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On Tuesday, the Senate voted to move forward with debate on the 2021 budget reconciliation, which moves along the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package currently on the table. Not a single Republican voted in favor of the resolution.

According to The Hill, the Senate voted 50-49 to proceed to a budget resolution that allows the coronavirus relief package to be passed through reconciliation and avoids a legislative filibuster. The Senate will now debate for tens of hours before they can hold a final vote.

The House is expected to pass the budget resolution on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden spoke with Senate Democrats, and he urged them to go big on coronavirus relief. 

“President Biden spoke about the need for Congress to respond boldly and quickly. He was very strong in emphasizing the need for a big, bold package. He said that he told Senate Republicans that the $600 billion that they proposed was way too small,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said to reporters after the call.

Republicans had proposed a much leaner relief package, totaling $618 billion. The trimmed-down package included $300 a week in supplemental unemployment benefits through June, $50 billion for small businesses, including an additional $40 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program. It included another round of stimulus checks worth up to $1,000 for Americans earning less than $50,000. Americans earning less than $40,000 would receive the full payment.




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US Capitol On High Alert After Possible Militia Attack

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According to a recent FBI and Department of Homeland Security intelligence bulletin obtained by CBS News, the Capitol focused on a possible militia attempt to threaten Democratic lawmakers on March 4 and remains a target for domestic violent extremists.

The bulletin reads: “As of late February, an unidentified group of militia violent extremists discussed plans to take control of the U.S. Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers on or about 4 March and discussed aspirational plans to persuade thousands to travel to Washington, DC, to participate.”

It also notes that militia organizations have expressed willingness to blow up the Capitol during President Biden’s first presidential speech to a joint session of Congress, which has yet to be scheduled.

Due to the attack, the House session on Thursday was canceled. The Senate is scheduled to be in session the same day.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer issued a revised timetable showing that the House would vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a police reform bill, on Wednesday night rather than Thursday, allowing the House to end its workweek on Wednesday. The bill was approved.

Officials have been on the lookout for signs that extremists motivated by QAnon conspiracy theories will carry out acts of violence in Washington on Thursday, believing that March 4 will be the day of Trump’s “true” inauguration.  These groups also believe that, with the US military’s support, Trump will reclaim power on May 20.

According to a separate FBI post, the Three Percenters, an anti-government party, have discussed taking action. In research done by the Anti-Defamation League, the group believes they are protecting Americans from government tyranny.

However, in a letter to members of Congress on Tuesday, acting House Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett said the importance of the March 4 date had “reportedly declined” in recent days, and the US Capitol Police had “no indication that groups will travel to Washington D.C. to protest or commit acts of violence.”

Nonetheless, he wrote, additional personnel will be stationed on Capitol grounds in the coming days, in addition to the National Guard troops who have been stationed in Washington since the January 6 riots to protect the city. According to a spokesperson for the National Guard, about 5,200 soldiers and airmen support law enforcement with defense in and around the United States Capitol. Guard troops will stay in Washington, D.C. until March 12.

On Tuesday, the FBI and DHS bulletin was released hours later, prompting a new email from Blodgett to lawmakers saying the Capitol Police had received “new and concerning information and intelligence indicating additional interest in the Capitol for the dates of March 4th – 6th by a militia group.”

Capitol Police said it had received information “that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol by an unidentified militia group on Thursday, March 4.”

At a hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Melissa Smislova, acting undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed that her division had issued a joint intelligence report with the FBI late Tuesday night around midnight.

When asked by Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson if threats to the United States Capitol were “ongoing,” Smislova replied, “Yes.”

On Wednesday, Pittman told lawmakers that Capitol Police are enlisting the help of law enforcement partners across the country in anticipation of possible unrest on March 4 and 6.

“We have enhanced our security posture,” Pittman said. “We have taken immediate steps to let the National Guard, as well as our workforce, know what to expect tomorrow and going forward.”

Pittman described ongoing threats to the US Capitol as “through the roof” in her testimony on Wednesday, noting that the USCP has requested 111 additional dignitary protection officers in the agency’s upcoming FY2022 budget. She testified that, compared to the same period last year, there has been a nearly 94% increase in threats against lawmakers in the first two months of 2021, with many suspects residing outside of Washington.

