The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress moves to avert shutdown as virus talks stall again

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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, 282,312; Tuesday, 283,743; Wednesday, 286,325; Thursday, 289,431.

Ahead of a looming Saturday deadline, the House on Wednesday voted to keep the government funded for another week, sending a placeholder measure to the Senate today while a partisan, back-and-forth drama continues about whether to invest hundreds of billions of dollars to help jobless Americans and ailing small businesses before the end of the month.


CNBC: Wednesday’s government funding measure, approved by the House in a 343-67 vote, would avert a shutdown through Dec. 18. Senators could try to approve the stopgap bill as soon as today.


Eager to be out of Washington before the holidays but pressured to enact relief funding set to expire for millions of people who are impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, lawmakers resumed negotiations on Wednesday, although the talks have gone nowhere since May.


The Hill’s Alexander Bolton and Naomi Jagoda report that flickers of momentum appeared to stall amid persistent clashes over what should be included. The talks involve dueling parties and factions as well as Senate Republicans who are not in sync with the administration, represented by the Treasury Department.


At midday, a bipartisan group of House and Senate moderates circulated more details about a plan to extend unemployment insurance for 16 weeks and offer more loans to small businesses as part of a $908 billion coronavirus relief proposal. 


However, the summary, obtained by The Hill, included no specifics about two key hurdles: the Democrat-favored $160 billion to help state and local governments, and COVID-19 liability protection for businesses backed by some Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package GOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote MORE (R-Ky.). The discussion document sidesteps those persistent sticking points and describes agreements in principle “as the basis for good faith negotiations” (The Hill).


McConnell's proposal to scrap state and local funding from any COVID-19 relief bill has drawn criticism from economists who believe injecting federal funds into cash-strapped state and local governments before services are curtailed and workers purged is a wise investment to buoy a wobbly economy. State and local government revenues have been hit hard during the pandemic, resulting in more than a million layoffs in education alone (The Hill). 


The GOP argument championed by President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout MORE, who says such funding would wrongly benefit mismanaged cities and states led by Democrats, is incorrect, according to findings by Moody’s Analytics, which reports that six of seven states facing the steepest projected drops in revenues over the next two years are red states that supported Trump in November (The New York Times). The key issue is not which party is in charge but rather the economic and business underpinnings of the states, their tax structures, and how hard COVID-19 hit their populations and hospitals.


The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers weigh competing COVID-19 aid proposals.


CNN: The National Restaurant Association is publicly pleading with Congress to pass new stimulus to help the industry. The group said 110,000 restaurants, or 17 percent, have already permanently shuttered in 2020, and 37 percent of restaurants say it is "unlikely" they will be open six months from now if the government does not help (pictured above).


In the Capitol, a major complication lurking beneath lawmakers’ discussions is the uncertainty about which party will control the Senate after Jan. 5, when Georgia holds two key runoff contests that pit two GOP incumbents senators against Democratic challengers. McConnell appears determined not to bring any measure to the floor that divides his conference before voters cast their ballots in Georgia (The Hill).


As Congress continues to debate how to help Americans hang on economically during the pandemic, public health officials are working to promote trust in the effectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccines, which are expected to be available to some early recipients in the United States beginning this week. 


An independent committee crucial to clearing a COVID-19 vaccine will hold an all-day meeting today, and regulators on the panel are expected to make a decision to grant emergency use authorization in the coming days or next week (The Hill). The expert committee will review data from Pfizer and German startup BioNTech and by day's end will vote on whether the Food and Drug Administration should authorize the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine in this country. 


Despite the coming vaccine, members of the White House coronavirus task force say coronavirus vaccinations will not drive down the spread of COVID-19 until late spring. They want states to champion other mitigation measures in the interim. 


"The current vaccine implementation will not substantially reduce viral spread, hospitalizations, or fatalities until the 100 million Americans with comorbidities can be fully immunized, which will take until the late spring," the task force wrote in its weekly report to state governors. “Behavioral change and aggressive mitigation policies are the only widespread prevention tools that we have to address this winter surge” (The Hill).


