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The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by UAE – Vaccine breakthrough spurs markets; McConnell warns Trump on Afghanistan

                             Presented by UAE



Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Tuesday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators, and readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 246,217; Tuesday, 247,220.

The week began with upbeat news for a change: Moderna announced on Monday it has developed a highly effective vaccine against COVID-19. The breakthrough, similar to Pfizer’s vaccine headlines last week, was cheered by President Trump, President-elect Joe Biden, researchers and clinicians, and eager investors worldwide.


The vaccines emerging from separate human clinical trials with astonishing speed suggest there will soon be more than one pharmaceutical weapon to prevent infection with COVID-19. Moderna said its vaccine, which does not require super-cold storage like Pfizer’s version, appears to be 94.5 percent effective during U.S. trials.


Both companies are on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the United States. “It won’t be Moderna alone that solves this problem. It’s going to require many vaccines” to meet the global demand, said Moderna President Stephen Hoge (The Associated Press). 


The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines both require two doses. Moderna expects it could meet calls for mass distribution by April or May.


The focus is now shifting to vaccine supplies. There won’t initially be enough doses for everyone who wants to be inoculated, reports The Hill’s Peter Sullivan. Starting in December, the U.S. government wants initial doses to benefit priority and high-risk groups, such as health care workers and the elderly. Administration officials and pharmaceutical companies believe the general public could start getting a vaccine around April. Officials said Monday they are searching for ways to speed up manufacturing of all available vaccines that prove to be effective. Distributing COVID-19 vaccines will be another challenge, in part because state health departments say they do not currently have the funding they need for the task.


Trump, who has for months pledged that the U.S. military will help distribute any COVID-19 vaccine when it is mass produced, joined in the applause for Moderna’s announcement, seeking credit for achievements during his presidency. “For those great ‘historians,’ please remember that these great discoveries, which will end the China Plague, all took place on my watch!” he tweeted.


Reuters: Pfizer plans a pilot vaccine delivery program in four states (Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico, and Tennessee in consideration of state size, diversity of populations, immunization infrastructure, and need to reach individuals in varied urban and rural settings).


Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has been saying an effective vaccine was expected this year, applauded the 94.5 percent effectiveness emerging from research. “The results of this trial are truly striking, he said (NBC News). Fauci said the promising early results are “as good as it gets.”


Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, enthused that the pandemic could effectively end next year with an arsenal of safe and effective vaccines against the virus.


“If these full data sets hold, when the full data comes out, we may have two highly effective vaccines against COVID,” said Gottlieb, who is a Pfizer board member. “Once we get these vaccines in sufficient qualities heading in 2021, the combination of the fact that a lot of the population will have already had COVID, combined with the fact that we’ll be vaccinating the public with a highly effective vaccine, we could effectively end this pandemic in 2021 with our technology” (CNBC).


The Associated Press: Biden’s scientific advisers plan to confer with pharmaceutical companies as the transition team seeks to make vaccine plans while Trump stalls a government handoff.


Stocks soared on the Moderna news. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average notched record closing highs on Monday, even as spiking U.S. infections and new shutdowns threatened to hobble any recession recovery amid the pandemic (Reuters). The president on Twitter focused on the stock market but made no comment about the record-setting daily spread of the virus across the country: “GETTING VERY CLOSE TO 30,000 ON NEW VACCINE NEWS. 95% EFFECTIVE!”


Economists have warned that the United States faces daunting obstacles to recovery, even with vaccines (The Hill). However, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida on Monday said a faster-than-expected U.S. rebound may be possible as a result of medical strides with vaccines (Reuters).  


> State Watch: Governors are increasing COVID-19 restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving (The Associated Press). Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) defended new COVID-19 restrictions that took effect on Monday. “We’re not talking about shutting down, we’re talking about slowing down. This is a very crucial time. We’re asking people to reduce their social interactions for the next few weeks. We’re seeing tremendous spread because people are letting their guard down around friends/family. … With this amount of community spread in Ohio, your odds of getting this virus are much higher now. This is a different ballgame. We must all wear masks, practice social distancing, and protect one another,” he tweeted.


Trump on Monday took aim at DeWine, all but encouraging a political challenge from the right (The Hill).


