House fails to extend eviction moratorium ahead of 6-week recess

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(WASHINGTON) — House Democrats’ attempt to pass an extension of the eviction moratorium via unanimous consent request failed late Friday ahead of a six-week recess. The moratorium will end Saturday.

The measure was objected to by Republicans, none of whom supported the bid.

“We are proud and pleased that, overwhelmingly, House Democrats have understood the hardship caused by rental evictions and support extending the eviction moratorium to October 18, 2021,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Whip James E. Clyburn said in a joint statement after the failed bid. “Unfortunately, not a single Republican would support this measure.”

The eleventh-hour attempt to pass an extension came after hours of delay as leaders tried to scramble support for the extension.

In a letter to colleagues earlier Friday, Pelosi said the October date would align with the public health emergency declaration that was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Previously, Democrats had floated extending the moratorium through the end of the year, but some moderates had complained that the timeframe was too long.

“Congress has the power to direct the CDC to extend the eviction moratorium, as we encourage state and local governments to distribute the money that we allocated,” Pelosi wrote.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky noted in a statement last month that the July extension would be the final one.

Pelosi also called on states and localities to distribute the Congress-approved rental assistance, of which there is more than $40 billion remaining in the pot.

Progressives lashed out at the White House and party leaders for their failed last-minute scramble to extend the eviction moratorium.

“Everybody knew this was happening. We were sounding the alarm about this issue,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., told reporters in a gaggle outside Pelosi’s office. She was joined by Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who has been outspoken about the time she spent homeless in pushing for the extension of the moratorium.

“The court order was not yesterday, the court order was not Monday, the court order was a month ago,” Ocasio Cortez continued. “We had a financial services hearing about it, members were bringing alarms to the administration about it.”

“The fact that the [White House] statement came out just yesterday is unacceptable. It is unacceptable,” she said. “I want to make that very clear, because the excuses that we’ve been hearing about it, I do not accept them.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Thursday, “Given the recent spread of the Delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability.”

Pelosi told reporters Friday following the defeat that the extension of the eviction moratorium failed in part due to the last-minute notice from the White House about the need for Congress to fix the issue with legislation.

“Really, we only learned about this yesterday. Not really enough time to socialize it within our caucus to build … the consensus necessary,” Pelosi said. “We’ve had beautiful conversations with our members … when it comes, though, to the technicalities of legislation, we just need more time.”

Hoyer added, “There were obviously some concerns about landlords getting payments, as well as the renters.”

Hoyer said an “overwhelming number” of Democrats wanted to pass the extension, but some had concerns about getting payments to landlords who have not been able to enforce rent collections.

“This is really so unfair” to the landlords, housing providers, as well as renters, Pelosi added.

Pelosi warned that further legislative action is possible in August.

ABC News’ Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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Biden’s new vaccine requirement meets pushback from unions who helped elect him

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(WASHINGTON) — A commitment to American labor helped fuel President Joe Biden’s bid for the White House as he promised to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen.” It was an embrace that many of the major federations, associations, teamsters and brotherhoods in the nation requited by endorsing his candidacy.

But the support for Biden’s leadership that united more than 50 union groups during the campaign threatened to splinter publicly this week, over mixed reception of his plan to require federal workers get the COVID-19 vaccine or face regular testing and other restrictions.

Even before Biden’s announcement, segments of the federal workforce rumbled with dissension. Some groups representing large numbers of workers raised preemptive objections.

“It is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccinations for the employees we represent,” the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) said in a statement the day before Biden made his announcement, adding that they encourage members to “voluntarily get vaccinated.”

Following the announcement, an APWU spokesperson underscored that while their workers are government employees, they are an independent agency — and thus don’t have to adhere to Biden’s new policy.

A White House spokesperson said that employees of independent agencies are not required to be vaccinated, but are strongly encouraged to do so.

“Make no mistake, we support being vaccinated as the most effective path and means to eliminate the COVID-19 virus, but not at the cost of our Constitutional rights that we protect and hold as self-evident,” Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) said. ​​

Biden’s new policy is not a mandate but a choice: Either get vaccinated, or face potentially inconvenient restrictions. Federal government employees and contractors onsite will be asked to “attest to their vaccination status” by showing proof. Those who decline to be fully vaccinated, or decline to show proof that they are, must wear a mask at work, social distance and get tested for the virus once or twice a week; they may also face restrictions on official travel.

