in the White House briefing room, with a reporter asking April 6: “I think that works out to something like $850,000 per job. Given that, are you open to ideas about a more targeted way — a cheaper way of achieving the same goal in terms of number of jobs created?” (Press secretary Jen Psaki did not address the figure.)

It’s easy to see how this number was calculated. The plan is estimated to add between 2.6 million and 2.7 million jobs to the U.S. economy over 10 years. Divide the cost of the plan by 2.6 million and viola, you end up with $850,000.

Sounds simple. But according to Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, who originally produced the jobs figure, it’s simple-minded math.

FEMA says it received 120,000 applications in eight days for program to cover funeral costs for covid victims

8:40 p.m.
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Just days after the launch of a federal program to pay up to $9,000 to cover funeral costs for covid-19 victims, more than 120,000 people have applied for the money in the program that will cost billions.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency began the massive program on April 12. On that first day, the toll-free hotline was swamped with more than a million calls, overloading the system and frustrating many trying to get through. The hotline is still receiving between 20,000 to 25,000 calls every day from across the country.

“We are humbled to stand with so many of our fellow Americans who have lost so much,” Matthew Redding, a FEMA deputy director, said Wednesday in a call with reporters.

The program reimburses applicants who paid for funerals of people whose death certificate lists covid-19 as a factor in their death. Applicants must produce receipts for the burial expenses and other documentation. The benefit is available for anyone who has died since January 2020 and for any future covid-related deaths. More than 568,000 Americans have died of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and hundreds more continue to die every day.

Redding said the first checks could be sent out as early as the end of this week.

One significant issue facing families is that some covid deaths have not been recorded that way on death certificates. In many cases, especially among the elderly and early in the pandemic, deaths were happening so fast that patients were never tested for the coronavirus. FEMA has encouraged applicants to ask doctors for amended death certificates, adding covid as a contributing factor where appropriate.

House reopening to ‘official’ visitors, still closed to tourists

8:15 p.m.
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As of next week, people with “official business” may visit the Capitol and the House office buildings, but the complex will remain closed to tourists.

Even with this first sign of a return to normalcy on Capitol Hill, the attending physician continues to recommend teleworking and that meetings be held virtually rather than in person, the sergeant-at-arms wrote in a memo Wednesday.

But beginning April 26 for the Capitol and April 29 for House offices, a congressional office can host official visitors between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Visitors must be escorted at all times, wear a mask and have completed a daily health survey. Members and their staff are not allowed to have group meals with visitors inside the building.

Rep. Gomez revives effort to force a House vote on expelling Rep. Greene

8:07 p.m.
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Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) is reigniting his effort to garner more support for a resolution that would expel Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from Congress after Republicans tried to censure a Democrat for inciting violence but stayed silent on a member of their own party.

In a Dear Colleague letter to all congressional offices Wednesday, Gomez said that Greene continues to represent “a threat” given her past “documented acts of sedition and advocacy for lethal violence against the United States Government.” He also cited the reported attempt by a group of Republicans to create an “America First Caucus” that, according to a document published by Punchbowl News, would promote “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” as a reason to remove Greene. She has denied having any knowledge of that document.

“From her open support for political violence against our colleagues to her brazen promotion of anti-Semitism and racism, there is no shortage of reasons as to why Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is unfit to serve in this legislative body,” Gomez wrote after citing numerous ways her comments have previously incited violence, including the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The push comes a day after Republicans tried and failed to censure Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) for comments they said could incite violence by protesters in Minneapolis had the jury reached a not-guilty verdict in the case of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd. Greene joined the chorus of Republicans condemning Waters this week but took it a step further by introducing her own resolution to expel Waters.

Before the vote Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) warned Republicans that if they moved forward with the vote, Democrats would be tempted “to proceed on numerous resolutions” proposed by members to censure Republicans who they say incited violence ahead of the Capitol insurrection. He also called it “irresponsible” to censure Waters over comments taken “out of context to just hold a gotcha partisan vote” when they have failed to do the same with Greene.

Gomez initially introduced the expulsion resolution in March, but he did not force an immediate vote on it in hopes of rounding up more support. Only 72 other Democrats have signed on since, a number that falls short of the two-thirds of the House support needed to remove a member from Congress.

A Gomez spokesman said the office had conversations with Republicans who have privately agreed with the resolution’s intent but would not sign on publicly due to potential retribution from leadership, Greene or Republican supporters who could possibly put their lives in danger. Gomez himself has received threats since introducing the resolution, the spokesman said.

In response to the resolution, Greene told Newsmax last month that expelling her from Congress would be a waste of time. “If Democrats and Republicans join together to have me expelled for doing nothing wrong, for a few comments on social media and likes, this is a real precedent my district will not stand for,” she said. “My district would just reelect me and just send me back. So their effort will fail.”

Senate narrowly confirms Gupta for No. 3 position in Justice Department

7:17 p.m.
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The Senate narrowly confirmed civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general, voting 51 to 49, with only one Republican breaking ranks.

Earlier in the day, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) broke with her party to support moving forward with the nomination for the No. 3 position at the Justice Department. She later did the same on the confirmation vote.

Murkowski explained in a floor speech that when she met with Gupta she’d been impressed with her passion for her work and that they had a long conversation about the staggering rates of domestic violence against Alaska Native American women.

“As we discussed these issues...I felt I was speaking to a woman who had not only committed to a professional life to try to get to the basis of these injustices — to try to not just direct a little bit of money, put a program in place and call it a day — but to truly try to make a difference," Murkowski said.