The Associated Press: A new poll finds only about half of Americans say they are ready to roll up their sleeves when their turn comes. The survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows about a quarter of U.S. adults aren’t sure if they want to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Roughly another quarter say they won’t.


On Wednesday, public trust in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine took a hit in the United Kingdom as British regulators warned a day after a “V-Day” distribution program began that people who have a history of serious allergic reactions to medicines or food shouldn’t receive inoculations. 


That includes anyone who has been told to carry an adrenaline shot or others who have had potentially fatal allergic reactions, they said. British officials are investigating two adverse reactions that occurred on the first day of the country’s mass vaccination program. The two people affected were staff members with the National Health Service who had a history of allergies, and both are recovering. Authorities have not specified what their reactions were (The Associated Press).


Allergic reactions to vaccinations are rare and are usually short-lived, The Associated Press explains


Another public trust issue is access enjoyed by Trump allies to scarce treatments after they contract COVID-19. The president’s friends have benefited from the latest drugs and hospitalization in ways that are out of reach for most Americans (The New York Times).


International: Canada on Wednesday approved interim authorization of the Pfizer vaccine. Locales in major cities are expected to start doling out the shots as early as next week. Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauIndigenous leadership is a linchpin to solving environmental crises Dalai Lama gets COVID-19 vaccine, touts benefits Biden strikes optimistic tone in meeting with Mexican president MORE said this week that the country could receive up to 249,000 doses of the vaccine (The Washington Post). … Germany is gradually moving toward a tighter lockdown, at least for a limited period after Christmas. Chancellor Angela Merkel advocated tougher restrictions on public life Wednesday and pleaded with her countrymen to reduce activities and social engagement that serve to spread the coronavirus as the country reported its highest single-day death toll during the pandemic (The Associated Press). 


State Watch: Michigan House voting sessions were canceled on Wednesday and today because of the spread of the coronavirus through the ranks of lawmakers (The Associated Press). … Pennsylvania Gov. Tom WolfTom WolfFracking banned in Delaware River Basin Philly GOP commissioner cites election threats, urges McConnell to vote his 'conscience' Pennsylvania secretary of state resigns over ballot initiative error MORE (D) announced on Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19. The two-term governor said that he is asymptomatic and that he learned he was infected through a routine test. … Alabama Gov. Kay IveyKay IveyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Virus relief bill headed for weekend vote Overnight Health Care: Experts warn US risks delaying 'normal' summer | Alabama GOP governor extends mask mandate | Senate votes to take up relief bill Alabama extends mask mandate 1 month, bucking other GOP-led states MORE (R) extended the state’s mask mandate until Jan. 22 (CBS News). … In Baltimore, Mayor Brandon Scott (D) announced on Wednesday that indoor and outdoor dining will shut down in the city beginning Friday at 5 p.m. as virus cases surge (The Baltimore Sun).


More in Congress: “Congress’s gerontocracy problem shows no sign of abating,” reports The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who describes the short-term memory struggles of 87-year-old Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocrats worry Senate will be graveyard for Biden agenda Pro-Choice Caucus asks Biden to remove abortion fund restrictions from 2022 budget China has already infiltrated America's institutions MORE (D-Calif.). … Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote Senate rejects Cruz effort to block stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session MORE (Ill.), 76, the No. 2 Democrat, will become the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee next year (The Hill). ...The House on Wednesday passed a bill by voice vote that would make it easier for scientists to conduct marijuana research in states where the drug is legal (Politico). … In a victory for Trump, the Senate on Wednesday defeated a pair of Democrat-led measures to block the administration’s proposed sale of advanced military weapons (F-35 stealth fighter jets and Reaper drones) to the United Arab Emirates (Politico).





