The Hill’s Morning Report – Pandemic worsens; Biden taps Klain as chief of staff
Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday! 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, 237,584; Tuesday, 238,251; Wednesday, 239,638; Thursday, 241,800.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen across the country as states struggle with rising infections and hospitalizations. The Trump administration has shown little appetite for new federal responses to COVID-19 while it focuses on election legal battles and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition announcements.
On Wednesday, the United States reached another grim milestone, reporting more than 145,000 new COVID-19 cases. As The Hill’s Jessie Hellmann writes, coronavirus cases aren’t just on the rise in a number of hot spots — they are increasing in every single state, with Midwestern states racking up the highest number of cases per 100,000 people. As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 62,000 hospitalized with the disease nationwide.
There are 69 days until Biden takes the oath of office. In that time, more than 70,000 Americans are likely to die from COVID-19, based on the fact that more than 1,000 patients are dying daily from the virus. By Inauguration Day, there could be more than 8 to 10 million more U.S. confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
Making matters worse? The situation is not getting better as states have started to reimpose restrictions on businesses. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered bars, restaurants and gyms to shut down in-house services from 10 p.m. through 5 a.m., adding that the number of individuals who can attend private parties must be capped at 10.
“We’re seeing a national and global COVID surge, and New York is a ship on the COVID tide,” Cuomo told reporters. He said that gatherings at those locales have been a prime source of the virus’s spread across the state, according to contact tracing (Reuters).
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) issued a new face mask order, which includes directives for businesses to post signs about the new rule at entrances and enforce the rule with employees and customers, with inspections taking place by the state. If caught out of compliance, businesses could ultimately be temporarily shut down.
DeWine warned that if the trends continue, he “will be forced to close restaurants, bars and fitness centers.” On Tuesday, Ohio reported 6,500 new COVID-19 cases — more than 1,000 more than the previous day and a daily record (Dayton Daily News).
The New York Times: U.S. hospitalizations reach a record high as medical facilities are under strain.
The Washington Post: Daily coronavirus infections surpass 3,000 in Washington, D.C., region, setting record for eighth day.
CNBC: One medical adviser to the Biden transition, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said earlier this week that the country is headed toward “COVID hell,” He says leadership is needed along with federal support for lost wages if lockdowns of four to six weeks become necessary to control the virus and revive the economy before the widespread availability of an anticipated vaccine early next year.
“The worst of this crisis is playing out in the next six to eight weeks,” David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told The Washington Post. “The irony is, this is the time we most need our public leadership. Right now.”
While the pandemic runs rampant, President Trump remains steadfastly focused on other topics, headlined by his continued complaints of voter fraud and legal challenges in a number of states as he refuses to accept Biden’s election victory. On Wednesday, he made his first presidential appearance in nearly a week in the White House briefing room, which he used to lob voter fraud allegations without presenting any evidence and appeared at a Veterans Day event at Arlington National Cemetery.
However, the White House remains the center of a second COVID-19 outbreak, with three more staffers, including Brian Jack, the White House’s political director, testing positive since White House chief of staff Mark Meadows tested positive last Wednesday. In total, 12 people in the president’s orbit have tested positive for the virus in that time (ABC News).
CNN: Trump’s public schedules show little interest in work as he protests Biden’s legitimate election.
The Associated Press: Trump’s silent public outing belies White House in tumult.
The New York Times: The surging coronavirus finds a federal leadership vacuum.
Biden is moving swiftly ahead with his transition plans. On Wednesday, the transition team announced that Ron Klain, Biden’s former chief of staff in the vice president’s office, will be White House chief of staff in January. Klain, 59, a longtime confidant of Biden who advised the campaign and headed up his debate prep, served as head of the government’s Ebola response in 2014 under former President Obama. Klain has experience in all three branches of government, in law and business, as an adviser to numerous campaigns and also served as chief of staff to former Vice President Al Gore (The Hill).
The Washington Post: Biden’s choice of Ron Klain to run White House signals rejection of Trump-era chaos.
The Hill: Biden plays it cool as Trump refuses to concede.
Niall Stanage: Damage from Trump’s election pushback feared by experts.
Karl Rove: This election result won’t be overturned.
Reuters: Wall Street is not overly worried Trump can overturn the election.
