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The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history

The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 374,329; Tuesday, 376,280; Wednesday, 380,796; Thursday, 384,764; Friday, 388,692.

President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE asked Congress and Americans to back a $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal to improve responses to the coronavirus pandemic and help workers, businesses, and state and local governments hang on when more than a third of a million people have been killed by a virus and 11 million people are without paychecks. 

“I know what I just described does not come cheaply, but failure to do so will cost us dearly,” Biden said during a 22-minute prime-time speech on Thursday, just hours after the government reported that unemployment claims filed last week soared far beyond analysts’ expectations. 

“A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight,” he said, repeating his calls for unity and bipartisanship.

Worries about the increasingly grim national condition may help Biden as he asks Congress to support what would be the largest combined U.S. response to an economic crisis in history, including previous big-ticket iterations that gave fiscal hawks in Congress serious pause, but which he insists were “downpayments” on what’s still needed. The CARES Act, enacted last spring, had a price tag of $2.2 trillion. Congress approved another $900 billion in assistance in December. 

Biden has opted to push the outer limits of spending Congress is likely to back. He remembers well the Republican opposition to $800 billion in stimulus spending following the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and five months of pushback last year from conservative lawmakers who opposed another pandemic relief bill before Congress reached agreement. Republican lawmakers and some Democrats have already expressed wariness about Biden’s ideas, pointing to rising federal deficits and arguing that progressive social support programs disguised as “emergency relief” are nonstarters.

Biden’s ambitious package, if enacted, would bring to $5.2 trillion the total fiscal stimulus delivered to the U.S. economy since the crisis began, equivalent to about a quarter of U.S. annual economic output (Reuters). No other nation has responded to the pandemic and its impacts with that kind of government support. 

The Associated Press analysis, chart: Biden’s plan includes his goals of administering 100 million vaccine doses by the 100th day of his administration and trying to reopen most schools by the spring.

The president-elect, who did not refer to President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE directly, said he will today detail a separate plan to speed up the rollout of vaccinations. He said he will speak to a joint session of Congress in February about his administration’s longer-term investment requests to support infrastructure, research and development and clean energy.

Biden told lawmakers there is no time to waste to help struggling Americans and lift millions of people out of poverty. Legislative momentum, however, will slow amid a fraught Senate impeachment trial focused on his predecessor, the urgent need to confirm nominees to lead federal departments and agencies, jitters following the deadly Capitol siege, and a Republican Party in evident disarray. 

The Hill: Biden calls for swift action while outlining his $1.9 trillion virus and economic relief plan. 

Biden’s package includes more than $400 billion to respond to COVID-19 and to try to fix the too-slow vaccine rollout; $1 trillion in direct relief to households; and approximately $440 billion for small businesses and communities hit hard by the pandemic.

The incoming president is asking Congress to approve $1,400 checks for eligible Americans, which he says would bolster the $600 payouts dispatched under the most recent stimulus law enacted by Congress and Trump. 

Under Biden’s plan, supplemental unemployment insurance would also increase to $400 a week from $300 a week now and would be extended to September (Reuters)

Biden wants to extend to September the federal moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions, which are set to expire, and include funding in legislation for rental and utility assistance. Biden also called on Congress to embrace a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, plus federal spending to combat hunger, which has been an escalating problem among low- and middle-income Americans because of high unemployment during the pandemic. 

Vox: Biden’s economic stimulus proposals, explained. 

Economist Jason FurmanJason FurmanBiden, like most new presidents, will get his shot at economics Our rebounding economy doesn't need more stimulus checks Republicans now 'shocked, shocked' that there's a deficit MORE, former White House deputy national economic adviser to President Obama and later the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, reacted favorably to the president-elect’s plan, but tweeted that “the biggest missing item is permanent automatic stabilizers that would last as long as needed and scale up/down as appropriate based on economic circumstances. I very much hope this gets added in the Congressional process.”

A trio of economic thinkers who have advised Democratic presidents since the 1990s collaborated this week on a policy white paper that embraces a similar basket of ideas for Congress to consider, with the goal of having budgets “respond more automatically not only to short-term economic conditions but also to drivers of long-term fiscal pressures (for example, in health care and pensions).” Authors Joseph Stiglitz and Peter Orszag, who are economists, plus former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin are veterans of previous White House economic wranglings with Congress over investments and deficits. The three titled their proposal, timed to bolster the incoming economic team they all know well, “Fiscal Resiliency in a Deeply Uncertain World.” 

