With hope in Democrat-led Congress, SC’s Clyburn reintroduces ‘Charleston loophole’ bill

This time facing a House and Senate held by Democrats, South Carolina’s Jim Clyburn will try again to get a measure passed that would require a completed background check before buying a gun.

The U.S. House passed a similar measure to close the so-called “Charleston loophole” in 2019, only for it to stall in the Republican-controlled Senate shortly after. But with two chambers controlled by Democrats and President Joe Biden in the White House, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives could find a path to success much easier this time.

House Majority Whip Clyburn’s proposal — called the Enhanced Background Checks Act — would extend the time frame law enforcement has to complete a background check before a gun can be purchased from three to 10 days. But if a review is not completed in 10 days, the buyer could request a faster review to start an FBI investigation.

Florida gets more good vaccine news after a year of COVID

We’ve officially passed the one-year mark since the coronavirus pandemic reached Florida.

The state of play: This time around there's good news. The anniversary brought exciting vaccine announcements for the state.

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Key West voters limited cruise ship traffic. State lawmakers will consider overruling them

In November, Key West voters changed how the island will deal with the cruise ship industry.

They capped the number of passengers that can disembark each day to 1,500, limited mooring to ships with a capacity of 1,300, and gave docking priorities to cruise lines with the best health and environmental records.

But state lawmakers this year could cancel out those election results. The 2021 legislative session starts Tuesday, and the cruise ship issue is in the Capitol.

Why stop at $1,400? These Democratic senators want Biden to back recurring stimulus checks

A group of Democratic senators is urging President Joe Biden to support recurring direct payments to lower-income Americans, arguing that regular, additional cash assistance is necessary until the economy fully recovers from the pandemic-induced downturn.

The proposal — which likely would face an uphill climb to become law even if gained wide support within the Democratic Party — would build on the means-tested, one-time $1,400 stimulus check included in Biden’s coronavirus relief bill, which passed the House last week and is now under consideration in the Senate.

It’s an indication of how many party leaders have coalesced around the once-contentious idea of sending money directly to Americans during the ongoing pandemic. The senators, who also requested Biden support automatic unemployment insurance extensions, said they would like the president to include the ideas in a future economic recovery bill.

China and Russia vaccinate the world — for now

While the U.S. and Europe focus on vaccinating their own populations, China and Russia are sending millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries around the world.

Why it matters: China's double success in controlling its domestic outbreak and producing several viable vaccines has allowed it to focus on providing doses abroad — an effort that could help to save lives across several continents.

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  • The vaccines from China and Russia are the first to reach low-income countries that likely won't have broad access to vaccines until 2023, according to some projections.

  • Chinese vaccines sweep much of the world, despite concerns

    TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The plane laden with vaccines had just rolled to a stop at Santiago’s airport in late January, and Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, was beaming. “Today,” he said, “is a day of joy, emotion and hope.”

    The source of that hope: China – a country that Chile and dozens of other nations are depending on to help rescue them from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged roughly half a billion doses of its vaccines to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by The Associated Press. With just four of China’s many vaccine makers claiming they are able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s humble, traditionally made shots.

    Boeing’s first fighter-like jet completes historic test flight

    Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) announced Tuesday local time that they've completed the first test flight of a pilotless fighter-like jet devised to operate alongside crewed aircraft.

    Why it matters: The “Loyal Wingman” combat drone is serving as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being developed for the company's global defense customers. It has the potential to “revolutionize the RAAF's air combat tactics playbook,” per The Drive.

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    Cambodian court sentences opposition leaders in absentia

    PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A Cambodian court has convicted and sentenced the exiled leader and eight senior members of the country's banned opposition party to more than 20 years in prison, effectively barring them from ever returning home.

    The decision made by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court late Monday was condemned by the head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, human rights organizations and the U.S. Embassy. The trial was held in absentia, as all the party leaders are living abroad.

    CNRP leader Sam Rainsy, who was sentenced to 25 years, said the court acted at the behest of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Cambodian law allows people to be tried and sentenced in absentia. The other eight received sentences ranging from 20 to 22 years.

    Philippine president fires ambassador seen assaulting staff

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president has dismissed his former ambassador to Brazil after she was seen on video physically abusing a Filipino member of her household staff.

    President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday night he had approved a recommendation to fire Marichu Mauro, revoke her retirement benefits and disqualify her from public office for life. The decision comes as Duterte pushes a campaign against official abuses and corruption in his last full year in power.