It all comes as Biden contends with flagging vaccination rates and the delta variant’s exponential spread — both of which threaten hard-fought wins in the fight against COVID.

After the new vaccine policy had been spelled out Thursday, major union groups reacted with a largely tepid response, with many members voicing concerns about personal freedoms, privacy and the policy’s practice.

“We have a lot of questions about how this policy will be implemented and how employee rights and privacy will be protected,” National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) National President Tony Reardon said in a statement to ABC News. “This approach appears to establish a process for employees to voluntarily disclose their vaccination status.”

NTEU represents 150,000 federal employees across 34 departments and agencies. For those employees who wish to keep their vaccination status confidential or choose to remain unvaccinated, Reardon said, “a testing protocol will be established.”

The largest union representing federal employees, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said they expected any new policies to be “properly negotiated with our bargaining units prior to implementation.”

“We are seeking details on many aspects of this plan,” NTEU’s Reardon said. “We will work to ensure employees are treated fairly and this protocol does not create an undue burden on them.”

NTEU endorsed Biden’s candidacy during the 2020 election, as did AFGE and APWU.

So did National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in U.S. history. They represent more than 170,000 members nationwide, including some VA nurses, and while saying vaccination is “critically important,” they said they place the greatest emphasis on the importance of “respecting the need for medical and religious accommodations.”

“The Biden administration is trying to thread that needle,” NNU President Deborah Burger told ABC News. “You have to honor those accommodations, and move forward.”

At least one major federation of unions is going ever further than Biden in its stance on vaccines: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Tuesday that he would support a full vaccine mandate.

“It’s important, if you are coming back into the workplace, you have to know what’s around you. If you come back in and you are not vaccinated, everybody in that workplace is jeopardized,” Trumka told C-SPAN. “What we need to do now is to get more people vaccinated, and I think the mandate is a very acceptable way to do that.”

The AFL-CIO endorsed Biden during his candidacy, as did one of its largest member unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) — but this week, the two diverged on the matter of mandates: AFT President Randi Weingarten said that vaccine protocol should be arbitrated in the workplace itself.

“In order for everyone to feel safe and welcome in their workplaces, vaccinations must be negotiated between employers and workers, not coerced,” Weingarten said in a statement ahead of Biden’s announcement, cautioning that a get-the-shot-or-get-fired protocol would risk losing health care staff at a time when they’re most needed, and when “staffing levels are already low from the trauma of the past year.”

On Thursday, Biden pleaded for Americans to appreciate how urgent the situation has become.

“It’s literally about life and death,” Biden said in announcing the policy. “That’s what it’s about. You know and I know, people talk about freedom. But I learned growing up, from school and my parents: With freedom comes responsibility.”

ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps, Sarah Kolinovsky and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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Missy Park makes $1M contribution to support USWNT and its fight for equal pay

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(NEW YORK) — Missy Park, CEO and founder of athletic brand Title Nine, is supporting the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team in a big way.

This week, Park announced that the women’s adventure and outdoor apparel retailer will contribute $1 million to USWNT players to support their fight for equal pay. In addition, Title Nine established the “Kick In For Equal Pay” initiative, where the company will match any donations up to $250,000.

“My hope with this contribution is that we all are conscious of the small and large things that we can do,” Park told “Good Morning America.”

Park, a former athlete at Yale University and an beneficiary of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that was passed to prohibit sex-based discrimination in schools or education programs that receives federal money, said she was compelled to support USWNT players after watching the HBO Max documentary “LFG,” which chronicles their ongoing fight for equal pay.

In March 2019, the players sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination, despite the courts having dismissed their equal pay claims last year. While competing at the Olympics, the team filed an appeal stating the ruling “penalized the USWNT players for their success.”

“These women, they play more games, they win more games, and yet they are paid less, so I was really mad about that,” Park said. “But then I also realized I’m kind of mad at myself. Like, it’s not just up to U.S. Soccer to fix this — it’s up to all of us.”