More coronavirus news … Overseas, the United Kingdom and Italy each hit new downcast COVID-19 benchmarks. Great Britain became the fifth country to exceed 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus (The Associated Press). Italy surpassed 1 million cases of the disease (Reuters), with hospitals on the verge of hitting their breaking point (The Associated Press). … On the vaccine front, Novavax released its $1.6 billion contract with the government in an SEC filing. In August, the Department of Health and Human Services said that it had “no records” of the contract in response to public records requests (NPR). … Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla sold nearly $5.6 million worth of stock on Monday, the same day the company announced that preliminary data showed that its COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. However, the sale was part of a trading plan that was adopted in August (CNBC).
LEADING THE DAY
MORE POLITICS: Trump, as expected, is the projected winner of the presidential race in Alaska (The Hill). (The last Democratic nominee to win the state? Lyndon Johnson in 1964.) Trump continues to trail Biden in the Electoral College 279 to 217. North Carolina and Georgia remain too close to call.
In the Peach State, which represents 16 electoral votes, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said on Wednesday that a recount by hand of each presidential ballot will soon be underway in every county and will be completed by Nov. 20. Biden is currently ahead by more than 14,000 votes. The Trump campaign could ask for another recount after that, which would be conducted by machine. Even if the president were to gain thousands of ballots with a recount (considered highly unlikely based on past histories of recounts), any victorious math in Georgia would not be enough to put Trump over the 270-vote threshold in the Electoral College (CBS News).
“Obviously, this is a very close race and people that were on one side of the aisle don’t like the results. I get that. I’m a Republican,” Raffensperger told CNN. “But the results will be the results.”
In the meantime, Trump and Republicans continued to challenge the election in battleground states, an effort that prolongs a national mood of uncertainty after more than a week. In Michigan, which Trump narrowly won in 2016 but which Biden captured this time around, the president and the GOP on Wednesday filed a new lawsuit seeking to prevent the certification of the election results (Detroit Free Press).
In Arizona, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) denied a request from GOP lawmakers to test voting machines. “To be clear, there is no ‘current controversy’ regarding elections in Arizona, outside of theories floated by those seeking to undermine our democratic process for political gain,” Hobbs said on Wednesday. “Elected officials should work to build, rather than damage, public confidence in our system.”
“I respectfully decline your request to push aside the work that remains to be done to ensure an orderly completion of this election and instead launch and fund with taxpayer dollars a boundless ‘independent’ evaluation of ‘all data related to the tabulation of votes in the 2020 General Election,’” Hobbs added (Tucson.com).
Nationwide, the 2020 elections went smoothly with no credible evidence of fraud or serious irregularities (The Associated Press and The New York Times). More than 66 percent of eligible voters participated this year. More than 101 million early ballots were cast, making history.
> International: Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom referred to Trump on Wednesday as the “previous president,” but dodged a question about whether he spoke to Trump about a concession (The Hill).
> Inauguration: The coronavirus crisis and worries about large crowds and Trump’s avoidance of a concession make planning for an inauguration ceremony difficult. Many Democrats would jump at the idea of a virtual event, but are concerned that Trump supporters will flock to the Mall even if authorities try to close off the area around the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20 to hamper spread of the virus (Daily Beast).
> Senate contests: Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) is projected to be the winner in Alaska against independent challenger Al Gross (The Hill).
> House contests: The Hill published a handy guide to House seats that have flipped and those still pending.
> Campaign ads: If you live in Georgia, you won’t get relief from campaign ads until after two Senate runoffs on Jan. 5. In addition, the Trump campaign is raising money across all platforms to finance court challenges and to pump up a new Trump leadership PAC. … Meanwhile, Facebook extended its ban on U.S. political ads for another month (Reuters).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is walking a fine line in managing his party’s response to Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election as his lawyers steamroll ahead with legal challenges.
While the GOP leader defends Trump’s legal right to challenge the results of the election, he hasn’t endorsed the president’s claims of widespread fraud, as The Hill’s Alexander Bolton notes. Instead, McConnell has argued that the issue is one for the courts to deal with, giving his GOP colleagues political cover to do the same as they push to maintain the Senate with the Georgia contests.
On the other side of the political dial, the Kentucky Republican is letting GOP moderate members such as Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Susan Collins (Maine) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) voice their personal views about the likelihood that the former vice president will take over the White House in more than two months.
The Associated Press: Biden’s plea for cooperation confronts a polarized Congress.
If the GOP keeps hold of its majority, all eyes will be on McConnell as Biden and his team moves to fill his Cabinet, with a narrow margin in the upper chamber complicating Biden’s strategy to potentially fill it with sitting members of Congress.
Control for the Senate will not be decided until the first week of January with the Georgia contests. This creates a problem for the president-elect, who may have to reconsider whether to tap any congressional Democrats for his administration as the margins in both chambers are expected to be close to kick off 117th Congress (The Hill).
