Biden addresses voting rights and the pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – President Biden is addressing two major challenges: the pandemic and voting rights protections.

Thursday morning, he’ll update the American people on his administration’s COVID response before pushing for federal voting rights legislation in a meeting with Senate Democrats. The president is hoping to persuade moderate holdouts to get on board.

There’s a mixed picture Thursday morning with a new California study finding the Omicron variant that now accounts for 98% of U.S. cases,  is less likely to lead to hospitalization, ICU admission or death than the Delta variant.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said, “It’s important to note that omicron continues to be much more transmissible than delta.”

The sheer number of cases means nationwide, ICUs are 82% full, a pandemic high.

Dr. Hassan Khouli with Critical Care Medicine Cleveland Clinic said, “We have more patients, our patients are sicker.”

With businesses and schools struggling to stay open, the White House is now sending 10 million more COVID tests to K-12 schools every month and naming a new testing coordinator charged with increasing access across the country and speeding up results.

President Biden is also seeking results on a separate policy priority protecting the right to vote.

Vice President Kamala Harris said, “I don’t think anyone should be absolved from the responsibility of preserving and protecting our democracy.”

The president will meet with Senate Democrats as two moderate holdouts threaten to derail federal voting rights legislation. They’re against changing longstanding Senate rules to overcome united Republican opposition.

Despite the uncertainty, Democratic leaders are promising a vote on two voting bills by Monday.

The House rules committee met last night to begin the process of advancing voting rights legislation. The Senate could start a debate as soon as Thursday.

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