5 things to know for June 15: Biden trip, infrastructure, coronavirus, SCOTUS, Hungary

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Originally Published: 15 JUN 21 06:35 ET

(CNN) — It’s been more than two months since that giant shipping vessel got stuck in the Suez Canal, but companies like IKEA and Lenovo are still fighting to get their products from the now-impounded ship.

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1. Biden trip

President Joe Biden is participating in the US-EU summit today in Brussels after yesterday’s NATO meeting. Biden and EU leaders will discuss a range of topics aimed at strengthening transatlantic ties, including global health security, global economic recovery, climate crisis solutions, and trade cooperation. Biden will also meet with King Philippe of Belgium and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. During yesterday’s NATO summit, NATO members issued a communiqué highlighting the “threat” presented by Russia and the “challenges” posed by China. They also largely supported the US decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan afterward, adding to his long list of one-on-ones with heads of state during this extended international trip. (After today’s meeting with the Belgian King, it’s Russian President Vladimir Putin tomorrow.)

2. Infrastructure

Momentum is building in the Senate behind a $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal. After some rocky negotiations last week, new pressure to get a deal done has led some liberal leaders to warm to a possible smaller package with some assurances from more moderate Democrats that an expanded package could be passed later. Republican leaders say there could be enough support from their side to avoid a filibuster attempt. Details of this plan, announced by a bipartisan group of senators last week, are still not publicly known. Meanwhile, it’s no secret that supply chain issues are snarling commerce across the country, and retailers are pleading with the Biden administration to address major logjams at US ports.

3. Coronavirus

Covid-19 infections are on the decline, but vaccination efforts could be a top priority for years to come, experts warn. That’s because the virus mutates over time — we’ve already seen it happen with the several dangerous variants that have emerged. As these variants circle the globe, vaccine rates have to be kept high to prevent more infectious versions from spreading. Right now, rising cases of the Delta variant in the UK have led Prime Minister Boris Johnson to extend long-standing pandemic restrictions. In California, it’s a different story: The state has lifted most of its Covid-19 restrictions as part of a “grand reopening” that will see the end of capacity limits, physical distancing and mask requirements for vaccinated citizens.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to block a possible Biden Supreme Court pick in election year 2024 if the GOP wins back the Senate next year. McConnell, who made the remarks on a conservative radio show yesterday, didn’t even guarantee he would support a confirmation in 2023. McConnell was the one who blocked then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, eight months before the 2016 election. Yet, he supported the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s SCOTUS pick, just days before the 2020 election. This latest vow has set off alarm bells among Democrats, and the issue of a new SCOTUS justice could come in the foreseeable future. Some liberals are urging Justice Stephen Breyer to retire after the current court session.

5. Hungary

Thousands of Hungarians gathered outside parliament in Budapest yesterday to protest against legislation that would ban discussions of homosexuality or gender change in schools. The legislation is part of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s long and controversial anti-LGBTQ agenda. In the past, Orban’s government has redefined marriage in the constitution as the union between one man and one woman, and limited gay adoption. It also outlawed legal status for transgender people. Opposition parties and rights groups have urged parliament not to vote on the new law today. Orban’s policies have deeply divided the central European nation, which could see even more rancor as the country faces new elections in 2022.


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