In a statement to ABC News, the U.S. Soccer Federation said it is “committed to fair and equal pay for our Women’s National Team players – and for all women.”

“Comparing only the game bonuses our Men’s and Women’s National Teams receive ignores the $100,000 annual salary that U.S. Soccer pays members of the Women’s National Team. The USWNT Players Association negotiated and agreed to a contract that provides guaranteed annual salaries and benefits, in addition to game bonuses. Due to this contract structure, they receive lower game bonuses than the Men’s National Team, who do not receive salaries or benefits and are paid only on a “pay to play” basis,” the statement continues. “Right now, we are focused on supporting the Women’s National Team in their quest to win a fifth Olympic Gold Medal. Moving ahead, we will continue to work with the team and its players association to chart a positive path forward.”

Park’s decision to contribute to the USWNT’s fight for equal pay is also a personal one. As a mother of two kids who both have big athletic dreams, Park wants to make sure they’re both able to pursue them in a way that’s equal.

“I have a son, Leo. And he’s a basketball player. And I have a daughter, she’s a soccer player, amongst other things,” she said. “I think about Leo when he was young — he dreamed of being in the NBA. You know he could dream of making a living doing that … My daughter is a soccer player — shouldn’t she have that dream, too? Don’t we want all our sons and daughters to have the same dreams?”

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Google, Disney join growing list of employers mandating COVID-19 vaccines

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(NEW YORK) — As coronavirus cases in the U.S. begin a concerning climb upward and virus variants threaten a return to normalcy, a handful of businesses have announced COVID-19 vaccination mandates as they prepare to welcome workers back to the office.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission said employers can legally require COVID-19 vaccinations to re-enter a physical workplace, as long as they follow requirements to find alternative arrangements for employees unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons or because they have religious objections.

Still, the requirements have proven a hot button issue as business leaders mull over office reopening plans, in some cases sparking legal challenges and immense pushback from workers who refuse the shot. President Joe Biden said Tuesday that a mandate to require all federal employees to be vaccinated is now “under consideration.”

Here is a roundup of some of the major U.S. employers that have announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Google
Tech giant Google announced a vaccine requirement Wednesday for those returning to its offices. The company has some 135,301 employees, according to SEC filings.

In a memo sent to employees, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai also announced that the company’s “voluntary” work-from-home policy had been extended through Oct. 18 after it was initially set to expire on Sept. 1. In addition, Pichai wrote that “anyone coming to work on our campuses will need to be vaccinated.”

“We’re rolling this policy out in the U.S. in the coming weeks and will expand to other regions in the coming months,” the chief executive said. “The implementation will vary according to local conditions and regulations, and will not apply until vaccines are widely available in your area.”

He said local leads will share further guidance with employees, including “details on an exceptions process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other protected reasons.”

Pichai added that he hopes these steps “will give everyone greater peace of mind as offices reopen.”

Facebook
Hours after Google’s announcement, Facebook said Wednesday it will require anyone working at its U.S. campuses to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Implementation of the new policy will hinge on “local conditions and regulations,” Facebook Vice President of People Lori Goler said in a statement to ABC News. There will be a “process” for those who will be exempt from the mandate, such as for medical reasons, Goler said.

ABC News has requested further details on the testing protocols and action for failure to adhere to the requirement.

“We continue to work with experts to ensure our return to office plans prioritize everyone’s health and safety,” said Goler, who noted that Facebook will be evaluating its approach outside the U.S. “as the situation evolves.”

Facebook is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, and has offices in over 80 cities worldwide.

Washington Post
Some staff members at the Washington Post on Tuesday shared on Twitter that the company announced it was mandating vaccines.

In a memo sent to employees and shared with ABC News by the Washington Post, publisher and CEO Frederick J. Ryan, Jr. announced the mandate and said employees must also “demonstrate proof of full COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment.”

The Post, which employs more than a thousand journalists and is aiming for a mid-September reopening, said accommodations will be provided to people with “genuine medical and religious concerns” and that they will need to document them with the human resources team.