Gupta’s nomination has been among the more controversial ones put forward by Biden, with Republicans seizing upon previous tweets that they claimed showed too much partisanship for the position.

Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocked on advancing Gupta’s nomination to the floor, forcing Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to use a procedural maneuver to allow full Senate consideration.

Before Wednesday’s procedural vote, Schumer urged colleagues from both parties to support Gupta.

“Not only is Ms. Gupta the first woman of color to ever be nominated to the position, she is the first civil rights attorney ever to be nominated to the position,” he said. “That’s shocking, really. We never have had a former civil rights attorney serving in such a position of prominence at the Justice Department.”

On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general, the No. 2 position at the Justice Department.

That vote was 98 to 2, with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voting against Biden’s choice.

The nomination of Monaco, who served in the Justice Department during the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations, generated little controversy.

Chauvin verdict spotlights Harris’s unique role

7:11 p.m.
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On a trip to the civil rights museum in Greensboro, N.C., on Monday, Vice President Harris asked employees to point out the spot at the “Whites only” lunch counter where Rosa Parks sat during a visit decades ago. Then, as cameras beamed the image around the world, Harris spent a few moments sitting in the civil rights icon’s place.

A day later, after a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, the nation’s first Black woman to be elected vice president took a step toward marking her own place in the struggle for a more equitable country.

“America has a long history of systemic racism,” Harris told the nation in a televised speech at the White House. “Black Americans, and Black men in particular, have been treated through the course of our history as less than human. Black men are fathers and brothers and sons and uncles and grandfathers and friends and neighbors.”

For Harris, who in January became the first Black and Asian American woman to hold a nationally elected office, it was an effort to meet a particularly emotional and complex moment in her nascent vice presidency. The country had been on edge for days, worried that another acquittal of another White officer accused of killing a Black man would spark a sequel to the incendiary protests that followed Floyd’s death in May.

Biden urges Americans to get vaccinated to protect themselves and those around them

6:19 p.m.
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Biden on Wednesday cast getting vaccinated as a patriotic duty, urging all Americans over age 16 to protect themselves and help protect those in their communities from getting the coronavirus and putting their lives at risk.

No matter what your age, no matter what your health history, until you are fully vaccinated, you are still vulnerable. The vaccine can save your life,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “Vaccines can save your own life, but they can also save your grandmother’s life, your co-worker’s life, the grocery store clerk or the delivery person helping you and your neighbors get through the crisis.”

His comments came at an event at which Biden announced the nation was about to reach his goal of 200 million vaccination shots and that the government would underwrite the costs of businesses giving their workers time off to get vaccinated.

In response to a reporter’s question, Biden said he hopes the United States will be a position soon to help provide vaccines to neighboring countries, as well as some in Central America.

We don’t have enough to be confident to … send it abroad now,” he said. “But I expect we’re going to be able to do that.”

The push is being complicated by those who are hesitant to get vaccinated.

After weeks of steady increases in vaccination, the average daily number of reported shots in arms slowed significantly over the past week, with an 11 percent drop in daily shots administered nationally, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 40 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and many states have recently picked up the pace. At the same time, most Americans who haven’t been immunized say they’re unlikely to get the shots, a recent poll showed.

Sean Sullivan and Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed to this report.

Pressure mounts on Biden to declare 1915 mass killings of Armenians as a genocide

6:09 p.m.
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White House press secretary Jen Psaki hinted Wednesday that Biden may soon become the first U.S. president to label the 1915 mass killings of Armenians as a genocide, something he had promised as a candidate that he would do.

A bipartisan group of more than 100 lawmakers wrote to Biden on Wednesday, urging him to make a statement of U.S. policy before Saturday, known as “Remembrance Day” in honor of those killed in 1915 under the Ottoman Empire.

Psaki was asked about the letter and about Biden’s campaign promise, amid mounting pressure on the president to take a step that other U.S. presidents have declined to do because of the risk of worsening relations with NATO ally Turkey.

“I expect we will have more to say about Remembrance Day on Saturday, but I don’t have anything to get ahead of that at this point in time,” Psaki said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had said Tuesday that such a move by Biden would further harm ties. Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire died during World War I, including some killed by Ottoman forces, but denies that killings were systematic. Genocide is a war crime. The letter to Biden claims the actions were a “systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, and the displacement of many more.”

"We join with the proud Armenian American community and all of those who support truth and justice in asking that you clearly and directly recognize the Armenian Genocide in your April 24 statement,” the lawmakers wrote.

Meet Biden’s Postal Service nominees, who could add pressure on Louis DeJoy

5:41 p.m.
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President Biden’s three nominees to the U.S. Postal Service’s governing board could fundamentally tilt the balance of power at the beleaguered mail agency and put more pressure on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

If they win Senate confirmation, the nominees — Democrats Ron Stroman and Anton Hajjar and independent Amber McReynolds — would serve on a board that historically operates by consensus, delivering decisions with unanimity and through scripted public meetings. They also would give Democrats and Biden appointees a one-seat majority and potentially the votes to remove DeJoy, under whose oversight the mail service has recorded sharp declines in mail delivery standards. But the board’s two sitting Democrats, Chairman Ron Bloom and Donald Lee Moak, have publicly supported the postmaster general.

Political divisions among board members — and between the board and Democrats in Congress — have percolated since President Donald Trump tried to meddle in mail operations by leveraging the Postal Service’s finances, then hamper the agency’s ability to send and collect mail ballots.