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The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Republicans squeeze Biden with $600 billion COVID-19 relief alternative

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It’s the first Monday in February as Black History Month begins! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported this morning: 441,324.


Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States have surpassed 26 million.

President Biden is staring down a major decision on how to proceed with stimulus talks after a group of centrist Republican senators proposed a pared-down relief bill and put pressure on Biden to meet with them to further his message about unity. 


A group of 10 Senate Republicans rolled out a $600 billion package that includes $1,000 direct payments, representing a proposed third round of checks to Americans. The senators will meet in the Oval Office tonight with Biden, who is proposing his own $1.9 trillion bill — a top priority of his administration (The Hill).


“We request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our proposal in greater detail and how we can work together to meet the needs of the American people during this persistent pandemic,” the group of Senate Republicans wrote. “We recognize your calls for unity and want to work in good faith with your Administration to meet the health, economic, and societal challenges of the COVID crisis” (The Hill).


The White House announced Sunday night that Biden spoke with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the leader of the group, and will meet with the 10 GOP senators at 5 p.m. for a “full exchange of views.” However, he did not back down from any possibility of moving ahead with his plan with only Democratic support using a tool known as budget reconciliation, a maneuver that needs a simple majority to clear the Senate (The Hill). 


“With the virus posing a grave threat to the country, and economic conditions grim for so many, the need for action is urgent, and the scale of what must be done is large,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement, adding that the administration’s proposal is “badly needed.” “As leading economists have said, the danger now is not in doing too much: it is in doing too little. Americans of both parties are looking to their leaders to meet the moment.”


The new GOP offer includes $160 billion for vaccines, testing, treatment and personal protective equipment. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the letter’s signees, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the counter proposal would lower those thresholds for direct checks to $50,000 for individuals (from Biden’s $75,000) and $100,000 for couples (from $150,000). The $1,000 direct payments would be smaller than the $1,400 checks Biden seeks (The Hill). 


Republicans note that Congress and the previous administration already enacted $4 billion in relief, which they argue renders Biden’s $1.9 trillion blueprint excessively and unaffordably large. Senators expect to publicly outline their alternative proposal today.


Early Sunday, Brian Deese, Biden’s top economic adviser, refused to back off the administration’s price tag and administration officials emphasized their goal of moving through Congress with speed (The Hill). Biden has said he is open to adjusting his proposed $1,400 in direct payments.


The Washington Post: Ten Senate Republicans propose compromise COVID-19 relief package, posing challenge for Biden.


Reuters: Republicans press $600 billion COVID-19 bill as Democrats ready Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan. 


Carl Hulse, The New York Times: Ghosts of 2009 drive Democrats’ push for robust crisis response.





Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the incoming chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said he believes Democrats have the votes to pass another COVID-19 relief package using the reconciliation tool. 


“Yes, I believe that we do because it’s hard for me to imagine any Democrat, no matter what state he or she may come from, who doesn’t understand the need to go forward right now in an aggressive way to protect the working families of this country,” Sanders said (The Hill).


The Hill: Progressives push controversial proposal on budget reconciliation.


The New York Times: Effort to include $15 minimum wage in relief bill poses test for Democrats.


The Sunday Shows: COVID-19 relief dominates.


As The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda writes, the ongoing talks continue a congressional debate about more direct payments and the appropriate income threshold that would determine the cutoff for federal help. 


Republicans and some centrist Democrats argue that additional stimulus payments should be more targeted to lower-income households because they are most in need of relief and may be most likely to spend the money they receive quickly. However, progressives believe that payments that are fairly broad ensure they are distributed quickly and  help people who have seen their income decline since they last filed a tax return.


More coronavirus: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order requiring masks on airplanes, mass transit, taxis and trains goes into effect late tonight, making not wearing a mask a violation of federal law. The directive also covers ride-share vehicles and does not apply to private cars or commercial trucks operated by individuals (Reuters). … Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) tested positive for COVID-19. The positive result comes just more than a week after the lawmaker received his second dose of the vaccine (CBS News). … The Hill’s Jessie Hellmann and Marty Johnson write that states are struggling to deliver more COVID-19 vaccines to communities of color, with scrutiny increasing over a racial inequity in the number of shots administered across the country (The Hill). The Associated Press also reports on U.S. racial disparities in the administration of COVID-19 vaccines measured by population.





POLITICS: The Republican Party’s internal unrest was on full display during the Sunday talk shows as conservative officials and GOP political analysts pondered 2022 elections in which former President Trump intends to be a force.