“Even though the overwhelming majority of Post employees have already provided proof of vaccination, I do not take this decision lightly,” Ryan said in the memo. “However, in considering the serious health issues and genuine safety concerns of so many Post employees, I believe the plan is the right one.”

St. Jude’s, Houston Methodist and more hospitals
The health care sector, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been one of the industries with the most vaccination requirements.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that all patient-facing health care workers in state-run hospitals are required to get vaccinated. “That is a point of contact, that could be a serious spreading event, we want to make sure those workers are vaccinated period,” Cuomo said Wednesday.

At St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, staff were informed earlier this month that they had a Sept. 9 deadline to get vaccinated. “By September 10, employees who have refused vaccination or do not have an approved medical or religious exemption will be put on an unpaid administrative leave for two weeks,” wrote Dr. James R. Downing, president and CEO of the Memphis hospital. “Those who fail to start the vaccination process will be terminated at the end of the two-week period.”

The Houston Methodist hospital system in Texas, which oversees eight hospitals and has more than 26,000 employees, set a June 7 deadline for staffers to get the vaccine or risk suspension and termination. More than 175 staffers at the Houston Methodist hospital were temporarily suspended without pay last month after not complying with a mandate, and a lawsuit was filed against the hospital. A Texas judge sided with the hospital, tossing out the lawsuit filed by 117 employees who were against getting the shot.

Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines came out ahead of the curve on vaccine mandates. The airliner said in May that it would require all new hires in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they qualify for an accommodation.

The Atlanta-headquartered company with some 91,000 full-time workers has said it will not be putting in place a company-wide mandate to require current employees to be vaccinated, though the new hires vaccine requirement kicked in on May 17.

Disney
The Walt Disney Company announced Friday that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. must be fully vaccinated.

Employees working in-person who aren’t already vaccinated have 60 days to do so as of July 30 while most employees working from home must provide proof of vaccination before returning, said Paul Richardson, Disney’s senior executive vice president and chief human resources officer.

Richardson said the company is also developing vaccination protocols for employees outside the U.S.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

ABC News’ Sasha Pezenik contributed to this report.

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COVID-19 vaccination proof will be required for Broadway patrons, workers

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(NEW YORK) — Anyone hoping to catch a Broadway show as the Great White Way reopens this fall will need proof of vaccination along with their ticket.

The Broadway League announced Friday that theater owners and operators of all 41 New York City theaters will require all theater attendees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for all performances through October 2021. Additionally, this also applies to all performers, backstage crew and theater staff.

Masks will also be required for audience members while inside the theater “except while eating or drinking in designated locations.”

Theatergoers will need to be fully vaccinated with an Food and Drug Administration or World Health Organization-approved vaccine and must show proof of vaccination at their time of entry with a valid ticket. For those who took Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the performance they attend must fall at least 14 days after their second dose. For those who opt for Johnson & Johnson, the show they attend must be 14 days after their single dose.

The Broadway League also said that ticket holders for performances through Oct. 31 will be notified of the new rules and be kept abreast of an anticipated review of the policies in September. The organization said the future review “may include a relaxation of certain provisions if the science dictates.”

Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League, said “a uniform policy across all New York City Broadway theatres makes it simple for our audiences and should give even more confidence to our guests about how seriously Broadway is taking audience safety.”

Exceptions will be made for children under 12 and those with medical conditions or religious reasons for not getting vaccinated. These individuals must instead provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of a show’s start time or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 6 hours of the start time.

This news comes amid rising concerns over the delta variant of COVID-19.

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Mom speaks out about giving birth to 9 babies

(CASABLANCA, Morocco) — “I feel very happy to carry my child,” 26 year-old Halima Cissé told ABC News, while holding newborn Muhammad, one of the nine babies to beat the world record for most babies born at one birth.

Cissé, already a mother to a little girl, gave birth to nine children on May 5. “All the children are doing well,” said Dr. El Alaoui, head of the clinic.

The four boys, named Muhammad, Bah, El Hadj and Oumar and five girls — Adama, Hawa, Fatouma, Oumou and Kadidia, are being taken care of at the clinic Ain Borja in Casablanca, Morocco.

