The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Tuesday! The start of December! 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, 266,875; Tuesday, 268,087.



Congress gets back to work this week as the spread of COVID-19 hits new records and employers, economists and workers continue to beg lawmakers to succeed where they’ve failed since May and pass a coronavirus relief bill that President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE would sign as soon as politically possible.

 

The odds of striking a stimulus deal before the close of the 116th Congress are incredibly low, but that has not stopped a bipartisan group of legislators from attempting to rekindle discussions after months of touch-and-go talks between the Trump administration and Democratic negotiators. 

 

According to The Hill’s Jordain Carney, the group includes Republican Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill MORE (Utah), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet On The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (Ohio) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure Bill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol MORE (Maine) along with Democratic Sens. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsBottom line Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law Key Biden ally OK with dropping transit from infrastructure package MORE (Del.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (W.Va.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session Senate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (Va.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals How Sen. Graham can help fix the labor shortage with commonsense immigration reform For true American prosperity, make the child tax credit permanent MORE (Colo.) and Dick DurbinDick DurbinCongress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat. Specifically, the group is hoping COVID-19 relief provisions can be included as part of the must-pass government funding package. 

 

The deadline to fund the government with either a full-year budget or a short-term stopgap measure is Dec. 11.

 

The talks represent the first signs of life toward a fifth coronavirus-related package, with the most recent bill having been passed more than seven months ago. However, the gulf between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.) remains as wide as ever. The GOP leader continues to eye a targeted package of roughly $500 billion, while Pelosi is still pushing for a bill in excess of $2 billion. 

 

The Associated Press: Congress returns with virus aid, federal funding unresolved.

 

Politico: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida reports record 21,000 cases in single day, highest since start of pandemic Sunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Meadows says Trump World looking to 'move forward in a real way' MORE (R), a Trump ally, wants a COVID-19 relief bill to bolster relief for unemployment. 

 

Bloomberg News: Former Obama White House national economic adviser Austan Goolsbee on Monday said the U.S. economy is “inches away from having permanent damage that we did not have to have” when Congress and the Trump administration allowed provisions of the pandemic-focused CARES Act to expire. Goolsbee, an economist, said the hurdles for any agreement now turn on Georgia runoff elections in January, and GOP ambitions to retain the Senate majority. “The politics of this whole thing are quite complicated in the lame duck,” he lamented.

 

 

 

 

Senate Democrats on Wednesday will welcome a newcomer to their ranks: Arizona’s Mark KellyMark KellyHarris's bad polls trigger Democratic worries Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Poll: Two-thirds of AZ Democratic voters back primary challenge to Sinema over filibuster MORE, a Democrat and former astronaut who defeated Republican Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySchumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (Ariz.) on Nov. 3, will be sworn in as a senator at 12 p.m., his office said. 

 

More than a dozen members of the House and Senate tested positive for COVID-19 in the days before Thanksgiving, underscoring the risks when hundreds of lawmakers travel back and forth and gather to work in the Capitol. House Democrats delayed returning to session until Wednesday and are urging members to stay in Washington over the weekend, hoping next week to complete an overflowing agenda to end a dramatic 2020 (The Hill).

 

The Hill: Industry groups want Congress to extend reductions in alcohol excise taxes that expire at the end of the year.

 

More politics: Trump’s bashing of Georgia officials over presidential election results worries Republicans who think he could divide the state’s GOP ahead of Senate runoff contests on Jan. 5. Runoffs against two incumbent senators depend heavily on turnout (The Hill and The New York Times). Arizona on Monday certified Biden’s election victory (The Associated Press), and Wisconsin certified, too (Milwaukee Sun-Sentinel). Arizona Gov. Doug DuceyDoug DuceyArizona reports highest daily COVID-19 cases since March The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Republican governors revolt against CDC mask guidance MORE (R), who incurred multiple attacks from Trump on Monday, defended the state’s election process (CNN). … Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-Alaska) said on Monday that Trump should concede the election (The Hill). … Trump ally and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham, Cuellar press Biden to name border czar Trump takes two punches from GOP The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE of South Carolina said the president should attend the inauguration for the good of the country — “if Biden winds up winning” (The Hill). … And here’s one giant reason Trump has not conceded: His fundraising appeals to supporters to help him battle false claims of election fraud fuel his political machine, which has already hauled in an astonishing $150 million to $170 million (depending on reporting), which can underwrite his political activities and some personal overhead after he leaves office (The Washington Post and The New York Times).  





LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: In a world filled with doom and gloom, more promising news emerged on Monday as Moderna announced that it will be applying for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine, with the first doses set to be doled out shortly before Christmas. 

 

The pharmaceutical giant said that it will be applying for emergency use authorization with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with a group of FDA experts set to do a final review of Moderna’s vaccine on Dec. 17. The vaccine, which is 94.1 percent effective, according to the company, would then be distributed, with the first set of shots used to immunize Americans being released on Dec. 21. 

 

Stephen Hoge, the president of Moderna, told NBC on Monday night that there will be “trucks rolling within hours” of the vaccine receiving authorization. 

 

“We're quite optimistic actually, that the vaccine is — the data speaks for itself — and they'll be supportive,” Hoge told “Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt.

 

The Moderna meeting will take place exactly a week after the same group meets to likely approve Pfizer’s vaccine, likely giving the U.S. authorization of two vaccines before Christmas. In a tweet, Trump called on the FDA to “ACT QUICKLY.”

 

The New York Times: Moderna applies for emergency FDA approval for its coronavirus vaccine.

 

Fox News: Novavax delays U.S. coronavirus vaccine phase three clinical trial.

 

White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsMeadows says Trump World looking to 'move forward in a real way' Trump takes two punches from GOP Watchdog urges Justice to probe Trump, Meadows for attempting to 'weaponize' DOJ MORE, who recently recovered from COVID-19 and is tracking his boss’s tweets, is concerned that FDA is not working fast enough to approve a Pfizer vaccine and summoned FDA Administrator Stephen Hahn to an in-person White House meeting today, Axios reports. Hahn for months has worked to hold ground for FDA scientists, and that’s the posture he took in a comment to Axios for its report: "We want to move quickly because this is a national emergency, but we will make sure that our scientists take the time they need to make an appropriate decision. It is our job to get this right and make the correct decision regarding vaccine safety and efficacy,” he said.

 

With the coming approvals, U.S. officials are growing optimistic about the prospect of vaccinating any and all who want to receive a vaccine by early summer. Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the director of supply, production and distribution for Operation Warp Speed, predicted that 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be available by June. 

 

“100 percent of Americans that want the vaccine will have had the vaccine by that point in time,” Ostrowski told MSNBC. “We’ll have over 300 million doses available to the American public well before then.” 

 

NBC News: COVID-19 vaccines face a varied and powerful misinformation movement online. 

 

 

 

 

However, COVID-19 continues to spread at a rapid pace, leaving hospitals struggling to control the ever-climbing number of patients. In November alone, 4.2 million people in the U.S. tested positive for the virus — a 2.2 million increase over the October totals (NBC News). 

 

According to The Hill’s Peter Sullivan, the surging case count is threatening to overwhelm hospital systems across the U.S., with the likely post-Thanksgiving rise expected to make matters worse. According to the Transportation Security Administration, more than 1.1 million people were screened at airports on Sunday, marking the busiest travel day since mid-March. 

 

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Israeli president receives COVID-19 booster shot AstraZeneca CEO: 'Not clear yet' if boosters are needed MORE, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that the country could see another spike "superimposed" on the already bleak situation following the holiday. As of Monday night, more than 93,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in this country, a record number that is growing.

 

CNN: The Wuhan files: Leaked documents reveal China's mishandling of the early stages of COVID-19.

 

The Hill: Rep. Austin ScottJames (Austin) Austin ScottHouse Republican takes part in hearing while driving car Overnight Defense: Tim Kaine moves to claw back war powers authority | Study on sexual harassment and assault in the military Commissioners tasked with scrubbing Confederate base names sworn-in at first meeting MORE (R-Ga.) becomes the 26th House member to test positive for COVID-19.

 

The Hill: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWineMike DeWineSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Bipartisan governors press Biden administration on Canadian border restrictions University of Michigan says all students, faculty, staff must be vaccinated by fall term MORE (R) is the target of impeachment filings because of tough restrictions he ordered to battle COVID-19. 

