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Sen. Manchin defends delaying $1.9T COVID-19 relief package

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Sen. Manchin defends delaying $1.9T COVID-19 relief package

Sen. Joe Manchin on Sunday defended holding up debate for hours on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill over his opposition to a $15 minimum wage and certain unemployment benefits — saying the negotiations led to a more targeted stimulus package.

The moderate Democrat from red-state West Virginia said members of his caucus and Republicans worked together to “make significant changes.”

“We targeted where help is needed. We were able to target, basically the people that need help, the children that need help, the schools that need help, the people on the front line, all of America,” Manchin told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“That’s what we were able to do and a lot of that was by talking with my colleagues and negotiating back and forth, and I was able to channel that through I think, and hopefully make a bill is a much more encompassing deal,” added Manchin, whose vote was crucial in a 50-50 divided Senate to pass the legislation. 

He supported cutting a weekly federal supplement in unemployment to $300 from $400 and came out against raising the federal minimum wage to $15, suggesting it be set at $11.

After negotiations, the expanded benefits were dropped to $300 and the minimum wage provision was not included.

But the supplement, which had been set in the bill to expire in July, was extended to September.

Asked about criticism from progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who argued that Manchin was holding back much-needed financial help for working Americans with his opposition, the Mountain State lawmaker said Congress will eventually get to $15.

He argued the minimum wage proposal never belonged in the stimulus bill because of Senate rules.

“They made a big issue about this, and I understand everyone has the right. I respect where she’s coming from, I respect her input. We have a little different approach. We come from two different areas of the country that have different social and cultural needs,” he said.

Manchin said he believes members of Congress will collaborate on a minimum wage bill, saying “there’s not one senator out of 100 who does not want to raise the minimum wage.”

He said he backs an $11 minimum wage that is indexed to inflation “so it never becomes a political football game.”

“It should be the respect of the dignity of work, always being about the minimum wage of what the guidelines for poverty is, and being able to lift yourself way far above that, by your skill sets and your determination,” he said.

The Senate passed Biden’s stimulus package on Saturday on a party-line vote.

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Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw undergoes emergency eye surgery

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Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw undergoes emergency eye surgery

Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a former NAVY SEAL who lost his right eye in Afghanistan, announced Saturday that he underwent surgery this week for a problem in his other eye — and will be ” effectively blind for about a month.”

Crenshaw, 37, a Republican from Houston, tweeted a statement saying that a few days ago he had “noticed some dark, blurry spots” in his vision, “which seemed out of the ordinary.”

He sought medical attention Thursday and an eye doctor told him the retina in his left eye was detaching.

“This is a terrifying prognosis for someone with one eye, and the nature of the injuries I sustained in Afghanistan,” wrote Crenshaw, who served in the US Navy from 2006-2016 and retired as a lieutenant commander.

He said the 2012 IED blast in Helmand Province left him with “half a good eye,” and that there was always a possibility that the effects of the damage would resurface.

“It appears that is exactly what has happened,” he said.

The blast injuries, which happened during Crenshaw’s third deployment, initially caused total blindness, but he gained sight in his remaining eye and went on to do two more tours of duty.

He had emergency surgery Friday at the VA Medical Center in Houston.

“During the surgery they put a gas bubble in my eye, which acts as a bandage for my retina,” he said. “This means I have to be face-down for the next week or so, unable to see anything.”

Crenshaw said he would likely be off social media, except for updates on his health as he recovered in his Houston home with his wife, Tara.

“I have gotten through worse before, and I will get through this,” Crenshaw wrote.

Still, he added: “A few prayers that my vision will get back to normal and that I will make a full recovery wouldn’t hurt, though, and would be much appreciated.”

Crenshaw won a second term in Congress in November, beating Democratic challenger Sima Ladjevardian.

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Possible SpaceX debris washes ashore in Oregon

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Possible SpaceX debris washes ashore in Oregon

It’s an unidentified floating object.

Officials in Oregon are trying to determine if debris that washed ashore Friday afternoon belonged to a SpaceX rocket.

More than 100 SpaceX rockets have been shot into orbit since 2010.

The alleged space junk, a large black cylindrical tube, washed up along Alsea Bay in Lincoln County and was reported to local police shortly thereafter, according to a report from The Oregonian.

Authorities who contacted SpaceX said the object could be a “composite overwrapped pressure vessel,” which are commonly found in spacecraft.

The object was deemed non-hazardous and transported to an unidentified location for further study.

Reps for SpaceX did not immediately respond to request for comment from The Post.

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Supreme Court halts California from imposing limits for at-home woriship

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Supreme Court halts California from imposing limits for at-home woriship

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is telling California that it can’t enforce coronavirus-related restrictions that have limited home-based religious worship including Bible studies and prayer meetings.

The order from the court late Friday is the latest in a recent string of cases in which the high court has barred officials from enforcing some coronavirus-related restrictions applying to religious gatherings.

Five conservative justices agreed that California restrictions that apply to in-home religious gatherings should be lifted for now, while the court’s three liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts would not have done so.

California has already, however, announced significant changes loosening restrictions on gatherings that go into effect April 15. The changes come after infection rates have gone down in the state.

The case before the justices involved California rules that in most of the state limit indoor social gatherings to no more than three households. Attendees are required to wear masks and physically distance from one another. Different restrictions apply to places including schools, grocery stores and churches.

“California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise,” allowing hair salons, retail stores, and movie theaters, among other places, “to bring together more than three households at a time,” the unsigned order from the court said. A lower court “did not conclude that those activities pose a lesser risk of transmission than applicants’ proposed religious exercise at home,” it said. 

The court acknowledged that California’s policy on gatherings will change next week but said the restrictions remain in place until then and that “officials with a track record of ‘moving the goalposts’ retain authority to reinstate those heightened restrictions at any time.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent for herself and her liberal colleagues, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that the court’s majority was hurting state officials’ ability to address a public health emergency.

“California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the State does exactly that: It has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike. California need not … treat at-home religious gatherings the same as hardware stores and hair salons,” she wrote. She added that “the law does not require that the State equally treat apples and watermelons.”

The case before the justices involved two residents of Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area, who want to host small, in-person Bible study sessions in their homes. California had defended its policy of restricting social gatherings as “entirely neutral.”

The court has dealt with a string of cases in which religious groups have challenged coronavirus restrictions impacting worship services. While early in the pandemic the court sided with state officials over the objection of religious groups, that changed following the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September and her replacement by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

In November, the high court barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus. And in February, the high court told California that it can’t bar indoor church services because of the coronavirus pandemic, though it let stand for now a ban on singing and chanting indoors.

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