The divisions within the GOP, which spent the past four years almost singularly focused on Trump and his reelection, became apparent earlier this month when a mob of the former president’s supporters stormed the Capitol, after which Trump was impeached for a second time. Lawmakers and conservative candidates believe they will battle well into 2022 about whether the Grand Old Party is the party of Trump or a political force that can rally around policies and values rather than the former president’s personality and his powerful hold over his followers.


The Hill: Republicans scramble to unify into the next election cycle.


Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said on Sunday his party should strive to find its traditional roots rather than be defined by extremists and conspiracy theorists. On ABC’s “This Week,” the governor said that “whenever you have a broad diversity of the party reject the extreme elements, it’s not mainstream GOP, and that’s what we’ve got to get back to,” Hutchinson replied. “We’ve got to have a regard for those people that supported Donald Trump … because they have a message. They have a concern. But at the same time, we don’t want to gloss over the terrible actions that happened at the Capitol.”


The Hill: On the Trail: GOP divided over growing anti-democratic drift in the party.


The Wall Street Journal: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) sees a “fever” in the state GOP. Others see the future.


Congressional Republicans face a week of reckoning ahead of Trump’s second impeachment trial as the former president contends with a Tuesday deadline to respond to the charges and his party mulls whether to depose the No. 3 Republican in the House, Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who was one of the 10 Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment (Reuters).


The Hill: Biden wants Democrats to keep the Senate impeachment trial short.


The Hill: Trump announced a new impeachment legal team on Sunday, which will include lawyers David Schoen and Bruce Castor, the former president announced. Schoen, based in Alabama, was preparing to defend Jeffrey Epstein when the New York financier was found dead in his jail cell in August 2019 in what Schoen insists was not suicide. Castor was district attorney for Montgomery County in Pennsylvania when Bill Cosby was accused of sexual assault. Castor declined to prosecute; his successor secured a conviction in 2018. Five previous lawyers recently departed Trump’s impeachment team after a reported clash over strategy (CNN).


Trump has other legal entanglements waiting for him, The Hill’s John Kruzel reports. But legal experts say the former president ran out the clock while he was in office and used novel techniques to avoid final determinations that could have gone against his policies and personal interests.


“The administration foot-dragged and played the courts in very different ways in these cases,” said Steven Schwinn, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “But the bottom line was always the same: drag these disputes out in court and effectively achieve their policy goals.”


More politics: Biden may be trimming diplomatic posts for top donors (Axios).Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans grapple with setting a post-Trump tone (The Hill). … Former Vice President Mike Pence prepares for the creation of a policy-focused fundraising group as he moves beyond Trump and the Capitol siege (NBC News). … Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) announced on Sunday the formation of a new PAC focused on challenging the Republican Party’s acceptance of Trump (The Hill)







ADMINISTRATION: Experts want Biden to take swift action to improve the federal response to homegrown national security threats (The Hill).


> Iran: Biden made a promise to re-engage with Iran. He says the United States is prepared to rejoin the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear agreement, which Trump rejected in 2018. Reengagement will be a tough promise to keep, experts and key U.S. allies say (The Hill).


> Cyber: A newly established State Department bureau focused on cybersecurity and emerging technologies could give the Biden administration a launch pad for strengthening ties with allies in the wake of a massive Russian hack of U.S. government departments. But there are naysayers in Congress in both parties (The Hill).


The Hill: Senate to vote on Department of Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday to accommodate snow, travel delays today.


> Executive pen and rulemaking: Many progressives are delighted with Biden’s executive actions aimed at reimagining the federal regulatory process. But the president’s flurry of orders since Jan. 20 also prompted fears among some observers that Biden’s team will move away from the customary and lengthy administrative analysis of proposed regulations supervised within the Office of Management and Budget and carried out in agencies and departments (The Hill).


> ‘Special relationship’: Queen Elizabeth II invited Biden and other world leaders to Buckingham Palace before June’s scheduled Group of Seven summit, hosted this year in person by the United Kingdom. The Queen will meet one-on-one with the president, who is proud to talk up his Irish heritage. Members of the Biden family have met with members of the British royal family on previous occasions (The Hill).





It’s time to update internet regulations


The internet has changed a lot in 25 years. But the last time comprehensive internet regulations were passed was in 1996. 


We support updated internet regulations to set clear guidelines for addressing today’s toughest challenges. 


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CONGRESS: The president’s looming effort to pass an overhaul of the immigration system is facing headwinds in Congress, foreshadowing some of the same issues lawmakers ran into to pass a bill in 2013. 


As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, top Democrats are planning to start small with an area that already has bipartisan support, so-called Dreamers, as a base for broader negotiations. But Republicans are already sending warning signs that a larger deal is a non-starter and that they believe border security needs to be in any potential agreement. 