Virginia on Monday reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on the first day of the state’s retightened restrictions (WJLA). … Maryland reported more than 1,700 new cases, seven deaths and rising hospitalizations (The Baltimore Sun). … The most harrowing state as measured by the rise in COVID-19 infections is North Dakota, where Republican Gov. Doug Burgum relented after months of resistance to order the wearing of face masks and limits on the size of gatherings (The Associated Press). … In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said she has the authority to issue a second stay-at-home order to curb rising infections if necessary and assailed a comment by White House adviser Scott Atlas, a radiologist, who urged people to “rise up” against Michigan’s latest restrictions. She called his statement “incredibly reckless” (The Associated Press). … Philadelphia on Monday announced new pandemic restrictions that aim to combat a lack of mask-wearing and social distancing indoors at public spaces, restaurants, gyms and private homes. The orders roll the city back to prohibitions that were put in place during the spring COVID-19 surge. Under the restrictions beginning on Friday, indoor parties and dining will be nixed; fitness centers, museums and libraries will be closed; and eating and drinking will not be allowed at outdoor gatherings (NBC10 Philadelphia). …  Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) on Monday ordered a mask mandate in public indoor spaces effective tonight. She also banned indoor gatherings of more than 15 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people, including weddings and funerals (Des Moines Register). 


> Infections: The World Health Organization recorded 65 cases of the coronavirus among staff based at its Geneva headquarters, including five people who worked on the premises and were in contact with one another, reports The Associated Press. … Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on Monday she tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms and will self-isolate and work remotely (The Hill). Also, Michigan Republican Rep. Tim Walberg announced his tested positive for the virus (The Hill).    


> Sports: The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee on Monday announced the relocation of 13 predetermined preliminary round sites for the 2021 Division I men’s basketball championship tied to the pandemic. The sites originally were planned around the country.





BIDEN TRANSITION: Biden warned on Monday that without a smooth transition, lives will be lost from the coronavirus outbreak.


“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden told reporters following a speech on his economic plan in Wilmington, Del., as he and his team push for access to the current administration’s vaccine distribution plan.


“A vaccine is important. It’s of little use until you are vaccinated. So how do we get the vaccine? How do we get over 300 million Americans vaccinated? What is the game plan? It is a huge, huge, huge undertaking to get it done,” Biden said. “If we have to wait until Jan. 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind over a month, month and a half. And so it’s important that it be done, that there be coordination now, now or as rapidly as we can get that done” (The Hill).  


Biden’s remarks came shortly after the Moderna announcement. They also came as the former vice president is set to announce appointments of additional members of his pending administration, including Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.). Richmond, an early endorser of Biden’s campaign, will join the White House in a senior role akin to that of Valerie Jarrett during the Obama administration and will oversee public engagement, leaving the House after being elected to his sixth term, as The Hill’s Marty Johnson reports.


Richmond, whose district includes New Orleans, has a news conference scheduled today. He’s expected to announce his departure from Congress (


The New York Times: Biden today will announce key members of his pending White House staff. 


According to Bloomberg News, the Biden team is expected to include his former campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon (as deputy chief of staff, according to CNN), and Steve Ricchetti, a former Biden chief of staff and former Clinton administration senior adviser. Ricchetti has also spent time as a lobbyist, representing drug companies and hospitals (American Prospect and The New York Times). 


The Hill: Anticipating a Democrat in the White House in January, bickering Democrats returned to work in Washington this week with internal divisions on display.


The Hill: Biden vents frustration with Trump on transition. 


CNBC: Biden met on Monday with union leaders and CEOs of major retail, auto and tech companies.


New York Post: Biden ready to get a COVID-19 shot, trims family Thanksgiving invite list.


The Hill: Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) says his comments about transition intel briefings for Biden were blown out of proportion. He now says he is in no “hurry” to see that the former vice president gets such briefings.





The president-elect is expected to speak soon with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who referred to Biden as the “next president” despite his close ties to Trump.


The longtime Israeli prime minister notably declined to wade into Trump’s election challenges and claims of voter fraud, saying, “We have enough politics over here” (The Times of Israel).


PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS: Two weeks after Election Day and more than a week after Biden was projected as the 2020 victor, Trump refuses to concede. 


The president has tweeted and his campaign and allies have emailed supporters hundreds of times in the two weeks seeking to raise money for funds ostensibly focused on challenging the election results. In actuality, the president is retiring campaign debt, replenishing the Republican National Committee and stockpiling cash in a leadership PAC for his future as an ex-president who may seek a comeback in 2024 (Center for Responsive Politics).