 

The Washington Post: Lawmakers request new Government Accountability Office studies on the pandemic’s effects on the aviation industry.

 

> Departures: Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist, resigned on Monday from his post as the president’s special adviser on the coronavirus pandemic. Atlas was considered a special government employee when he joined the White House in August. He completed a 130-day detail this week.

 

As The Hill’s Brett Samuels notes, Atlas was a subject of criticism for many within and outside of the administration. Atlas, who is not an infectious diseases expert, pushed a widely disputed herd immunity theory in which some argue that older, at-risk populations should be protected while younger, healthier people would be free of restrictions.

 

The Washington Post: White House planning a packed season of holiday parties.

 

> Sports: The virus is also starting to wreak havoc on the NFL season, forcing the league to rejigger its schedule once again on Monday and displacing another franchise temporarily due to newly imposed restrictions. 

 

For a third time, the NFL postponed the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game, which is now set for Wednesday at 3:40 p.m. on NBC. The postponement also means there will be a pair of games on Monday night and one more on Tuesday night (ESPN). 

 

Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers will play its Week 13 and Week 14 home games in Glendale, Ariz., at State Farm Stadium, the home of the Arizona Cardinals. The move comes after Santa Clara County halted all contact sports for the next three weeks (ESPN). 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

NEW ADMINISTRATION: Democratic senators on Monday urged their colleagues to hold confirmation hearings before Jan. 20 for former Federal Reserve Chair Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenMissed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Fed chief holds firm amid inflation concerns The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers recount the horror of Jan. 6 MORE, Biden’s pick to be Treasury secretary. By following a model also used to seat some Cabinet nominees in the past, early hearings would allow for a Senate floor vote on or soon after Inauguration Day. It was a signal that Yellen, to be introduced by Biden along with other economic team members this afternoon in Delaware, is a bipartisan shoo-in for a role critical to the government during a pandemic-driven economic downturn.

 

This year, however, it will not be certain until after runoff elections take place in Georgia which party will hold the Senate majority to control committees and floor votes for Biden’s nominees.

 

The Senate Finance Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats release data showing increase in 'mega-IRA' accounts Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE of Oregon, told Reuters that Yellen’s confirmation hearing should take place before Biden is sworn in as president, as happened for Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election Democrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer MORE on Jan. 19, 2017, when Trump was president-elect.

 

Four years ago, the Senate confirmed Mnuchin on Feb. 2, 2017, by a vote of 51-48. But the chamber moved faster on Inauguration Day to approve Trump nominees James MattisJames Norman MattisWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Trump says Gen. Milley 'last person' he'd want to start a coup with Overnight Defense: Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld dies at 88 | Trump calls on Milley to resign | House subpanel advances Pentagon spending bill MORE to be Defense secretary and John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Three days later, the Senate confirmed Mike PompeoMike PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions MORE to be CIA director.

 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session Senate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done MORE (D-N.Y.) on Monday said, “The Senate should follow precedent and hold hearings on President-elect Biden’s nominees in January immediately after the Georgia elections, before the inauguration.” On Jan. 20, 2009, the Senate confirmed six of President Obama’s Cabinet picks, compared with seven for then-President George W. Bush on Jan. 20, 2001. Within weeks, Bush had his entire Cabinet through the Senate and in place (The Hill).

 

While Yellen’s approval by the Senate is seen as all but certain, the outlook for Neera Tanden, Biden’s choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget, is uphill. Criticized from all sides, Tanden (pictured below), the president and CEO of left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress, faces the toughest confirmation battle among Biden’s nominees thus far, report The Hill’s Alexander Bolton and Naomi Jagoda.

 

A spokesman for Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE (R-Texas) said Sunday that Tanden has “zero chance of being confirmed,” raising questions about why Biden would nominate someone for a key role who has been so unstinting and public when finding fault over the years with GOP senators. Tanden, a prolific presence on Twitter and television, also faces opposition from the left, including from allies of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Angst grips America's most liberal city Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (I-Vt.).

 

CNN: Is Tanden’s nomination doomed?

 

 

 

 

Biden’s latest economic nominees and appointees also include his choice to be deputy Treasury secretary (economist Wally Adeyemo) and a trio of labor economists to guide policy from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (Cecilia Rouse, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey) (The Hill).