“There are some things I think are likely to be included and some things which will be too much of a reach,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the incoming Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and the No. 2 Senate Democrat, about Biden’s plan, pointing to the Dreamers-centric bill. “That’ll be our starting point to build support, as well as consider any additions to it. It is tricky territory.” 


> Judges: Democrats are mulling how to make their mark on the federal judiciary after Republicans moved at record speed to confirm conservative judges over the past four years. 


Biden has inherited 49 vacancies—two at the influential circuit court level and 49 district court vacancies. Democrats have floated expanding the number of lower court seats, an idea that could have bipartisan support, and hinted that judges who didn’t want to step down under a GOP administration may retire (The Hill).


The Hill: Democrats seek to make guns in the Capitol illegal — for everyone.

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


Biden’s bipartisanship will work only if it’s quiet, by Matthew Yglesias, opinion contributor, Bloomberg opinion. 


Alexei Navalny may be in jail, but he’s helping to give birth to a new Russia, by Vladimir Kara-Murza, opinion contributor, The Washington Post. 


The House will meet at 3 p.m.


The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. 


The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. in the Oval Office. At 5 p.m., they will meet in the Oval Office with 10 Republican senators who want to shrink the administration’s proposed COVID-19 relief measure. 


The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. …The White House coronavirus response team briefing, which takes place three times a week, will begin at 11 a.m. today with four senior administration specialists.


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


Internet regulations need an update


It’s been 25 years since comprehensive internet regulations were passed.


But a lot has changed since 1996. We support updated regulations to set clear guidelines for protecting people’s privacy, enabling safe and easy data portability between platforms and more.


Learn More


INTERNATIONAL:  In Myanmar, the military launched a coup today, detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and seizing power from a government that was only five years old (The New York Times). A military television network announced a one-year state of emergency, mobile networks and the internet are down and domestic flights are suspended. … Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets on Sunday across Russia to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, continuing nationwide protests that have rattled the Kremlin. More than 5,100 people were detained by police, according to a monitoring group, and some were beaten. Navalny’s team initially called for Sunday’s protest to be held on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square, home to the main headquarters of the Federal Security Service, which Navalny contends was responsible for his near-fatal poisoning last year. Facing police cordons around the square, the protest shifted to other central squares and streets (The Associated Press). … Among those arrested were at least 80 journalists, which prompted a letter of objection from free press advocacy organization Pen America. “The Russian authorities must cease these crackdowns and demonstrate respect for freedom of the press and the public’s right to freedom of expression and assembly,” the group said on Sunday. … The Associated Press Explainer: Behind the Kremlin’s response to Navalny rallies.


EXXON-CHEVRON MERGER? After the coronavirus crisis took hold last year and demand for oil and gas plummeted, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. talked about merging the two companies. The discussions, which were considered preliminary, are not ongoing. Nonetheless, a potential merger of the two largest U.S. oil companies has stirred plenty of discussion. Exxon turned in one of its worst financial performances ever in 2020. It is expected to report a fourth consecutive quarterly loss for the first time in modern history on Tuesday and already has posted more than $2 billion in losses through the first three quarters of 2020 (The Wall Street Journal).   


MAINE: A small company that’s developing a rocket to propel small satellites into space passed its first major test on Sunday. The Maine company, bluShift Aerospace, which launched from the northern Maine site of the former Loring Air Force Base, is one of dozens racing to find affordable ways to launch so-called nano satellites. Some of them, called Cube-Sats, can be as small as 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters (The Associated Press). … Also in Maine, a resurgence in popularity for sea shanties is having a communal, musical moment (The Associated Press).  


And finally …    The Northeast is braced today for a whopper of a storm that could dump more than a foot of snow in many areas, create blizzard-like conditions and cause travel problems. About 1 in 3 people in the United States were under winter storm watches or winter storm warnings (NBC News). Heavy snow is expected today in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the National Weather Service said. Much of the region could see blizzard-like conditions, with 18 to 24 inches of accumulation (The Associated Press). 


Snow began to fall in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, adding a hush and loveliness to a city still encircled by fencing and razor wire.  


Don’t miss the National Zoo’s video tweet from Sunday, showing playful pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian rolling and sliding in the white stuff! And how about two more images to help get this morning’s mood off to a good start?







Tags Adam Kinzinger Alejandro Mayorkas Asa Hutchinson Bernie Sanders Brian Deese Dick Durbin Donald Trump Doug Ducey Jen Psaki Liz Cheney Mike Pence Rob Portman Stephen Lynch Susan Collins
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