The Hill: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded Biden’s focus on the pandemic but stopped short of an endorsement of his plan. “We look forward to working with the new administration and Congress on the details and in ensuring that any additional economic assistance is timely, targeted, and temporary.” 

Just as jobless claims are climbing, so are daily coronavirus statistics across the country. During the first two weeks of January, each day has reported at least 184,000 new infections, with 11 of the 14 days eclipsing the 200,000 case mark. The current 7-day average of new infections sits at 244,000.

Since Jan. 1, more than 42,000 have also died from the virus, with vaccine distribution continuing to be a problem for the U.S. As of Thursday, 11.3 million doses have been administered — far short of the 20 million doses the U.S. hoped to have doled out by the end of 2020 (The Washington Post). 

The Hill’s Reid Wilson conducted a timely, exclusive interview with incoming White House chief of staff Ron KlainRon KlainKlain on Harris breaking tie: 'Every time she votes, we win' Murkowski never told White House she would oppose Tanden Who is the Senate parliamentarian and why is she important? MORE (pictured below), who said the incoming president seeks teams and not rivals. Klain has worked in three branches of government at the highest levels during two previous Democratic administrations. He’s a veteran of the drawn-out combat over the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and he helped the Obama administration coordinate its response to Ebola infections in 2014. 

“My work on the Recovery Act, which was a massive $800 billion effort, reporting to the then-vice president, now president-elect, was a great learning experience in how to coordinate among federal agencies, how to increase the pace at which government responds, how to break down bureaucratic conflict in the agencies and how to deliver results for the American people,” he told The Hill. “Those are the kind of models we’re looking at.

 

 

How any Trump impeachment trial proceeds will impact Biden’s efforts to move economic relief legislation through Congress with speed and votes.

As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton notes, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerRon Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade MORE (N.Y.) will soon take over as majority leader, control the floor and can draft and pass an organizing resolution to try Trump, relying on 50 Democratic votes plus Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala Harris Harris speaks with Netanyahu amid ICC probe Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill Why is Joe Biden dodging the public and the press? MORE casting the tie-breaking vote. Schumer will likely be able to pass a resolution with bipartisan support, potentially including Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Increased security on Capitol Hill amid QAnon's March 4 date MORE (R-Alaska) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Romney's TRUST Act is a Trojan Horse to cut seniors' benefits Republicans, please save your party MORE (R-Utah).

Whether the Senate is able to convict Trump rests largely on the shoulders of one person: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Klain on Harris breaking tie: 'Every time she votes, we win' How to pass legislation in the Senate without eliminating the filibuster MORE (R-Ky.), who said in a statement on Wednesday that he remains undecided on the question of whether to convict the 45th president. His actions will influence his GOP colleagues. 

The Associated Press: Trump impeachment trial could begin on Inauguration Day.

The Hill: Murkowski blasts Trump's election claims, calls House impeachment appropriate.

The Washington Post: Senate impeachment whip count: Where Democrats and Republicans stand.

LEADING THE DAY

MORE CAPITOL FALLOUT: Democratic lawmakers warned U.S. Capitol Police one week before the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that thousands of Trump supporters could storm the complex and try to “kill half of Congress” to stop them from certifying Biden’s election victory. One House member also warned that Vice President Pence’s life was in danger (The Hill).

> Security: Prior to the Capitol riots, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security had not conducted a formal threat assessment, despite open source warnings on social media, NPR reports. The bureau and the department completed such assessments before Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Ore., and demonstrations tied to the murder of George Floyd last summer. 

The Associated Press: Capitol rioters included highly trained former military and police. 

White supremacists, militia and hate groups by themselves are not new threats in America, reports The Associated Press. But the mixology is a new hazard. “This merging of groups you see in Charlottesville and that you saw at the Capitol last week doesn’t usually happen,” said Lecia Brooks, chief of staff of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “But they’re desperate. They are convinced that they’re this grave minority that is being threatened and needs to stick together and rally under the moniker of hatred.”

The Washington Post: The threat from Trump-inspired extremism is likely to remain and grow beyond Inauguration Day, according to experts. Some Trump supporters are abandoning plans to show up at events in Washington and in state capitals because of suspicions that federal authorities are trying to trap them. 

The Associated Press and Reuters: Guns packed in luggage will be barred on flights headed to the Washington area before the Inauguration, major airlines announced on Thursday.

> No fly: Customers who recently harassed Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRon Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief House Democratic leaders back Shalanda Young for OMB after Tanden withdrawal MORE (R-S.C.) on Delta Air Lines flights have been banned from flying again with the airline, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said Thursday (Reuters). 