 

Biden’s reported choice to lead the White House National Economic Council, Brian Deese, has been widely praised by former Obama administration officials, but his post-government work advising Blackrock clients on sustainable and long-term investment returns has some progressives up in arms. At the very least, under the incoming administration’s ethics rules, Deese’s financial holdings would come under close scrutiny (The Hill).

 

Politico: The quiet frontrunner: How Biden landed on Yellen for Treasury secretary.

 

> The European Union on Monday invited Biden to an in-person summit next year in addition to a virtual gathering. The in-person meeting is to coincide with Biden's possible visit with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Prensa Latina).

 

> Iran: Biden’s campaign pledge to engage with Tehran is complicated by Friday’s assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, which Iran blames on Israel. The organized and dramatic killing could limit Biden’s running room to put the United States back in the Iran nuclear deal, which is opposed by Israel’s government and by Trump (The Hill).  

  

Gerald F. Seib: Here’s where Biden will face early foreign-policy decisions. 

 

The Hill: Democrats who want Biden’s Cabinet to be as diverse as possible when all is said and done are keeping the pressure on the president-elect.

 

Government Executive: Biden’s transition agency review teams made contact or met with more than 50 agencies (as of the day before Thanksgiving), according to Jen Psaki, now the incoming White House press secretary.

 

Politico: Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - CDC equates Delta to chickenpox in contagiousness Harris's bad polls trigger Democratic worries Why in the world are White House reporters being told to mask up again? MORE announced an inaugural committee of their own to work with members of Congress and other Washington officials. Plans for the oaths of office, guest lists, customary afternoon parade and evening balls during a pandemic have not been revealed.



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



OPINION

How Biden can break the Senate stonewall, by Rahm Emanuel, The Wall Street Journal opinion contributor. https://on.wsj.com/2JgJPzc. (Note: The former Clinton-era White House adviser, former House member, ex-White House chief of staff for the 44th president, former Chicago mayor and more recently a paid TV political analyst is reportedly a potential Biden candidate to be Transportation secretary). 

 

Presidents should use the pardon power more — just not like Trump, by Charles Lane, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3qdoOG5 



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WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets on Wednesday.

 

The Senate meets at 10 a.m. The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee is conducting a hearing titled “The Quarterly CARES Act Report to Congress” at 10 a.m. with testimony from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

 

The president has no public events scheduled.

 

Vice President Pence leads a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 3 p.m.

 

Biden and Harris today will receive the President’s Daily Brief. They will introduce nominees and appointees formally announced by the president-elect and vice president-elect on Monday. The event showcasing members of the incoming administration’s economic team is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. in Delaware. 

 

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

 

 



ELSEWHERE

INTERNATIONAL: Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, alleged during Monday’s funeral that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the scientist who founded the Iranian nuclear program, that Israel used “electronic devices” to assassinate him. Israel has declined to comment on the killing (The Associated Press). 

 

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced on Monday that he will formally depart the agency on Jan. 20. Pai said that his tenure atop the FCC was the “honor of a lifetime.” Biden will now have the opportunity to either promote one of the two Democrats on the commission — Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks — or bring in a new chair from outside the agency (The Hill).

 

SUPREME COURT: The conservative-majority Supreme Court on Monday sounded reluctant to issue an immediate ruling that would halt Trump’s plan to count — and later subtract — immigrants residing in the United States illegally from the once-per-decade population count used to apportion seats in the U.S. House and allocate federal resources to states. The question of whether Trump can lawfully exclude the undocumented population from the census may be more fully litigated in coming weeks (The Hill). 



THE CLOSER

And finally … Cyber Monday is set to be the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history, Reuters reports. American consumers, who drive the bulk of the economy, were on track to purchase $12.7 billion in goods online, surpassing Black Friday, according to the latest industry estimates. Because of the coronavirus, items such as groceries, alcohol and clothing went into customers’ digital shopping carts, along with electronics, phones and smart devices after weeks if not months of promotions to beat this year’s holiday shipping crush and accomplish the deal-hunting online.

 

Today, by the way, is “Giving Tuesday,” a worldwide cyber pause for generosity, donations, charitable giving and commitments to help those in need. If ever there was a year to share kindness and extra cash with others, this is it.