Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden’s crisis agenda hits headwinds

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Friday! The first of the Biden presidency. 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. 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, 397,600; Tuesday, 399,003; Wednesday, 401,730; Thursday, 406,162; Friday, 410,349.

The new administration was a day old as President Biden unveiled a detailed “national strategy” to control the pandemic, along with a dire prediction that the U.S. death toll is likely to rise to 500,000 by next month. 

The centerpiece of the president’s rescue plan is not the flurry of executive actions he signed on Thursday, but the $1.9 trillion relief proposal he wants Republicans as well as Democrats to support this year. It would cover everything from investments in COVID-19 vaccines to a hike in the federal minimum wage, as Biden has described it.

The Hill: Biden releases pandemic response and preparedness national strategy, including potential federal use of the Defense Production Act. 

The Hill: Biden requires international travelers to test negative for COVID-19 before traveling to the United States and quarantine for seven days upon arrival to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

Biden’s earnest calls for unity and his eager hunt for Republican votes have some Democrats worried. His rhetoric received early praise from pundits, but transforming it into law will be politically tough in the narrowly divided Congress. Progressives, who watched a multi-trillion-dollar rescue measure shrink to $900 billion in the Senate after eight months of arm wrestling before enactment this year, fear that Biden’s interest in bipartisanship could cost the party valuable time.

The Hill: Biden is already facing GOP backlash that will slow down his legislative priorities. 

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate who won reelection in November, sent up a warning flare to the White House on Thursday, telling Bloomberg News, “It’s hard for me to see when we just passed $900 billion of assistance why we would have a package that big.” Collins, who has worked with Biden over many decades, said she is “happy to listen” to the president’s arguments, adding, “I’m not seeing it right now.” 

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of Senate Republican leadership, suggested on Thursday that Biden’s mammoth relief bill may not get GOP support.

“I suspect the whole package is a non-starter, but there are plenty of starters in it,” he said. 

Biden has not forgotten that he and former President Obama moved in circles for 18 months in 2009 and 2010 in search of Republican Senate votes for the Affordable Care Act, only to come up empty-handed. They eventually relied on a complicated tool known as budget reconciliation — and arm-twisting among Democrats — to get ObamaCare squeezed through the Senate with no Republican backing. The futile hunt for the imprimatur of bipartisanship left the Affordable Care Act vulnerable for more than a year to GOP misinformation about “death panels,” individual mandates and pushback about government intrusiveness into personal health care. Democratic candidates in the 2010 midterms suffered a “shellacking,” Obama conceded.

The Associated Press: Biden today will sign two executive orders aimed at speeding pandemic stimulus checks to families and increasing food aid for children who rely on school meals. 

Progressive newcomers to Congress as well as seasoned Democratic veterans worry that Biden’s new priorities, including rescuing the economy, tackling climate change, winning support for major new federal spending and dealing with legislation to overhaul immigration, lack strategic sequencing and could stall in a giant pile-up behind COVID-19. Is the plan to go big and move fast against the twin crises of the virus and a sagging economy? Or to make an effort at outreach to Republicans, which requires time? Biden is expected to organize meetings and calls with key lawmakers before the end of the week. 

The New York Times analysis: To Biden and his team, “unity” does not mean concession or splitting the difference on policy plans. It means a renewed commitment to the broadest values of America.

As he did in 2009 with a new Democratic president, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), now his party’s leader in a 50-50 Senate, wasted no time on Thursday before skewering some of Biden’s early executive actions, hopeful he will convey to Republican voters that there is a vigorous debate over substantive issues ahead of the 2022 midterms. 

The failed Paris deal will hurt American families while China and Russia grow emissions,” McConnell tweeted. “The Keystone cancellation will kill union jobs and hurt U.S. energy security. And a proposal to gut immigration enforcement and give blanket amnesty? Rough ‘day one’ for American workers,” he added.

 

 

The problems surrounding the COVID-19 stimulus push came as Biden conceded that it will take months to reverse the current course of the pandemic as the government races to get enough Americans vaccinated. 