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POLITICS: The legal efforts by the president’s team are winding down after a sharp rebuke by the Supreme Court on Tuesday and as it launches another long-shot bid in an effort to overturn the election results. 


Trump’s attorney filed a motion to intervene hours after he indicated plans to get involved in the case in which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) — who is facing bribery allegations back home — is alleging that the new voting processes in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin skewed the presidential election results and that electors should not be allowed to cast their votes for President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Myanmar military conducts violent night raids Confidence in coronavirus vaccines has grown with majority now saying they want it MORE


The move took place as Trump continued to tweet about the miniscule possibility of overturning the election due to allegations of widespread voter fraud. However, his lawsuit does not make such claims. Instead, his attorney wrote, “It is not necessary for the Plaintiff in Intervention to prove that fraud occurred, however; it is only necessary to demonstrate that the elections in the defendant States materially deviated from the ‘manner’ of choosing electors established by their respective state Legislatures” (The Hill).


However, after Tuesday’s ruling, the Supreme Court is expected to dismiss the Texas case out of hand, with the Electoral College set to confirm Biden’s victory on Monday. 


The Hill: Supreme Court deals reality check to Trump's post-election legal fight.


Primary, 2022 edition: Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempTrump fires back at WSJ editorial urging GOP to move on Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee Democrats must prepare now for a contested 2024 election MORE (R) is staring down the possibility of a 2022 primary challenge after he rejected Trump’s demands to overturn the state’s presidential results and continues to find himself the target of the president’s ire. 


As The Hill’s Max Greenwood writes, Kemp, who was elected in 2018 after aligning himself closely with Trump, has received heaps of criticism from Trump in recent weeks, with the president recently saying that he is “ashamed” to have endorsed Kemp in his gubernatorial run. He also raised the possibility of a coming primary challenge and encouraged Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsGeorgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Perdue rules out 2022 Senate bid against Warnock MORE (R-Ga.), a staunch political ally who recently failed to make a Senate runoff, to mount a primary bid.


NBC News: Biden will travel to Georgia to boost Democrats Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock in runoff elections. 


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Trump warns Georgia AG not to rally other Republicans against Texas lawsuit.


The Hill: Former Ohio state senator Nina Turner filed paperwork on Wednesday to run for Congress, presumably seeking the seat held by Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeWe need to lay the foundation for meaningful housing policy change Black Caucus members lobby Biden to tap Shalanda Young for OMB head Sanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack MORE (D-Ohio), who, if confirmed by the Senate, will be secretary of Housing and Urban Development. 


Reid Wilson, The Hill: Legislatures across country plan sweeping election reform push.





> Investigation: Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden said on Wednesday that he is under investigation by the top federal prosecutor in Delaware for his taxes. In a statement, he said, “I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs. … I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors.” The incoming administration’s transition team said in a statement, “President-elect Biden is deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger.” The White House and the Department of Justice, which oversees U.S. attorney’s offices, declined to comment (CNBC). Trump throughout his campaign criticized the younger Biden for his lucrative international work, particularly in Ukraine and China. The Bidens, father and son, have denied any wrongdoing in relation to business dealings overseas.


Niall Stanage: The Memo: Democrats grapple with “elite” tag.


> Future elections: Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced Wednesday that he will run for his old position in 2021, having served a single term as governor from 2014 until 2018. 


The former head of the commonwealth officially launched his campaign in Richmond. Virginia is the only state in the country that bars governors from serving consecutive terms. If he emerges from what is shaping up to be a crowded field, a McAuliffe win would make him just the second Virginian since the Civil War to serve a second stint as governor (The Hill).


NEW ADMINISTRATION: Biden formally introduced retired Army Gen. Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinSunday shows preview: Manchin makes the rounds after pivotal role in coronavirus relief debate US proposes new summit with Taliban on interim Afghan government Overnight Defense: White House open to reforming war powers | Army base might house migrant children | Fauci scolds military on vaccine MORE on Wednesday as his nominee to lead the Pentagon, dismissing bipartisan skepticism about turning to another recently retired military officer, following James MattisJames Norman MattisRejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs The GOP senators likely to vote for Trump's conviction MORE, in the civilian job.


