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News Brief: Week of Jan. 26-Feb. 1


Senate votes against witnesses in impeachment trial

The United States Senate voted against a measure to call witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Friday, Jan. 31. The final vote in the trial will now occur on Wednesday, Feb. 5, where the Senate will vote to acquit or convict President Trump and remove him from office.

The Senate voted 49 to 51 to issue subpoenas for witnesses or evidence. Only two RepublicansSenators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utahcrossed party lines to vote in favor of witnesses.

Closing arguments in the trial will begin Monday, Feb. 3, followed by the vote on Wednesday which will decide if Trump is acquitted or convicted on the two impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

In order to convict the President and remove him from office, a supermajority of 67 must vote in favor of conviction. However, for a supermajority to be reached, 20 Republicans would have to vote against party lines.

Coronavirus update

Coronavirus now has a confirmed eighth case in the United States. A Massachusetts resident who recently traveled to Wuhan, China, tested positive for the virus and Massachusetts officials confirmed he was recovering in isolation on Saturday, Feb. 1.

The virus has caused an emergency in the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirming the first person-to-person spread of coronavirus in the U.S. on Thursday, Jan. 30. An Illinois patient with coronavirus spread it to her husband.

“Given what we’ve seen in China and other countries with the novel coronavirus, CDC experts have expected some person-to-person spread in the US,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said.  “We understand that this may be concerning, but based on what we know now, we still believe the immediate risk to the American public is low.”

The outbreak has now been declared a public health emergency. In addition, foreign nationals who have traveled to China in the last two weeks and are not immediate family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents will be temporarily banned from entering the country. Anyone who has travelled to China’s Hubei province and will be entering the U.S. will be subject to a two-week quarantine.

As of Monday, Feb. 3, the outbreak has killed 362 individuals, all located in China and one death in the Philippines.


Oklahoma lawmakers embrace Medicaid expansion

Republican leaders in Oklahoma showed a more positive view on Medicaid following President Trump’s proposal for expanded health care for low-income adults.

Gov. Kevin Stitt spoke on Medicaid expansion on Thursday, Jan. 30.

“I have sought Oklahomans’ input in crafting my administration’s healthcare plan,” Stitt said. “They have told me that they want more access to care in rural Oklahoma; they want us to address wait times for basic healthcare services for our most vulnerable populations; and they want better care, quality care – not excessive care.”

Medicaid plans would extend coverage to those who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which is about $17,200 for an individual or $35,500 for a family of four. Modest copays and premiums are likely to be included as long as an able-bodied individual without children receiving benefits goes to work, attends school or volunteers.

Oklahoma voters would have the final say on the Medicaid expansion through ballot questions.

Sonic headquarters to undergo layoffs as jobs move to Atlanta

Oklahoma City-based fast food restaurant Sonic plans to lay off employees at its Bricktown headquarters and move certain positions to Atlanta, where its parent company is located.

Sonic spokesperson Christi Woodsworth announced the decision on Friday, Jan. 31, citing the company’s desire to integrate with Inspire Brands, which purchased Sonic in 2018. 

“Sonic will still be based in Oklahoma City … and there will still be hundreds of employees in Oklahoma City,” Woodworth said. “This is about leveraging shared sources.”

There is no word on how many layoffs will occur.

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