Cissé, a 26 year-old student and Abdelkader Arby, a 35 year-old adjudant in the Malian army, say they have always wanted children. ” Everybody wants children … but if they had told me that I, Abdelkader Arby, would one day be the father of nine, I would not have believed it,” he told ABC News.

The parents say the extraordinary birth is a “gift from God,” and said the “responsibility is heavy,”

After a consultation with an OB-GYN revealed that Cissé, was carrying seven fetuses, authorities organized her transfer from Bamako, Mali, to the clinic Ain Borja in Morocco where she would received specialized care.

The clinic prepared for the unusual birth of seven , before discovering during the operation two others.

“A lot of things were going through my mind, fear for myself, fear for my kids, how it was going to unfold,” Cissé told ABC News.

El Alaoui, head of the clinic Ain Borja, told ABC News that they tried to postpone the birth as long as they could to keep the babies’ chances high.

Cissé, who nearly lost her life due to blood loss and had to be operated on after the delivery, spent a month at the clinic on her back before the birth. She describes the difficult nights when she couldn’t sleep on the side until the day of birth, at 30 weeks pregnant.

“We thought, if we manage to save four, five children it’s already not bad,” said El Alaoui.

The birth of nine children is an extremely rare phenomenon. Only two others were recorded so far, in Australia in 1971 and in Malaysia in 1999. But Cissé’s is the the first example of nonuplets born alive.

Soumia Arkoubi, head nurse at the clinic, said “they take care of [the nonuplets] like it’s our own children” and that “it will be hard to see them go.”

With diapers changed every three hours at the clinic, the nine bundles of joy go through nearly 75 diapers a day and 100 bottles of milk.

American Nadya Suleman, nicknamed “Octomom,” holds the current Guiness world record after giving birth to eight children following an IVF treatment.

However, according to the parents and the medical staff at Ain Borja, Cissé’s children were conceived naturally.

The children were all born prematurely, the smallest weighing only one pound at birth.

They will have to stay in the neonatal care at the clinic for at least another month before they can hope to meet their big sister in Mali.

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Newly released notes show Trump pressured DOJ to declare election was ‘corrupt’

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(WASHINGTON) — Handwritten notes from former Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, released Friday by the House Oversight Committee, appear to show that former President Trump tried to pressure the Department of Justice to declare there was significant fraud tainting the 2020 presidential election.

The documents were obtained by the committee as part of its investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The notes are from a December 27, 2020, phone call between Trump and then-Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen.

According to Donoghue’s notes, Rosen told Trump that the Justice Department had no power to reverse the outcome of the election.

“Understand that the DOJ can’t + won’t snap its fingers + change the outcome of the election, doesn’t work that way,” said Rosen, according to the notes.

“Don’t expect you to do that, just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” Trump replied, per the notes.

At another point in the call, the notes showed Rosen and Donoghue trying to convince Trump that his allegations of voter fraud were false.

“Sir we have done dozens of investig., hundreds of interviews, major allegations are not supported by evid. developed,” Donoghue told Trump, per the notes. “We are doing our job. Much of the info you’re getting is false.”

Trump however would not be swayed.

“‘We have an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election,” he said, according to the notes.

“These handwritten notes show that President Trump directly instructed our nation’s top law enforcement agency to take steps to overturn a free and fair election in the final days of his presidency,” House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney said in a statement. “The Committee has begun scheduling interviews with key witnesses to investigate the full extent of the former President’s corruption, and I will exercise every tool at my disposal to ensure all witness testimony is secured without delay.”

The release of the notes comes days after the Justice Department determined that six former Trump Justice Department officials, including Rosen and Donoghue, can participate in Congress’ investigation.

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DOJ says Treasury Department must hand over Trump tax information to House committee

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(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has determined the Treasury Department must hand over former President Donald Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The opinion, posted Friday, says that while the committee “cannot compel the Executive Branch to disclose [tax information] without satisfying the constitutional requirement that the information could serve a legitimate legislative purpose,” the Ways and Means Committee in this instance ‘”invoked sufficient reasons for requesting the former President’s tax information.”

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal first requested six years’ worth of Trump’s tax returns in April of 2019, in addition to tax returns for eight of Trump’s businesses, under a 97-year-old law that requires the Treasury secretary to “furnish” the returns of any taxpayer to the chairman of the tax-writing panel by request.