“I believe in the importance of civilian control of the military,” Biden said. “So does Secretary-designate Austin. He'll be bolstered by a strong and empowered civilian sector and senior officers, senior officials I should say, working to shape DOD’s policies and ensure that our defense policies are accountable to the American people.”


If confirmed, Austin would be the nation’s first Black secretary of Defense, the latest first in a trailblazing 40-year Army career (The Hill).


The Hill: Biden selects House Ways and Means Committee chief trade lawyer Katherine Tai to be U.S. trade representative.


The Associated Press: Deborah BirxDeborah BirxFauci defends Birx: 'She had to live in the White House' CNN's Brianna Keilar calls out Birx 'apology tour' Biden to name nurse as acting surgeon general: report MORE, Trump’s coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, would like to maintain a role in battling COVID-19 as part of  the incoming Biden administration. She has made her case to members of the president-elect’s transition, but her reputation has frayed over the last 10 months and her reluctance to publicly challenge Trump when he downplayed the virus has left some in Biden’s orbit skeptical that the globally recognized AIDS researcher retains credibility with the public.


The Hill: Biden’s selection of two Democrats in the House to join his administration next year leaves his party with the slimmest House majority in modern history. The pair of vacancies will be temporary; Democrats expect to hold those seats in New Orleans and Cleveland but must wait for special elections next year.


The New York Times: Team of rivals? Biden’s Cabinet looks more like a team of buddies.




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! 


Lloyd Austin’s qualities may have worked for him as a general, but not as defense secretary, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3m2tBqF 


China wants to be the world’s banker, by Hank Paulson, opinion contributor, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/39UbAZa 


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The House meets at 9 a.m. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump White House associate tied to Proud Boys before riot via cell phone data Greene sounds off on GOP after Hill story 'Bloody Sunday' to be commemorated for first time without John Lewis MORE (D-Calif.) will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. The House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations will hear testimony at 10 a.m. about elements of presidential transitions.


The Senate at 10 a.m. will resume consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2021, approved by the House.


The president will have lunch with some state attorneys general. He and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMissouri pastor faces backlash after suggesting wives should lose weight, strive to look like Melania Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - FBI director testifies on Jan. 6 Capitol attack Overnight Health Care: Senate to vote on .9 trillion relief bill this week | J&J vaccine rollout begins | CDC warns against lifting restrictions MORE this evening will host the annual Congressional Ball, despite risks posed to guests and White House staff during the pandemic.


The FDA will meet at 9 a.m. with an independent advisory committee to assess whether to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and clear the way for its almost immediate distribution to all 50 states.


Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package It will be Vice (or) President Harris against Gov. DeSantis in 2024 — bet on it Trump sued by Democrat over mob attack on Capitol MORE will receive the President’s Daily Brief. Later, they will meet with transition advisers. 


INVITATION TODAY: The Hill Virtually Live at 1 p.m. hosts “Doing Better in America.” As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, Americans are being forced to innovate. Across the nation, small-business owners and educators are leveraging new and creative ways of thinking to stay afloat in tough times. Among those joining the discussion will be Rep. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Top GOP lawmaker touts 'more flexible' PPP loans in bipartisan proposal MORE (R-Ohio), ranking member of the House Small Business Committee, and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. RSVP HERE


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


And, Hanukkah begins at sundown!


TECH: A bipartisan group of state attorneys general, including New York AG Letitia James (D), sued Facebook on Wednesday over allegations of anti-competitive acquisitions, teeing off a legal battle that could quickly expand. The Federal Trade Commission is expected to file its own case, putting Facebook firmly in the antitrust hot seat for the first time (The Hill).


