For WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
Biden lands in England for first international trip » President Joe Biden is in England today, the first stop on a week-long trip. It is his first overseas outing as president.
Top of the agenda: a summit with leaders from the Group of Seven. The president will then travel to Brussels for a NATO summit and a meeting with European leaders. He will end his trip in Geneva, where he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One, the president said the trip has one major goal.
BIDEN: Strengthening the alliance. Making it clear to Putin and to China that Europe and the United States are tight.
Late Tuesday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan dismissed criticism of Biden’s decision to meet with his Russian counterpart.
SULLIVAN: Being able to look President Putin in the eye and being able to say, this is what America’s expectations are, this is what America stands for, this is what America’s all about, this we believe is an essential aspect of U.S.-Russia diplomacy.
The president began his trip with some humanitarian diplomacy. On Wednesday, the White House confirmed that the administration has agreed to purchase 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for other countries. Under the deal inked with drugmaker Pfizer, the United States will donate the shots to 92 lower income countries and the African Union over the next year.
Infrastructure talks fail » Before he left Washington, the president ended bipartisan talks on a compromise infrastructure bill.
Republican Senator Shelly Moore Capito served as her party’s chief negotiator.
CAPITO: I’m a bit disappointed and frustrated that the White House really kept moving the ball on me and then finally just brought me negotiations that were untenable and then ended negotiations altogether.
The two sides ultimately could not agree on what to include in the bill and how to pay for it. Republican senators offered a $928 billion proposal. President Biden wanted to see a $1.7 trillion investment.
The president wants to pay for the new spending by raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent. That’s a no-go for Republicans. And the White House rejected the GOP suggestion to use unspent COVID-19 funds to help pay for the infrastructure package.
When the two sides failed to reach an agreement, the White House began talks with another group of senators. They include Republican Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and two key centrist Democrats: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
But the president is not relying on a bipartisan agreement. The White House confirmed that he spoke Tuesday with Democratic congressional leaders about using the budget reconciliation process to move at least some of the package forward.
Senate passes bipartisan technology bill » Although bipartisan agreement is rare these days, senators did come together late Tuesday to pass a bill aimed at beefing up the U.S. tech industry.
The bill allocates $50 billion in emergency funding to boost semiconductor development and manufacturing.
Senators approved the measure by a vote of 68-32. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that showed how concerned lawmakers are about the need for investment in critical areas.
SCHUMER: I believe the final vote reflects the importance of the bill, of rededicating the United States to science and technology, to out-competing our adversaries, especially the Chinese Communist Party, to strengthening critical supply chains as well as our partnerships and alliances abroad.
The bill also creates a new branch in the National Science Foundation to focus on artificial intelligence and quantum science. Overall, it increases government spending by about $250 billion dollars.
Biden lifts ban on TikTok and WeChat » The White House on Wednesday dropped Trump-era executive orders targeting popular messaging apps TikTok and WeChat. WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports.
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: The orders were intended to ban the software due to concerns over national security risks. But court challenges prevented them from taking effect.
A new executive order directs the Commerce Department to analyze transactions involving apps that are manufactured, supplied, or controlled by China.
Biden administration officials said they wanted to take a narrower approach to identifying potential threats.
Security experts worry about what Chinese companies might do with the personal data they collect from app users. Administration officials have not said whether they think such data collection poses a danger to Americans.
But the Biden administration is concerned about other Chinese companies. Last week, it added several allegedly connected with military and surveillance to a list that prohibits Americans from investing in them.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.
Houston hospital fires workers who refuse vaccines » A Houston-based hospital system has suspended more than 170 healthcare workers who refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
A group of nurses protested the decision in Baytown on Tuesday.
SOUND: If we don’t stop this now and do some kind of change, everybody’s just going to topple. It’s going to create a domino effect. Everybody in the nation is going to be forced to get things in their body that they don’t want. And that’s not right. People move from other countries to come here to escape that sort of thing.
In an internal memo sent to employees, Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom said he respected the decision not to get the shot. But he said the hospital system needed to set an example and protect patients.
Nearly 300 employees got a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine. Administrators granted deferrals to more than 300 others for pregnancy or other reasons.
In a ruling issued last week, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said employers are within their rights to require vaccinations.
The suspended workers have two weeks to get a shot or lose their jobs permanently.
I’m Anna Johansen Brown, and for more news, features, and analysis, visit us at wng.org.
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