In explaining the “legislative purpose” of the request, which Neal would need to prove under law in order to secure the returns, Neal said the committee had been “considering legislative proposals and conducting oversight related to our Federal tax laws, including … the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the Federal tax laws against a President.”

As both a candidate and during his presidency, Trump vigorously resisted making his tax returns public, and his Justice Department backed him in his legal fight against the Ways and Means Committee, determining Neal’s reasoning didn’t amount to a legitimate legislative purpose.

After President Joe Biden took office and the Justice Department assumed new leadership, Rep. Neal renewed his request, resulting in Friday’s legal opinion reversing the Trump DOJ’s stance.

It’s not immediately clear when the Treasury Department would actually hand over Trump’s tax returns. A recent filing in the case states that Trump would need to be given 72 hours’ notice before his returns are transmitted to the Hill, giving him an opportunity to potentially appeal the decision.

If the committee is provided Trump’s tax returns, Neal would be able to designate lawmakers and committee staff to review them in a private setting — but it would still be a felony to release them publicly. However, the panel could potentially vote to enter the returns into the public record, according to the committee’s rules.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reacted to news of the Justice Department’s decision in a statement Friday, applauding the administration for delivering “a victory for the rule of law.”

“Access to former President Trump’s tax returns is a matter of national security,” Pelosi said. “The American people deserve to know the facts of his troubling conflicts of interest and undermining of our security and democracy as president.”

In February, eight years of Trump’s tax returns were handed over to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office following a years-long court battle that escalated all the way to the Supreme Court.

While the returns could be used as evidence in Vance’s ongoing criminal investigation of Trump and his company, their public release is restricted by grand jury secrecy rules.

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Women lawmakers introduce bill to require statues of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O’Connor at Capitol

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(WASHINGTON) — Legislation introduced Thursday by a bipartisan group of women senators would honor Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor by requiring statues of them in the U.S. Capitol or on Capitol grounds.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and has 17 co-sponsors. Members of the Democratic Women Caucus and Bipartisan Women’s Caucus also introduced a similar bill in the House on Thursday.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor were trailblazers long before reaching the Supreme Court, opening doors for women at a time when so many insisted on keeping them shut,” Klobuchar said. “The Capitol is our most recognizable symbol of Democracy, a place where people from across our country have their voices represented and heard. It is only fitting that we honor their remarkable lives and service to our country by establishing statues in the Capitol.”

O’Connor and Ginsburg were the first and second women, respectively, to serve on the Supreme Court. O’Connor, who was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan in 1981, served until she retired in January 2006. Ginsburg was appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 and served until her death last year after suffering from metastatic pancreatic cancer. They served on the court together for 12 years.

“Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg will always be known as dedicated public servants, fierce champions for equality, and accomplished Americans who broke countless barriers in the field of law,” Collins said. “Statues in the nation’s capital honoring the first two women to serve on the highest court in the land will serve as fitting tributes to their invaluable contributions to our country.”

The Capitol currently has 252 sculptures of men and 14 of women. The most recent statue of a woman is of civil rights activist Rosa Parks, erected in 2013.

If passed, the legislation would require that the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library consider selecting an artist from an underrepresented background to create the statues.

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All pregnant people should get COVID-19 vaccine amid delta variant surge, leading health organizations say

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(NEW YORK) — The nation’s two leading health organizations focused on the care of pregnant people have issued new guidelines calling on all pregnant people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The new joint recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) comes as the United States faces both a low vaccination rate and a summer surge of COVID-19 cases as the more contagious delta variant spreads.

Just 16% of pregnant people in the U.S. had received more than one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of May, compared to the nearly 58% of Americans ages 12 and up who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“ACOG is recommending vaccination of pregnant individuals because we have evidence of the safe and effective use of the vaccine during pregnancy from many tens of thousands of reporting individuals, because we know that COVID-19 infection puts pregnant people at increased risk of severe complications, and because it is clear from the current vaccination rates that people need to feel confident in the safety and protective value of the COVID-19 vaccines,” ACOG president Dr. J. Martin Tucker said in a statement. “Pregnant individuals should feel confident that choosing COVID-19 vaccination not only protects them but also protects their families and communities.”