The Democratic ticket in 2020 became the first in American history to surpass 79 million popular votes for president. In Pennsylvania, Biden’s statewide lead exceede Trump’s by 72,379 votes (1.1 percent) on Monday night, more than double the threshold for an automatic recount, according to Dave Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.


The Associated Press: A Pennsylvania judge will proceed with a hearing today for Trump campaign’s lawsuit seeking to prevent certification of vote results. The Trump legal team had sought a delay. The judge said no. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) has asked the court to throw out the lawsuit.


Although the president moves ahead with legal challenges, a growing number of Republicans are acknowledging the reality: Come Inauguration Day, Biden will be sworn into office, and the ongoing legal fights in a number of states will change very little about the result, according to The Hill’s Alexander Bolton.


“I haven’t seen anything that would change the outcome,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters on Capitol Hill on Monday. 


The thinking has even stretched into the White House as national security adviser Robert O’Brien (pictured below) told The Hill’s Editor at Large Steve Clemons that a Biden victory is “obviously” the expected outcome, adding that there will be a seamless transition between administrations. 


“Look, if the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner — and obviously things look that way now — we’ll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council,” O’Brien said on Monday (NBC News). 


Nevertheless, the president showed no signs of slowing down his legal challenges in a number of states. On Monday, Trump tweeted six times about issues related to allegations of voter fraud and the efforts by his lawyers to swing the election in his direction. 


“The Radical Left Democrats, working with their partner, the Fake News Media, are trying to STEAL this Election. We won’t let them!” Trump tweeted, falsely adding in another tweet that “I won the Election!”


The Washington Post: Georgia secretary of state says fellow Republicans are pressuring him to find ways to exclude legal ballots.


Politico: Four more years: Trump freezes 2024 presidential field.





CONGRESS & MORE POLITICS: Both houses of Congress returned to Washington on Monday, and lawmakers have exactly 14 days in session to strike deals to fund the government and pass a coronavirus relief package.


Lawmakers fully expect to pass a spending package by the Dec. 11 deadline. However, striking an accord on another stimulus bill before the Biden administration takes hold remains unlikely even though Trump, Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have all made calls in recent days for a deal as the virus continues to surge across the country. 


In a speech Monday, Biden laid the blame at the feet of both parties in Congress and pressed for them to reach a resolution while Trump is still in office (The Hill).


“Refusal of Democrats, Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a conscious decision. It’s a choice that we make. If we can decide not to cooperate, we could decide to cooperate,” Biden said. 


“Now,” Biden added on the timing. “Not tomorrow. Now.”


The Washington Post: Biden urges a new economic relief package and warns again of a “dark winter” ahead.


Elsewhere, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a rare rebuke of Trump on Monday as he warned against the administration’s plan to withdraw U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Kentucky Republican said in a speech on the Senate floor that only a “small minority” in Congress would support a rapid drawdown and warned that a rapid withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan “would hurt our allies and delight, delight, the people who wish us harm.”


“The consequences of a premature American exit would likely be even worse than President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq back in 2011. … It would be reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon in 1975. We’d be abandoning our partners in Afghanistan,” McConnell said (The Hill).


The Pentagon is expecting an order from Trump that will cut the number of troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500, and in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500 by Jan 15.


> Campaigns: House Republicans flipped another seat on Monday as Burgess Owens defeated Rep. Ben McAdams (D) in Utah’s 4th Congressional District, cutting further into the Democratic majority in the lower chamber.


Including Owens’s victory, the GOP has flipped 12 seats in the House, with six contests remaining to be called for various reasons. 


The Hill: Hispanic Caucus endorses Rep. Tony Cárdenas (Calif.) to lead Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.


On the Senate scene, Democrats believe a boost in turnout from young voters will be the key for them to pull off a pair of stunning victories in the Georgia runoffs that will determine the fate of the Senate majority. 


As The Hill’s Julia Manchester writes, Democrats were successful in turning out the Black vote, which played a role in Biden’s victory in the state, the first by a Democrat since 1992. Party officials believe that Democrats say that greater turnout from young voters could put them over the top in the runoffs. Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is facing off against Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) on Jan. 5, noted on Sunday that 23,000 additional Georgians will become eligible to vote between Nov. 3 and the January runoffs. 


“What we’re feeling for the first time in four years is hope,” Ossoff told ABC News. 