“We didn’t get into this mess overnight and it’s going to take months for us to turn things around. But let me be equally clear we will get through this,” Biden said in remarks from the State Dining Room. “We will defeat this pandemic, and to a nation waiting for action, let me be the clearest on this point: help is on the way” (The Hill).

Nevertheless, the $1.9 trillion endeavor is the No. 1 priority for Democrats. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Thursday that the House will move immediately on a bill. Democrats, working to build a sense of momentum alongside the new administration, have rearranged their schedule, scrapping planned votes next week to allow the relevant committees to consider the various provisions of a measure once legislative language emerges. The Speaker suggested that a bill could hit the House floor as early as the week of Feb. 1 — more than a month after lawmakers passed the fifth COVID-19-related bill just before Christmas. 

“We’re getting ready for a COVID relief package. We’ll be working on that as we go,” she told reporters in the Capitol. “We’ll be doing our … committee work all next week so that we are completely ready to go to the floor when we come back” (The Hill). 

Despite hesitation in Republican ranks, a round of talks will take place this weekend as National Economic Council Director Brian Deese is expected to speak with a bipartisan group of 16 senators about the president’s nearly $2 trillion blueprint. According to The Hill’s Jordain Carney, the list includes eight Republicans: Collins, S ens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Rob Portman (Ohio), Bill Cassidy (La.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Jerry Moran (Kan.) and Todd Young (Ind.). 

Politico Magazine: Enemies, a love story: Inside the 36-year Biden and McConnell relationship.

> Impeachment trial: Pelosi refused to say on Thursday when she plans to transmit the articles of impeachment against former President Trump (USA Today). 

Despite the lack of details, McConnell proposed on Thursday that Pelosi transmit the House article of impeachment on Jan. 28 to give Trump’s legal team time to mount a defense. McConnell would like to postpone the proceeding until the second week of February and he shared his proposed timeline with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). McConnell told Senate Republicans that Trump should have at least as much time as he had during his trial in 2020 (The Hill). 

The Hill: Trump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial.

The Hill: GOP senators say only a few Republicans will vote to convict Trump. 

Roll Call: Delaying impeachment trial could benefit both parties.

The New York Times: Senate impeachment whip count: Where Democrats and Republicans stand.

 

 

More executive branch news: As expected, Biden asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to stay on (CNN). … The House and Senate approved a waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as Defense secretary, a precursor to a Senate confirmation vote. Austin has been out of uniform four years rather than the required seven needed to lead the Pentagon as a civilian (The Washington Post). Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is on a glidepath to confirmation as secretary of Transportation after pledging to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to achieve the administration’s infrastructure goals. The Senate Commerce Committee could vote to advance his nomination as early as next week (The Associated Press). … Career government employees are in charge of many agencies and departments while Senate-confirmed political appointees are still in the confirmation pipeline (The Associated Press). … Biden designated Allison Herren Lee as acting chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (The Hill). … The Economist is keeping tabs on the new administration, including Biden’s Cabinet, his agenda and actions taken, as well as up-to-date polling, all in one handy tracker.

LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, declared on Thursday that he feels liberated to speak about science and the coronavirus without repercussions as he starts work as the face of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response. 

Fauci appeared in the briefing room to speak about the administration’s work on COVID-19, but was asked multiple times about how things have changed going from Trump’s administration to Biden’s (The Associated Press).

“One of the new things in this administration is, if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci said at one point. “Just say you don’t know the answer.”

“I can tell you, I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the president. So, it was really something that you didn’t feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn’t be any repercussions about it,” Fauci said later during the briefing. “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence — what the science is, and know, ‘That’s it. Let the science speak,’ it is somewhat of a liberating feeling” (The Washington Post).

The New York Times: Banished by Trump but brought back by Biden, Fauci aims to “let the science speak.”

The Hill: Fauci said a second COVID-19 vaccine dose knocked him out for 24 hours.