> Arrests: A federal judge on Thursday ordered retired firefighter Robert Sanford, 55, of Chester, Pa., to be detained pending trial, after prosecutors filed charges alleging he hurled a fire extinguisher (captured on video) that hit three police officers during last week’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol (Reuters). ... A former occupational therapist with the Cleveland, Ohio, school system was arrested on federal charges after being identified as a participant in breaching the Capitol. Christine Priola, 49, appears in a photograph without a mask standing at the main desk in the Senate chambers clutching a placard. Priola, who is among dozens of people charged since the siege, was arrested on Thursday and accused of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building; violent entry; and unlawful activities on Capitol grounds (Cleveland.com).

Many of the people arrested to date were seen on social media bragging about taking part in the siege. The FBI has been combing through more than 100,000 videos and photographs. 

****** 

MORE POLITICS: Biden selected Jaime Harrison, a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, to lead the Democratic National Committee. Harrison set fundraising records in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last year (The New York Times).

Can the GOP break from Trump? Republican lawmakers are speaking out against the president in ways that were unimaginable only one week ago. Ten House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach the president. Polls show Trump still maintains a strong grip on the party's grassroots base and therefore on the Grand Old Party. Analysts in both parties predict Trump or Trumpism will remain an influence over conservative politics and red states for the near future (The Hill).   

Joshua Green, Bloomberg News: Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyRepublicans, please save your party House GOP campaign chief: Not helpful for Trump to meddle in primaries Democrats snipe on policy, GOP brawls over Trump MORE’s bold bet on impeachment. 

The New York Times: Abandon Trump? Deep in the GOP ranks, the MAGA mindset prevails. 

Politico: Diminished Trump leaves a vacuum for 2024 hopefuls.

 

 

Meanwhile, The Hill’s Cristina Marcos reports that trust between the two parties has reached an all-time low — and the mood is raising questions about how the two parties can work together in the new session of Congress. So far, House lawmakers are clashing over magnetometer compliance in the chamber, gun-toting colleagues, impeaching the president and investigating GOP lawmakers over claims that rioters had insider help before storming deep into the Capitol.   

Corporate money talks when it walks: Republicans are scrambling to contain the fallout from donors who are freezing political contributions and distancing themselves from lawmakers who voted on Jan. 6 to overturn Electoral College results. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyWatch live: McCarthy holds press briefing Biden vows to work with Congress to 'refine' voting rights bill House passes voting rights and elections reform bill MORE (R-Calif.), who voted to reject certified results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, is trying to calm harsh verdicts from usually reliable conservative donors (The Hill). Corporations recognize that power will be in the hands of Democrats in two branches of government beginning next week. 

Bloomberg News: Girl Scouts of Greater New York seeks to exit a long-term lease in a Trump-branded building in Gotham.

Politico: Sen. Rick Scott's (R-Fla.) rocky start atop GOP Senate campaign arm.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

NEW ADMINISTRATION: Biden chose David Kessler, a pediatrician and former head of the Food and Drug Administration, to help direct Operation Warp Speed, the program to accelerate development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments (The New York Times). Kessler will replace Moncef Slaoui, a researcher and former drug company executive, who will become a consultant to Operation Warp Speed. Kessler has been a key adviser to the president-elect and is co-chair of the transition team’s coronavirus task force.

In addition to working to speed delivery of vaccines, Kessler is expected to emphasize U.S. development of treatments, and he plans to begin a major antiviral development program for treatment of COVID-19, according to transition officials who spoke to the Times. He also wants to work on boosting the capacity for the manufacture of vaccines against the coronavirus as well as other pathogens.

The Washington Post: Experts warn of vaccine stumbles because Trump officials refused to consult with the Biden team. 

> Biden's transition team announced that Anne Neuberger, the cybersecurity director at the National Security Agency, will become the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology on the White House National Security Council (The Washington Post). … John Kirby, the former spokesman under John KerryJohn KerryEconomic growth in Africa will not be achieved by a blanket ban on fossil fuels Biden can build on Pope Francis's visit to Iraq OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine MORE at the State Department and Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy Hagel15 former Defense officials back waiver for Austin to serve as Defense secretary The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history John Kirby to reprise role as Pentagon press secretary under Biden MORE at the Department of Defense, will once again serve as Pentagon press secretary (The New York Times).  

> Veteran communicator Anita Dunn will serve as a temporary adviser and coordinator in the West Wing following Biden’s inauguration. She advised the Biden campaign and previously worked with former President Obama and other Democrats over the years (Axios).

> Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez: The Biden team and the inaugural committee announced on Thursday that Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez will also perform at the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony. (Listen to Grammy winner Lady Gaga sing the anthem during the 2016 Super Bowl.) Georgia firefighter Andrea Hall will lead the Pledge of Allegiance, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman will read a poem, and the Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman will offer a benediction. The Rev. Leo O’Donovan will begin the ceremony with an invocation. 

Inaugural week activities include, “United We Serve,” a national day of service on Monday, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday; a nationwide COVID-19 “Memorial to Lives Lost” on Tuesday; and on Wednesday, the official swearing-in at the Capitol and a wreath laying by Biden and Harris and former U.S. presidents at Arlington National Cemetery. There will also be a virtual “Parade Across America,” and a “Celebrating America” prime-time program on Inauguration Day. A public art display on the National Mall, “Field of Flags,” is intended to represent Americans unable to travel to attend the events. 

The Capitol grounds will be closed to the public on Jan. 20; the inauguration is a ticketed event only. 

 

 

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

Our national security apparatus failed last week. It will be ready for Inauguration Day, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3bCK2Za 

Is Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine a game changer? By Bloomberg Opinion Staff. https://bloom.bg/3nJE8rD

WHERE AND WHEN

The House scheduled a pro forma session at 11 a.m.  

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators are not currently scheduled to return to Washington until the inauguration.

The president has no public events scheduled. 

Economic indicator: The U.S. Census Bureau at 8:30 a.m. will release a report on retail sales in December. It is expected to show a level of consumer pullback as the year ended.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will detail a plan to speed up the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to Americans and meet with transition advisers. 

The National Task Force on Election Crises will release a post-election report during a virtual briefing at 11 a.m. ET. Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will lead a panel discussion about “Strengthening Our Elections and Preventing Election Crises: Lessons and Recommendations from the 2020 General Election.” Information is 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

ELSEWHERE

CORONAVIRUS: Rep. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralLawmakers remember actress Cicely Tyson Over 40 lawmakers sign letter urging Merrick Garland to prioritize abolishing death penalty The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (D-N.Y.) became the fourth lawmaker to test positive for COVID-19 following last week’s riot at the Capitol during which multiple GOP lawmakers refused to wear masks while sheltering for hours alongside colleagues. Reps. Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanProgressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks NAACP, Rep. Bennie Thompson sue Trump, Giuliani over Capitol riot Fallen Capitol Police officer to lie in honor in Rotunda MORE (D-N.J.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalProgressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks Democrats snipe on policy, GOP brawls over Trump House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade MORE (D-Wash.), and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderBlue Dogs push for further action on domestic terrorism Growing extremist threats put more pressure on Biden Capitol insurrection fallout: A PATRIOT Act 2.0? MORE (D-Ill.) tested positive in recent days. The husband of Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyPressley says image of Black custodial staff cleaning up Capitol after Jan. 6 riot 'haunts' her DeJoy apologizes for mail delays while defending Postal Service changes DeJoy set for grilling by House Oversight panel MORE (D-Mass.) also tested positive after being exposed to the maskless lawmakers. Pressley is in isolation (The New York Times). 

INTERNATIONAL: An American racing pigeon that managed to make its way to Australia (probably as an intrepid stowaway on a cargo ship) may be captured and euthanized because Australia’s Agriculture Department fears the banded bird nicknamed Joe (after president-elect Biden) poses a potential disease risk. The Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union confirmed that Joe was registered to an owner in Montgomery, Ala. (The Associated Press). This kind of bureaucratic and regulatory dilemma, now well reported across the Pacific Ocean, is ruffling feathers. 

➔  BIRTHDAY: Get a head start with the noise makers: Actress Betty White celebrates her 99th natal day on Sunday! She told Entertainment Tonight she plans to be plenty busy.

THE CLOSER

And finally … Welcome back to all of our quizzers! And congrats to the following for acing the Morning Report’s Thursday quiz on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ahead of the Monday holiday.

Here’s who went 4/4 on the first puzzle of 2021: Mary Anne McEnery, Patrick Kavanagh, William Chittam, Pam Manges, Luther Berg, Ki Harvey, Candi Cee, Donna Minter, Lori Benso, Anita Bales and Heather Champion.  

They knew that President Reagan enshrined Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday. He did so in 1986.  

King’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech lasted 17 minutes

King, born Michael King Jr., formally changed his name to “Martin” on his birth certificate at age 28.

Finally, King was imprisoned on 29 occasions during his celebrated civil rights career.