Both ACOG, a national membership organization for more than 60,000 OBGYNs, and SMFM, a global organization with more than more than 5,000 physicians, scientists and women’s health professionals, previously recommended that pregnant people have access to vaccines and should “engage in shared decision-making” about the vaccine with their doctors.

“COVID-19 vaccination is the best method to reduce maternal and fetal complications of COVID-19 infection among pregnant people,” Dr. William Grobman, president of SMFM, said in a statement announcing the new recommendation, also noting the vaccines are safe before, during and after pregnancy.

Here is what pregnant and breastfeeding people may want to know about the COVID-19 vaccines to help them make informed decisions.

1. When can pregnant people get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Everyone 12 years of age and older, including pregnant people, is now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pregnant people can get the COVID-19 vaccine at any point in their pregnancy, and the vaccine does not need to be spaced from other vaccines, like the flu shot or Tdap booster.

2. What is the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology, which does not enter the nucleus of the cells and doesn’t alter the human DNA. Instead, it sends a genetic instruction manual that prompts cells to create proteins that look like the virus a way for the body to learn and develop defenses against future infection.

They are the first mRNA vaccines, which are theoretically safe during pregnancy, because they do not contain a live virus.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses an inactivated adenovirus vector, Ad26, that cannot replicate. The Ad26 vector carries a piece of DNA with instructions to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that triggers an immune response.

This same type of vaccine has been authorized for Ebola, and has been studied extensively for other illnesses — and for how it affects women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

The CDC has concluded that pregnant people can receive the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine after reviewing more than 200 pages of data provided by the company and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Vaccine experts interviewed by ABC News said although pregnant women are advised against getting live-attenuated virus vaccines, such as the one for measles, mumps and rubella, because they can pose a theoretical risk of infection to the fetus, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine doesn’t contain live virus and should be safe.

3. Are there studies on pregnant women and the COVID-19 vaccine?

Two recent studies found Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines appear to be “completely safe” and effective for pregnant people, according to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Collins wrote in a blog post that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which both use mRNA technology, were found to provide in pregnant people the levels of antibodies and immune cells needed to protect them against COVID-19.

The vaccines were also found to likely offer protection as well to infants born to a vaccinated person, according to Collins.

“Overall, both studies show that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are safe and effective in pregnancy, with the potential to benefit both mother and baby,” he wrote, later adding, “While pregnant women are urged to consult with their obstetrician about vaccination, growing evidence suggests that the best way for women during pregnancy or while breastfeeding to protect themselves and their families against COVID-19 is to roll up their sleeves and get either one of the mRNA vaccines now authorized for emergency use.”

One study cited by Collins in his blog post was led by researchers at Northwestern University studying people who had been fully vaccinated during pregnancy.

The study, published May 11 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, is believed to be the first to examine the impact of the COVID-19 vaccines on the placenta, according to the university. Researchers found the vaccine had no impact on pregnancy and no impact on fertility, menstruation and puberty.

The second study cited by Collins, led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, looked at more than 100 women who chose to get either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Researchers found that the women’s antibodies against COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated were also present in infant cord blood and breast milk, “suggesting that they were passed on to afford some protection to infants early in life,” according to Collins.

An earlier study, a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology in March found the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective in pregnant and lactating people and those people are able to pass protective antibodies to their newborns.

Researchers studied a group of 131 reproductive-age women who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, including 84 pregnant, 31 lactating and 16 non-pregnant women and found antibody levels were similar in all three groups. No significant difference in vaccine side effects were found between pregnant and non-pregnant study participants.

The study had some limitations. It was small and participants were primarily white health care workers from a single city. On the other hand, it’s the largest study of a group that was left out of initial vaccine trials.

4. What are health groups saying about the COVID-19 vaccine?

In addition to ACOG and SMFM, other health organizations have also said COVID-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says pregnant people at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 and those at risk of severe disease should be vaccinated.