The Hill: Vice President Pence to campaign in Georgia with Perdue, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) on Friday.


Niall Stanage: The Memo: In defense of the 2020 presidential polls.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 


The House must take the first step to modernize how Congress works, by Kevin Kosar, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Trump’s Pentagon shakeup may be more than perceived disloyalty, by

Dov S. Zakheim, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The House meets at 10 a.m.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Kristi Johnson to be a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. The Senate Judiciary Committee will question the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook at 10 a.m. about “censorship, suppression and the 2020 election.”


The president, who has been largely unseen for two weeks, has no public events on his schedule today.


The vice president will lead a White House coronavirus task force meeting at 3 p.m.


Biden will receive a briefing about national security issues in Wilmington, Del. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will also participate.


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Istanbul where he met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and toured the Patriarchal Church of St. George. He visited Rustem Pasha Mosque and met today with Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey, Archbishop Paul Russell.


Economic indicators: The Census Bureau reports on U.S. retail sales in October at 8:30 a.m., and the Federal Reserve reports at 9:15 a.m. on industrial production in October. 


Georgetown University hosts an event at 9 a.m. with former President Clinton, “Bridging the Atlantic: Ireland and the United States.” Information HERE.


The Hill’s Virtually Live event today at 1 p.m., “Building the Dream: The Housing Affordability Agenda,” features Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), and Gene Sperling, who served in the White House under former Presidents Clinton and Obama, including as director of the National Economic Council. Register HERE.  


The Hill’s Virtual Event Announcement: Thursday

The Hill’s Diversity and Inclusion Summit

Sessions begin at 11 a.m. ET

Nearly 250 years after its founding, America is more diverse than ever before. Yet significant barriers to justice, equal opportunity and inclusion for all still exist for many Black, Hispanic, LGBT and minority Americans. What will it take for diversity, inclusion and equity to become more than just buzzwords? At this moment of national reflection, join The Hill for a conversation with change makers and stakeholders to discuss the active steps that policymakers and citizens should take toward meaningful change. RSVP now for event reminders.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. EST at Rising on YouTube


BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA: Monday was the deadline for former members of the Boy Scouts to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse during their participation with the organization. The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy in Delaware hoping to survive lawsuits (The Seattle Times). At least 82,000 victims have alleged abuse and misconduct by Scout leaders, an astounding number that may represent a fraction of those affected (The New York Times).


FUTURE FOCUSED: The Trump administration is preparing to make a major proposal to lower drug prices through administrative rulemaking as soon as this week, The Hill’s Peter Sullivan reports. … Biden’s election victory is reviving hopes of a 2021 immigration deal in Congress. Several GOP senators have pointed to immigration as an area of potential bipartisan agreement as Washington faces, likely, divided government next year. But Congress has tried and failed in recent years to get an agreement, and Republicans are already facing pushback from their colleagues and pundits for even opening the door (The Hill).


TECH, RETAIL & ECONOMY: Shipt, the grocery delivery service owned by Target, had the reputation of being a more worker-friendly alternative to the dominant Instacart that paid better and had a healthy culture. At least that’s what Willy Solis thought when he joined the company in 2019. In the year since, Solis, 42, has been the leading voice within Shipt disclosing its opaque pay changes and demanding more equitable treatment for fellow workers (The Hill). … Many retail chains are shedding stores, which may not be good for business (The Wall Street Journal).


INTERNATIONAL: Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, who recovered earlier this year after being hospitalized with COVID-19, announced on Monday he is quarantining after being in contact with someone who has tested positive (The Washington Post). Johnson is trapped in his house at the worst time, reports CNN. … In Afghanistan, Trump is poised to settle for a partial rather than complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, despite a shakeup in leadership he stirred at the Pentagon (Reuters).





And finally … The National Zoo’s male panda cub, almost 3 months old and the pride of mom Mei Xiang, will gain a name after public selection that ends with a decision on Nov. 23. This week, the zoo offers four options on its ballot (The Washington Post). Vote HERE




Tags Anthony Fauci Benjamin Netanyahu Cedric Richmond Cheri Bustos David Perdue Donald Trump Gretchen Whitmer James Lankford Joe Biden John Cornyn Kelly Loeffler Mike DeWine Mike Pompeo Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Sherrod Brown Steve Stivers Tim Walberg Valerie Jarrett

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)
In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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