    Mauro was recalled from Brazil in October after the video, reportedly taken from security cameras in the ambassador’s residence in Brasilia and shown by a Brazilian news agency, showed a woman attacking somebody who appeared to be a house keeper.

    CNN’s Chris Cuomo says he ‘obviously’ can’t cover brother

    NEW YORK (AP) — CNN host Chris Cuomo told viewers Monday that he “obviously” couldn't cover the stories surrounding his older brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been accused of sexual harassment by three women.

    The prime time host addressed the topic immediately at the start of his show, which airs at 9 p.m. Eastern, and just as quickly moved on.

    Stories about the embattled governor's problems have been awkward for CNN, which allowed the two brothers to banter on the air several times last spring at the COVID-19 pandemic's start. The appearances charmed some viewers while making ethical experts queasy.

    Romney knocked unconscious in fall, but ‘doing better’

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Mitt Romney said Monday that he was knocked unconscious in a fall over the weekend, but he was “doing better.”

    The Utah Republican said the accident happened when he was spending time with his grandchildren in Boston. He told reporters he was taken to a hospital and got stitches on his right eyebrow and lip.

    “I had kind of a tough, tough weekend,” Romney joked. “I went to CPAC — that was a problem.”

    Memo details House Republicans’ plan to reclaim the majority in 2022

    House Republicans will reclaim their majority in 2022 by offering candidates who are women, minorities or veterans, a memo obtained by Axios says.

    Why it matters: The document, drafted by a super PAC blessed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, names top Democrats to target — Jared Golden of Maine, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Ron Kind of Wisconsin — and the type of Republican candidates to beat them.

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  • The Congressional Leadership Fund spent $140 million during the 2020 cycle, helping Republicans defy the odds and come within five seats of winning the House. The group now plans to play a key role in shaping the 2022 contests.

  • Scoop: Trump had to be talked out of an early endorsement in Ohio’s 2022 U.S. Senate race

    Donald Trump had to be talked out of making an early endorsement in Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race, a sign of his eagerness to reengage politically, people familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

    What we're hearing: The former president discussed endorsing former state GOP chair Jane Timken last week during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, but top advisers — including Donald Trump Jr. — urged him to wait.

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  • “It’s way too early to make endorsement decisions in many of the races, particularly when primaries are more than a year away,” Trump adviser Jason Miller told Axios. “This is much broader than any one race.”

  • Endorsements will come only after candidate establish their campaigns and are vetted by the Trump operation, including filling out a questionnaire that will “help ensure all endorsees are conservative America First Republicans,” Miller said.

  • Trump's endorsement, which is highly coveted by Republicans across the country, could be the deciding factor for the Ohio GOP, a state party that's veered away from traditional John Kasich conservatism toward a full-on embrace of Trumpism.

  • J&J vaccine could be a ‘game changer.’ But the rollout comes with some risks.

    Having two vaccines is good. But three is better — and it could make a major difference in getting the pandemic under control.

    “It could be a total game changer,” said Dr. Muriel Jean-Jacques, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University.

    Millions of doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson will soon be available in the U.S., a much-anticipated development that could help turn the tide of the pandemic by vastly speeding the rate at which people are vaccinated.

    Scoop: Ex-Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale launches super PAC ahead of 2022 midterms

    Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has founded a new super PAC and sister advocacy group, public records show.

    Why it matters: The groups will allow Parscale himself to back candidates aligned with Donald Trump ahead of the 2022 midterms. They could also be used to deploy his new political data firm and harvest vital voter information for other clients.

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  • Parscale's formations of American Greatness PAC and the nonprofit American Greatness Fund coincide with his return to Trump's inner circle as the former president plots his future political strategy.

  • Jill Biden is traveling with newly confirmed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Wednesday

    Jill Biden will travel to Connecticut and Pennsylvania on Wednesday with newly confirmed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, a testament to a first lady well on the move.

    Why it matters: Biden already is the only first lady to hold a full-time job. She also has a portfolio focused on education, cancer and veterans' issues. Now, she’s built a robust staff in the East Wing and is planning a busy travel schedule of her own.

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  • Biden will visit schools reopening under her husband's first-100-days pledge, reviewing practices and taking note of what does and doesn't work, a source familiar with her plans tells Axios.

  • She'll lay the foundation Wednesday when she visits Waterford, Pennsylvania, and Meriden, Connecticut — Cardona's hometown, and where he spent two decades as a public educator.

  • Her focus will be an extension of her strategy during the general election campaign, when she launched a multi-state educational tour to review school safety practices.