The acting police chief described the intelligence on the potential for violence as “sensitive” and said she would brief lawmakers in a confidential setting later Wednesday.

Domestic violent extremists’ “perceptions of election fraud and other conspiracy theories connected with the presidential transition,” according to the FBI and DHS bulletin, may lead to violent acts, and they may attempt to target or interrupt planned or unplanned public gatherings in the D.C. region.

Pittman told lawmakers last week that Capitol Police are on high alert because terrorist organizations have threatened violence against Congress members during President Biden’s first speech to Congress.

“We know that members of the militia groups that were present on January 6 have stated their desires that they want to blow up the Capitol and kill as many members as possible, with a direct nexus to the State of the Union ― which we know that date has not been identified.”

Pittman said last week when asked about the increased security posture and barbed wire fences surrounding the Capitol complex. These safeguards will be in effect until the Capitol Police have “address[ed] those vulnerabilities,” she said.

 




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Wyoming Lawmakers Introduce Bill That Would Combat Hate Crimes In State After Push From Advocates

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Legislators in Wyoming have just introduced a bill that would fight hate crimes in the state.

Wyoming is known as one of the most advanced states in the country when highlighting social issues, supporting equal rights, and combating racism. It was the first state to grant women the right to vote, and eventually, it became “The Equality State” for its forward-thinking and legal actions.

On Tuesday, lawmakers introduced a hate crime bill after being urged by advocates in the state where gay college student Matthew Shepard was killed in 1998, according to CBS News. The bill would apply to predators who go after a victim or their property “in whole or in part because of the actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, or physical, intellectual or developmental disability of the person affected regardless of whether the belief or perception of the person committing the crime was correct.”

While Wyoming is known for its advanced government, Shepard’s killing has been cemented in the state’s history, spearheading the LGBTQ rights movement across the nation, CBS News reports.

Shepard’s mother, Judy, says people have asked, “Isn’t that where that gay kid was murdered?” when they’ve seen her wearing a Wyoming shirt. “That’s how they talked about it — ‘They murder gay kids there,’” said Shepard, who, along with her husband Dennis Shepard, advocates against hate through the Matthew Shepard Foundation. “That’s the reputation it has. [The legislature] could have fixed that 20 years ago, but they chose not to.”

Matthew Shepard, 21, was a gay American student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten and tortured on October 6, 1998. His attackers left him near Laramie to die. Rescuers eventually took Shepard to Powder Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. He died six days later.

Rest in peace, Matthew.




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Biden Has Not Responded to Chinese Court Ruling Homosexuality a Mental Disorder

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AFP via Getty Images

The LGBT+ community is still waiting for the Biden administration to respond to a recent Chinese court ruling that homosexuality is a mental disorder.

A court in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu recently ruled that being homosexual is a mental disorder. The court cited Chinese academic research to justify their position.

The ruling by the Jiangsu court upholds a lower court’s ruling that LBGT+ people are mentally disordered, the New York Post reported.

So far, the Biden administration has remained silent on the ruling. Their silence is in conflict with the Democratic party’s enthusiastic support of the LGBT+ community, and particularly transgender individuals.

On Feb. 4, less than a month after his presidential inauguration, Joe Biden threatened Ghana and other west African countries with economic sanctions if they didn’t expand protections for the LGBT+ community.

That same day, Biden directed U.S. agencies working abroad to work harder to combat the criminalization of homosexuals by foreign governments. Additionally, he directed the State Department to include anti-LGBTQ violence, discrimination and laws in its annual human rights report.

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In response to Biden’s threat of economic sanctions, Ghana’s Minister-designate for Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey said Ghana’s laws clearly criminalize the practice of homosexuality — and those laws are not about to change.

“Ghana is a sovereign country but as part of our foreign policy we engage countries all over the world; America is one of our strongest friends. But in this country we have laws. And our laws work and must work,” she said.

“So in spite of what somebody will say and in this case President Biden, the laws of Ghana criminalizes unlawful carnal knowledge and therefore the laws of Ghana definitely are supreme and that is what we all adhere to.”

So far, there has not been a word from Biden on the Chinese court ruling.


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