FBI: An Associated Press investigation has identified at least six sexual misconduct allegations involving senior FBI officials over the past five years, including two new claims brought this week by women who say they were sexually assaulted by ranking agents. Each of the accused FBI officials appears to have avoided discipline and several were quietly transferred or retired, keeping their full pensions and benefits. “It’s repugnant,” Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierBill introduced to create RBG monument on Capitol Hill Why labeling domestic extremists 'terrorists' could backfire Hillicon Valley: Google lifting ban on political ads | DHS taking steps on cybersecurity | Controversy over TV 'misinformation rumor mills' MORE (D-Calif.) said. “In terms of sexual assault and sexual harassment, they are still in the Dark Ages.”


COMMUNICATIONS: Nathan Simington's confirmation on Tuesday to the Federal Communications Commission guarantees a 2-2 partisan deadlock when Ajit PaiAjit PaiHuawei wants appeals court to overturn FCC's national security ban Rep. Rodgers outlines GOP 'Big Tech Accountability Platform' Biden's Commerce secretary pick says Section 230 'needs some reform' MORE steps down as chairman at the beginning of the new administration. Democrats and digital rights groups are warning that Republicans will block any Biden nominee, effectively hamstringing the agency and crucially delaying the reimplementation of net neutrality rules (The Hill).


COOKIE CRUMBS: What else could possibly happen to consumers this year? The maker of Pepperidge Farm cookies, which is Campbell Soup Co., warns it is working through “supply constraints” in its cookie division, which makes familiar packaged varieties such as Milano and Chessmen. A combination of labor shortages due to COVID-19 and sweet tooth demand from those toiling at home caused the cookie-sector “challenge,” Campbell Chief Executive Officer Mark Clouse said on Wednesday. Cookie demand in the United States has surged 25 percent during the pandemic, with 1 in 5 Americans consuming more than three cookies per day, according to a report by Top-Data, a data analytics agency (Bloomberg News). Holiday home bakers are nonplussed: Ho, Ho, Ho!





And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the Biden transition team, we’re eager for some smart guesses about his picks (and possible selections) for the incoming Cabinet.


Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


Former Iowa Gov. Tom VilsackTom VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE was named by Biden this week to serve in a second tour of duty as secretary of Agriculture. During Vilsack’s 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, how many delegates did he win in the Iowa caucuses?


  1. 20
  2. 15
  3. 3
  4. None


Ron KlainRon KlainWhite House downplays surprising February jobs gain, warns US far from recovery The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Senate begins marathon vote-a-rama before .9T COVID-19 relief passage Economy adds 379K jobs in first report of Biden presidency MORE, a longtime adviser and confidant to the president-elect was named White House chief of staff on Nov. 11, becoming the first announced member of the incoming administration. Which of the following is a role Klain has not held?


  1. Clerk to a member of the Supreme Court
  2. White House Counsel 
  3. Chief Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee 
  4. Ebola response coordinator


How many self-identified members of the LGBTQ community have been named by Biden to the incoming Cabinet to date?


  1. 3
  2. 2
  3. 1
  4. None


Biden badly botched the name of one of his Cabinet picks during an event this week. Which one? 


  1. Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenState sanctions Ukrainian billionaire over alleged corruption Australian PM Morrison says Biden will join first-ever 'Quad' meeting Senators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China MORE
  2. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Health Care: Biden slams Texas, Mississippi for lifting coronavirus restrictions: 'Neanderthal thinking' | Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra |Over 200K sign up for ACA plans during Biden special enrollment period Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra MORE
  3. Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasPsaki: 'We don't take advice' from Trump on immigration MSNBC's Jacob Soboroff doesn't let falling equipment stop his report Republicans call for hearing on Biden's handling of border surge MORE
  4. Linda Thomas-GreenfieldLinda Thomas-GreenfieldAmerica's new multilateralism CBC 'unequivocally' endorses Shalanda Young for White House budget chief Blinken speaks with Ethiopian leader about human rights concerns in Tigray MORE