5 things to know for May 20: Congress, Covid-19, Mideast violence, policing, South China sea

Here is what you need to know

Thursday 05.20.21

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By AJ Willingham

Members of the House meet to vote on the Capitol riot commission.


The House voted yesterday to set up an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 riot. And even though Republican leadership was against it, 35 Republicans voted for the legislation. That chunk of GOP vote, while comparatively small, represents a revolt of sorts against their leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who pushed strongly for the bill’s defeat. It also sets up a tougher battle in the evenly divided Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also voiced his opposition. A Republican vote against the commission is generally seen as an indication of loyalty to former President Trump, or at least the political landscape he shaped. A US Capitol Police officer anonymously sent a letter excoriating Republicans who voted against the commission, expressing “profound disappointment.”


A Covid-19 booster shot will likely be needed within a year of initial vaccination to keep up immunity, Dr. Anthony Fauci says. He added that variant-specific boosters may not be needed. That’s yet another reason to get even more Americans vaccinated, which is a top priority as initial demand and enthusiasm flags. In Europe, the EU has agreed to allow entry to vaccinated travelers from countries with low infection rates, easing longstanding travel restrictions in the bloc. An approved list of “safe” destinations should be coming this week, but it’s not clear when these changes will be in place.

Mideast violence

A ceasefire in the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be “imminent,” according to Hamas leaders. The deadly exchange of attacks is past the 10-day mark, and world leaders have been increasing calls for an end to the violence. France is pushing for a resolution at the UN Security Council, and President Biden has been communicating with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hamas leaders say Egypt and Qatar have proposed solutions for a truce. Despite an apparent uptick in ceasefire efforts, Israel has not publicly signaled much eagerness to pause the conflict. More than 220 Palestinians and 12 people in Israel have died in the fighting.


The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says it will release within 30 days of an incident the names of deputies who shoot a suspect. That’s a reversal of past procedures, as the department sometimes concealed deputies’ names for months during investigations. LA County is one of several police departments mulling its standards of transparency and accountability in recent months. In Louisiana, new bodycam video released by the Associated Press shows a Black man named Ronald Greene being tased, kicked and punched by officers before his death in 2019. The video, along with AP reporting on footage not publicly shown, appears to conflict with initial police reports, which did not mention troopers using force or arresting Greene. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is investigating, along with the FBI.

South China Sea

Biden had tough words about conflicts in the South China Sea during his graduation address to the United States Coast Guard Academy. The President singled out maritime competition with Russia and China, and said the US has to protect critical international waterways to keep such powers from gaining undue influence. Just hours later, a US Navy warship sailed near disputed Beijing-controlled islands in the South China Sea, performing what the Navy calls a “freedom of navigation” operation. Beijing, which claims almost the entire body of water as its territory, balked at the move and said the warship violated its sovereignty.