The Hill: Momentum grows for bipartisan retirement bill in divided Congress.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Republican governors around the country are failing as badly as the president did. The COVID-19 situation is deteriorating, by Charles P. Pierce, Esquire. https://bit.ly/2GT2yj5
Why Trump fears leaving the White House, by Timothy L. O’Brien, senior columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3pjiZXa
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m., and will not meet for votes until Monday. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will hold a press availability at 10:15 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will hold his weekly press conference at 11 a.m.
The Senate will meet at 11 a.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Aileen Cannon to be a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
The president will have lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:30 p.m. at the White House and meet at 4 p.m. with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
President-elect Biden is scheduled to meet with transition advisers in Wilmington, Del.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report unemployment claims for the week ending Nov. 7.
Virtual Event Announcement: Nov. 19
The Hill’s Diversity & 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, LGBTQ+ 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.
OPEN to nominations! The Hill’s annual Top Lobbyists lists will be published in December. The selection process is explained HERE.
➔ CATHOLIC CHURCH & POWER: The Vatican’s 449-page report this week into ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has raised questions the Holy See is being pressed to confront, chiefly what it’s going to do about current and future clergy who wield their power to sexually abuse adults, including seminarians, according to interviews with priests, lay experts and canon lawyers. The report particularly faulted St. John Paul II, who appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington and later made him a cardinal despite having commissioned an inquiry that confirmed McCarrick’s sexual abuse of seminarians (The Associated Press).
➔ FUTURE FOCUSED: Biden is counting on seasoned veterans of government and outside experts to advance progressive economic policies next year. He also assembled a team of progressive scholars, former regulators and economists to help chart a plan to fix the U.S. financial system from within, an unlikely and unpopular proposition among Republicans and many Democrats (The Hill). … Business groups shudder while chatter fades about Biden possibly nominating Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to lead the Labor Department. Reason? Messy if Republicans hold the Senate majority and to get a fast start on governing, the aim is to avert uphill confirmation battles. Plus, Democrats have few senators to spare and want to guard their Senate caucus numbers (The Hill). … What is Biden Country? It is the nation’s engine of economic growth. The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that Biden won in counties on Nov. 3 that account for a whopping 70 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. … Confirming an administrator to lead the Environmental Protection Agency next year is a challenge for the incoming Biden team, in part because progressives and environmentalists who may be candidates are vocal Trump administration critics who embrace starkly different federal policies and clash with Senate Republicans (The Hill). … Biden is assuring world leaders in conversations that the United States under his administration will reverse Trump’s “America First” foreign policy. “When I’m speaking to foreign leaders, I’m telling them: America is going to be back. We’re going to be back in the game,” Biden says. Readouts of Biden’s most recent conversations with the leaders of Australia, Japan and South Korea are HERE (The Hill).
➔ SPORTS: Major League Baseball continued with its award season on Wednesday as Cleveland’s Shane Bieber and Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer took home the annual American League (AL) and National League (NL) Cy Young Awards, respectively, for the league’s best pitchers. Bieber became the first unanimous winner of the AL award since 2011 after winning the pitching triple crown and posting a league high in earned run average, wins and strikeouts (1.73 ERA, 8-1 record and 122 K’s). Across the state, Bauer became the first Cincinnati Red to take home the award. Later today, the NL and AL Most Valuable Player awards will be handed out (MLB.com).
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by public enthusiasm for the Biden family’s German shepherds, Major and Champ, we’re eager for some smart guesses about White House pets.
Email your responses to email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
Quentin Roosevelt, young son of former President Teddy Roosevelt, once brought his calico pony up the White House elevator to amuse his sick brother, Archie. What was the name of the pony?
The Obamas added Bo and later Sunny to their family while living in the White House. What was a key attribute that particularly drew them to the Portuguese water dogs as a breed?
- Not big shedders (daughter Malia Obama has allergies)
- Large canines
- High energy
- Excellent swimmers
Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush were amused when their sometimes unruly Scottish terrier, Barney, became famous with what White House innovation?
- Best-selling holiday ornament in his likeness
- “Barney cam”
- Children’s book titled, “Barney Bush: Armadillo Hunter”
- Barney golf tips plus Camp David photos published on the White House website
Former President Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy in 1960 welcomed a puppy, Pushinka — an unexpected gift from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev during the Cold War. What feature did the canine possess that Khrushchev slyly sought to play up?
- Fluffy white fur
- Offspring of Sputnik 5 space voyager “Strelka”
- Obedience training
- Mongrel lineage