 

 

> Treatments: Eli Lilly said on Thursday that its antibody COVID-19 treatment significantly reduced the risk of nursing home residents and staff contracting symptomatic COVID-19 in a clinical trial.

The antibody infusion treatment was authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November for use in high-risk patients with mild to moderate disease who haven’t been hospitalized. The treatment has been shown to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization, but the announcement indicates the drug may also be able to prevent disease in certain circumstances.  

“These data strengthen our conviction that monoclonal antibodies such as bamlanivimab can play a critical role in turning the tide of this pandemic,” said Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer, who added the company is interested in working with the FDA to “explore expanding the emergency use authorization” to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes (The Hill). 

> VACCINE TRACKER: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, slightly more than 17.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to date. The government has distributed 38 million doses to states and localities.

The Hill: Fauci: We are not “starting from scratch” on vaccine distribution.

The Washington Post: Why some vaccine supplies sit on shelves while shortages intensify nationwide. 

The Hill: Ohio vaccine distributor suspended after improperly storing, spoiling 890 doses. 

The Associated Press: Lucky few hit COVID-19 vaccine jackpot for rare extra doses.

> Restrictions: The District of Columbia on Thursday announced that indoor dining will be allowed to resume today, setting capacity limits at 25 percent of normal service. The news comes ahead of Restaurant Week in the district, which starts on Monday and runs through Feb. 7.  

****

POLITICS: The Senate GOP campaign arm on Thursday vowed that it will back incumbent lawmakers against potential challenges from Trump-backed primary candidates as Republicans look to claw their way back to the majority in the midterms.  

Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.), the newly-minted chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill that Trump’s endorsements and machinations in Senate races will not alter the group’s plan to support GOP senators up for reelection. Among those who have drawn the ire of the 45th president is Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, who panned Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. 

“I’m supporting incumbents,” Scott said when asked about chatter that Ivanka Trump could mount a primary challenge against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), reiterating his answer when a reporter asked about Thune’s reelection bid (The Hill). 

Politico: Trump forces seek primary revenge on GOP impeachment backers.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Facebook on Thursday announced that it will refer its decision to indefinitely suspend Trump’s account to a newly instituted oversight board the company considers an “independent body.” It will review the decision to suspend Trump from the platform and make a binding decision within 90 days about potential reinstatement (CNBC). 

> Bank United based in Florida announced on Thursday that it is closing Trump’s accounts, joining Signature Bank and Professional Bank in closing the door to financial business with the former president. Bank United had held some of Trump’s money since at least 2015, according to the former president’s financial disclosures (The Washington Post).

 

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

 

OPINION

America emerges disunited but intact, by Peggy Noonan, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3o2nfIV 

Some of Trump’s foreign policies are worth sustaining. Biden should keep that in mind, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3iyQZf6

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet on Monday at 1:30 p.m. 

The Senate reconvenes at 10 a.m., and will resume consideration of Austin’s nomination to lead the Pentagon. The Senate Finance Committee meets at 10 a.m. to vote on the nomination of Janet Yellen to be secretary of the Treasury. 

The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief in the Oval Office. In the afternoon, Biden will have lunch with Harris at the White House. They will receive a briefing about the state of the economy, and the president will speak about the administration’s response to the fiscal situation and sign some executive orders. Separately, Harris tonight will hold a virtual meeting with small business owners affected by COVID-19 to discuss the administration’s economic plan.  

The White House press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. 

