5 things to know Monday


Congress returns to debate COVID relief, Ukraine aid

Spring break is over for Congress. Lawmakers return to Washington on Monday with several big issues on their plate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said her chamber will take up President Joe Biden’s request for an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine as soon as possible this week, although Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., has said he wants to tie Ukraine aid to a stalled $10 billion COVID-19 relief package. That package got hung up before the spring recess when Republicans tried to add amendments related to Biden’s decision to reverse Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic order that stopped migrants seeking asylum from crossing the US-Mexico border.

Biden’s Ukrainian refugee program begins

Starting Monday, US citizens and groups will be able to apply to sponsor Ukrainian refugees under the Uniting for Ukraine program. They can apply through an online portal that will be available on the Department of Homeland Security website. Ukrainians who are given permission to travel to the USA under the program will undergo a streamlined approval process that will allow them to live and work here for up to two years. To qualify, they must have been a resident of Ukraine as of Feb. 11 and have a US sponsor. They will be required to undergo a background check, pass biometric screenings, complete vaccinations and meet other public health requirements. Sponsors must undergo background screenings to make sure they are able to support the refugees and won’t exploit or abuse them.

Refugees coming from Ukraine arrive at the North Railway Station in Bucharest, early March 4, 2022.

Supreme Court to hear case of praying coach who lost job after kneeling on field

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Monday in the case of a high school football coach who lost his job after kneeling at the 50-yard-line in prayer after his former team’s football games. Joseph Kennedy claims that Bremerton High School in Washington violated his First Amendment rights by declining to renew his contract after the prayers. One of the issues the Supreme Court must unknot is whether Kennedy was praying as a private citizen or as an assistant coach and school employee. The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco ruled last year that Kennedy was acting as a public employee and that his prayers, therefore, were not protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that public schools could not offer prayers, even if participation by students is voluntary. A decision in Kennedy’s case expected this summer.

French President Emmanuel Macron wins second term

French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won a second term Sunday, beating back a stronger-than-expected challenge from Marine Le Pen, a far-right populist who has attacked the European Union and NATO and expressed support for Russia. Le Pen quickly conceded defeat but still scored her best-ever electoral showing. Acknowledging that “numerous” voting cast ballots for him simply to keep out Le Pen, Macron pledged to reunite the country and work to assuage the anger of French voters that fed Le Pen’s campaign. Five years ago, Macron defeated Le Pen with more than 66% of the vote. Macron, who built his own political party to run for president in 2017, won again a first term beset by protests against his economic policies, the COVID-19 pandemic and, most recently, the Russian invasion of Ukraine that roiled diplomatic relations across the globe.

Kansas legislature to discuss religious exemptions for childhood vaccine requirements

Kansas bills with language expanding religiousas exemptions for childhood vaccine requirements were passed by the state Senate in March and now face the House when the legislature reconvenes Monday. They are among the more than 520 vaccine-related bills introduced in statehouses nationwide since Jan. 1, and of those bills, 66 specifically relate to childhood vaccine requirements in 25 states. One pending Kansas bill would mandate that vaccine exemption requests be accepted without scrutiny if based on religion or personal beliefs. Currently, the state leaves it to day care centers and school districts to accept requests for religious exemptions. State Sen. Mark Steffen stands behind amendments he pushed nullifying Kansas’ childhood vaccine requirements. The Republican, who said he is “not an anti-vaxxer in any shape or form,” lamented mandates and suggested that individual rights supersede mandates designed to protect public health.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Congress, Ukraine, Emmanuel Macron: 5 things to know Monday



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