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Democrat Mark Kelly sworn in to U.S. Senate

Astronaut Mark Kelly (D) was sworn in to the U.S. Senate on Wednesday after defeating incumbent Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) last month for the seat once held by the late Sen. John McCain.

Why it matters: Kelly's swearing-in by Vice President Mike Pence narrows the Republican majority and moves the Senate balance to 52-48.


  • Democrats are hoping to take back the majority after two runoff Senate races in Georgia this January, which could move the balance to 50-50. Tie-breakers would be settled by incoming Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
  • According to a spokesperson, Kelly was sworn in on a Bible passed down from the grandmother of his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The couple also laid a wreath at McCain's grave on Tuesday.

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

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Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring Houston COVID-19 vaccination site

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

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Podcast: Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky on the future of travel and his company

Airbnb seems to be on the precipice of a business boom, as travel is expected to surge once herd immunity is achieved.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with CEO Brian Chesky about the company's first earnings report since going public, plus what's next for Airbnb, travel and hospitality.

Biden after U.S. airstrike: Iran "can't act with impunity. Be careful"

President Biden said Friday that Thursday night's airstrike against facilities tied to an Iranian-backed militia group in Syria was meant to warn Iran that it "can't act with impunity."

Driving the news: The Pentagon said the airstrike, which was authorized by Biden, was carried out "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq" and was intended to "de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq."

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Schiff: "Definitive" Khashoggi report sends clear message to Saudis

The report released Friday on the murder of Jamal Khashoggiwas short on evidence or new information, but Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tells Axios that the “definitive” statement assigning responsibility to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) speaks volumes.

What he’s saying: Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, says that while some intelligence couldn’t be published because of the need to protect sources and methods, “we rarely see something published that is this definitive and I think that's an important accomplishment for the administration.”

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FDA advisory panel endorses Johnson & Johnson one-shot COVID vaccine for emergency use

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday recommended the authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: The FDA is expected to make a final decision within days on the J&J vaccine, which was found to be 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID. An emergency use authorization would allow distribution to immediately begin, helping streamline and speed up the vaccine rollout across the U.S.

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Law enforcement groups back Biden pick for associate attorney general

Local and federal law enforcement officials are backing Vanita Gupta, President Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, according to letters sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The Major County Sheriffs of America noted Gupta “emphasized that she does not support efforts to ‘defund the police'” and highlighted her desire to improve criminal justice through methods that include increased training for law enforcement officials.

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