INVITATIONS: The Hill Virtually Live hosts events next week as the new administration gets underway:

Monday at 1:30 p.m.: “Rebuilding the Federal Workforce.” Of all the pressing tasks facing the Biden-Harris administration, a key priority will be to attract and retain top talent to rebuild trust in government. What immediate steps need to be taken to shore up the morale of federal workers?  And how do we attract the next generation of civil servants? Among those joining the discussion will be Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), former White House chief of staff Andy Card, former Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta, and more. RSVP HERE

Tuesday at 1 p.m.: “Modern Credit Systems, Alternative Data & the American Dream.” For many Americans who lack access to traditional credit, the traditional markers of stability and success may remain out of reach. Some have suggested incorporating alternative data like cell phone, utility and rent payments in credit scores. What guardrails can ensure consumer protection? Can alternative data be used to increase access to credit for underserved families? What needs to be done for lenders to become comfortable using alternative data in credit underwriting? Headlining a conversation on modernizing the credit system are Suze Orman, John Hope Bryant, and Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) and Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.). RSVP HERE.

Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.: “Listening to America.” The Biden-Harris administration is inheriting a nation struggling to vanquish a virus, revitalize an economy, and heal deep divides. The challenges are clear and daunting. However, the old adage that “all politics is local” still applies. The perspectives of constituents back home have never been more important. What are the concerns of citizens in communities small and large, rural and urban?  Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and voices from diverse communities join The Hill’s Steve Clemons as we discuss, listen and understand the many contours of America. RSVP HERE.

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://digital-stage.thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. EST at Rising on YouTube.

ELSEWHERE

CENSUS: The Census Bureau will roll out its decennial data early this year. The country’s top demographers preview trends that data will show (The Hill).  

➔ INTERNATIONAL: Biden will seek a five-year extension with Russia on the New START pact, which has a fast-approaching Feb. 5 deadline. The arms treaty is the administration’s opening engagement with Moscow, which has supported such an extension. Separately, Biden president will order Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to make a full intelligence assessment of Russia’s alleged interference in the 2020 election, use of chemical weapons against opposition leader Alexei Navalny and bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan (The Washington Post). … A pair of suicide bombings in a busy Baghdad market on Thursday killed at least 32 people and injured dozens. It was the first mass attack in Iraq in years (The Associated Press).

 

 

COURTS: Republican-led states and conservative advocacy groups are poised to pursue legal challenges to some of Biden’s executive actions, most likely his orders bolstering LGBT rights and buttressing a program that the Supreme Court blocked Trump from rescinding that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants dubbed “Dreamers” who had lived in the United States illegally after entering the country as children (Reuters).

THE CLOSER

And finally … Bravo to this week’s Morning Report Quiz masters! Our puzzle about inaugurations past revealed some trivia buffs who clearly paid attention to news coverage that included historical references. 

This week, these savvy readers earned their own fireworks: Patrick Kavanagh, Bram Amsel, Lou Tisler, Daniel Bachhuber, Lou Tisler, Anita Bales, Shin Inouye, Garrett Webb, Donna Minter, Candi Cee, Joseph Webster, Terry Pflaumer, Joe Erdmann, Luther Berg, John Donato and Pam Manges.

They knew that in addition to the Capitol, locations for inaugurals have included the White House, Federal Hall in New York City and Congress Hall in Philadelphia. Thus, the correct answer was “all of the above.” 

The first outgoing president to ride with his successor to the Capitol to participate in the inauguration was Andrew Jackson. He accompanied Martin Van Buren by carriage as the vice president became the nation’s eighth president (Cox Media Group). 

Vice President Harris placed her hand on two Bibles on Wednesday, including one previously owned by former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (Newsweek).  

Former President Obama was sworn in a second time at the White House by Chief Justice John Roberts, who bungled the wording as he administered the oath at the Capitol in 2009. The do-over was intended to silence conspiracists who questioned Obama’s legitimacy as president (BBC). 

 

Tags 100 days Anthony Fauci Bill Cassidy Brian Deese Christopher Wray Chuck Schumer Coronavirus Derek Kilmer Donald Trump Inauguration Ivanka Trump Janet Yellen Jared Polis Jerry Moran John Thune Joyce Beatty LaToya Cantrell Lisa Murkowski Lloyd Austin Marco Rubio Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Morning Report Nancy Pelosi Patrick McHenry Pete Buttigieg Rob Portman Roy Blunt Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins Todd Young Transition Vaccine White House

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