“While pregnancy puts women at higher risk of severe COVID-19, very little data are available to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy,” WHO said in a statement. “Nevertheless, based on what we know about this kind of vaccine, we don’t have any specific reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women. For this reason, those pregnant women at high risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. health workers) or who have comorbidities which add to their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated in consultation with their health care provider.”

The CDC says people who are pregnant and breastfeeding “may choose to be vaccinated” and should talk with their health care provider, noting that breastfeeding is an important consideration but “is rarely a safety concern with vaccines.”

“Getting a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19,” the CDC states on its website. “If you have questions about getting vaccinated, a conversation with your healthcare provider might help, but is not required for vaccination.”

5. What will clinical trials be like for pregnant people?

Pfizer’s phase 2/3 trial will enroll approximately 4,000 women within weeks 24-34 of their pregnancy, the company announced in a press release.

Half will get the vaccine, and half will get a placebo.

The study will include healthy, pregnant woman age 18 and older in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mozambique, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Spain.

Participants in the vaccine group will receive two doses at 21 days apart — and each woman will be followed for at least 7-10 months in order to continuously assess for safety in both participants and their infants.

Infants will also be assessed, up until 6 months of age, for transfer of protective antibodies from their vaccinated mother.

Women enrolled in the trial will be made aware of their vaccine status shortly after giving birth to allow those women who originally received placebo to be vaccinated while staying in the study.

6. Why weren’t pregnant people included in early clinical trials?

Not recruiting parents-to-be in clinical trials and medical research is nothing new, according to Dr. Ruth Faden, the founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and a bioethicist who studies the ethics of pregnancy and vaccines.

“For a very long time, pregnant women were not included in biomedical research evaluation efforts or clinical trials, both for concerns about fetal development and what would be the implications of giving a pregnant women an experimental drug or vaccine and also for legal liability worries from manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies,” Faden told “GMA” last month. “There’s a huge gap between what we know about the safety and effectiveness of a new drug or a new vaccine for the rest of the population and what we know about it specific to pregnancy.”

In the case of the COVID-19 vaccines, health experts have only one of the three sources of evidence that are used to evaluate safety and efficacy during pregnancy: the data on non-pregnant people who were enrolled in the clinical trials, according to Faden.

From that, Faden said, health experts can try to glean what side effects may happen to people who are pregnant, but it is not an exact science.

However, it’s considered typical — and many argue ethically appropriate — to study an unknown substance first in healthy adults and then progressively in broader and broader populations. Pregnant people and children are often tested later down the line because of concerns about potential long-term harm.

Some of the volunteers in prior COVID-19 vaccine trials that didn’t include pregnant women directly may still become pregnant during the trial. This will also give researchers some insights about the vaccine’s safety among this group.

7. What risk factors should pregnant people consider?

At this time, the CDC recommends that pregnant women be prioritized for vaccinations and encourages them to speak to their doctors about the risks and benefits of a vaccination.

The question of whether an expecting parent should receive a COVID-19 vaccine will eventually come down to a number of factors, including everything from the trimester, risk factors for COVID-19, ability to remain socially distanced in their lifestyle and occupation, guidance from federal and state officials and recommendations from a person’s own physicians, experts say.

Similar to the flu vaccine, which was not tested on pregnant people in clinical trials, health experts will need to rely on continuously incoming data to make decisions around how safe the COVID-19 vaccines are during pregnancy.

Officials are doing the same for the general population, considering the speed at which the COVID-19 vaccines were developed, according to Faden, who noted that people who are pregnant should not be “unnecessarily alarmed.”

The COVID-19 vaccines can be taken during any trimester. Since other vaccines are recommended during pregnancy, the CDC currently recommends spacing out vaccine appointments a few weeks apart, if possible.

8. Is COVID-19 more dangerous for pregnant people?

Even now, more than one year into the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., some questions remain about how pregnant people are impacted by COVID-19.

The CDC has shared data showing that pregnant people infected with COVID-19 are at an increased risk for “intensive care unit admission, invasive ventilation, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, and death,” compared to nonpregnant people.

Health experts say that with or without the vaccine, pregnant people need to continue to remain on high alert when it comes to COVID-19 by following safety protocols, including face mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing.

ABC News’ Sony Salzman and Eric Strauss contributed to this report.

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