Why gas prices are so high, Congress struggles with how to move forward in the pandemic, and more COVID news

COVID news for March 9 ahead:

House Democrats nix COVID funds, but allow talk for Ukraine aid

Democratic leaders abruptly abandoned plans for a fresh infusion of $15.6 billion for battling the COVID pandemic on Wednesday, clearing the way for House debate and passage of a vast government spending bill that is anchored by aid for Ukraine and European allies.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced that the COVID-19 spending would be removed from the package after rank-and-file lawmakers objected that it would be paid for, in part, by cutting previously approved pandemic assistance to their states.

“We must proceed” with the government-wide $1.5 trillion legislation because of the urgency of helping Ukraine and the bill’s spending for other programs, Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues.

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Why gas prices are so high

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a major reason that US drivers are paying record prices for gasoline. But it’s not the only reason.

Numerous factors are combining to push gas prices up to a record. Gas hit $4.25 for a gallon of regular gas, according to AAA’s survey Wednesday.

Gas prices were already expected to breach the $4 a gallon mark for the first time since 2008, with or without shots fired or economic sanctions imposed in Eastern Europe.

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Judge dismisses Republican case against House mask mandate

A federal judge has ruled that the House’s mask mandate didn’t violate the First Amendment and dismissed a case from three Republicans who sued Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Capitol Hill administrators over the rule.

Reps. Thomas Massie, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ralph Norman “had myriad means of expressing their stated messages, including wearing masks or other clothing containing the messages they wanted to convey, or making speeches from the House Chamber or elsewhere on the subject,” the judge, Reggie Walton of the DC District Court, wrote in an opinion Wednesday.

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Millions of kids risk hunger if Congress doesn’t extend lunch waivers

Millions of needy children have had an easier time getting free meals at school and over the summer thanks to waivers Congress authorized at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But that nourishment is now at risk. Lawmakers have not yet agreed to extend the waivers past June 30 in the full-year spending package unveiled early Wednesday morning.

Authorized by the US Department of Agriculture, the waivers allow schools to distribute free meals to all students without verifying their families’ income. They give districts the flexibility to offer grab-and-go meals for kids who are quarantining or studying remotely or to serve meals in classrooms instead of the cafeteria.

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