The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, GOP senators begin talks; Dems push ahead

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Tuesday! 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 each morning this week: Monday, 441,324; Tuesday, 443,355.

President Biden signaled on Monday that he remains prepared to move ahead with his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan with only Senate Democrats as he met with a group of centrist Senate Republicans who are urging bipartisan compromise.  


Biden and Vice President Harris met Monday night in the Oval Office with 10 Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Biden-GOP infrastructure talks off to rocky start Moderate GOP senators and Biden clash at start of infrastructure debate MORE (R-Maine), to discuss the parameters of his blueprint alongside a $618 billion alternative they favor. Collins said the nearly two-hour meeting was productive and that staff members would continue detailed discussions with the administration. 


The White House said in a statement released after the meeting that preparations to use a tool known as budget reconciliation to move Biden’s proposals through Congress will continue and could still attract bipartisan backing. 


“While there were areas of agreement, the President also reiterated his view that Congress must respond boldly and urgently, and noted many areas which the Republican senators' proposal does not address,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiMcConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS Five takeaways from Biden's first budget proposal Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists MORE said. “He reiterated that while he is hopeful that the Rescue Plan can pass with bipartisan support, a reconciliation package is a path to achieve that end.” 


Psaki, referring to the dual crises of a pandemic and high unemployment, repeated that Biden “will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment.” The comments came as Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe growing threat of China's lawfare Pelosi planned on retiring until Trump won election: report Biden: 'Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the UK' MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally H.R. 1/S. 1: Democrats defend their majorities, not honest elections McCarthy asks FBI, CIA for briefing after two men on terror watchlist stopped at border MORE (D-N.Y.) announced they would work to pass a budget this week, instructing the relevant committees to write a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill mirroring Biden’s ideas. This sets the stage for a complex strategy that requires only 50 votes for enactment in the evenly divided Senate. As vice president, Harris would be the tie-breaker.


As The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant writes, Democrats argue that Biden’s approach will keep the door open to a bipartisan compromise. However, it ensures that a bill can be passed before certain unemployment benefits expire in mid-March. Using the reconciliation process will likely take several weeks.


The package promoted by GOP senators includes $160 billion for testing, vaccines and personal protective equipment, which mirrors Biden’s plan. Republicans favor direct payments worth $1,000 and an extension of unemployment insurance payments of $300 per week through June. Biden favors $400 per week through September for jobless benefits. The GOP proposal does not include any support for state and local governments, nor does it back Biden’s call for a $15 an hour minimum wage during the economic downturn (The Hill). 


“All of us are concerned about struggling families, teetering small businesses and overwhelmed health care system, getting vaccines out and into people’s arms and strengthening our economy and addressing the public health crisis that we face,” Collins told reporters after the meeting. 


The New York Times: Republicans pitch Biden on smaller aid plan as Democrats prepare to act alone.


The Washington Post (includes charts): Republican senators sounded a hopeful tone as they ended a two-hour meeting with Biden. The White House says Americans’ struggles, including being able to afford food during this period (as pictured in New York, below), require legislation closer to the president’s plan than “smaller” alternatives.


The Associated Press: Biden meets Republicans on virus aid, but no quick deal. 


The Hill: S&P: Biden coronavirus relief proposal would restore economy by summer.





As Biden continues to confer with Senate Republicans, all eyes on the Democratic side are on Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS Five takeaways from Biden's first budget proposal Parkland parent pressures Manchin on gun reform: 'You represent the nation' MORE (D-W.Va.), who is square in the middle in the battle between GOP centrists and the size of the future stimulus package. 


Many Democrats have dismissed the Republicans’ $618 billion relief proposal as a fraction of what is needed. However, Manchin has yet to say whether he supports the effort by Democrats to move a proposal via budget reconciliation with a simple majority. His hesitation also comes as the administration ups the pressure on him, with Harris telling a local TV station in the state that the full package is needed because 1 in 7 families in the state are hungry (The Hill). 


The pressure campaign upset the West Virginia Democrat, whose vote is crucial to advance a bill using the procedural maneuver. On Monday, Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate Lawmakers say fixing border crisis is Biden's job Five things to watch on Biden infrastructure plan MORE (D-Mont.) told Politico that he will support the budget resolution this week, keeping the Democratic reconciliation effort afloat.


CNN: White House reached out to Manchin after Harris's West Virginia interview.


The Hill: West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) urges Congress to “go big” on COVID-19 relief.


The Hill: CBO projects December's COVID-19 relief package to boost economy 1.5 percent.





POLITICS & CONGRESS: Temperatures are rising throughout the House GOP conference, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyRepublican House campaign arm rakes in .7 million in first quarter McCarthy asks FBI, CIA for briefing after two men on terror watchlist stopped at border Harris in difficult starring role on border MORE (R-Calif.) has come up with a way to deal with this: Talk about anything else.


As The Hill’s Juliegrace Brufke and Scott Wong report, McCarthy is facing a two-front war over the push by conservatives to oust Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyTrump faces test of power with early endorsements Budowsky: Great for Dems: Trump dominates GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate MORE (R-Wyo.) from leadership and calls for action to be taken regarding Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for incendiary comments she made before being sworn into office. In response, the GOP leader is directing his focus elsewhere as he attempts to cool tensions.


McCarthy is set to join other GOP lawmakers in Houston this week to pan the Biden administration’s energy policies, having already gone to the mat to do the same regarding their since-reversed plan to vaccinate prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. 


However, he has no choice but to wade into the tumultuous waters. On Wednesday, the House Republican Conference will meet to debate Cheney’s future. Later in the week, he is set to meet with Greene, whom Democrats are pushing to remove from a number of key committees in response to a string of violent and racist remarks she's made in recent years. 


As The Hill’s Mike Lillis writes, the House Rules Committee on Wednesday will consider a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzFlorida Democrats call for DOJ investigation of state Senate races Democrats urge FDA to clear market of all flavored e-cigarettes DeSantis threatens to divert vaccines from communities criticizing distribution MORE (D-Fla.), to strip Greene of her seats on the House Budget Committee and the Education and Labor Committee, citing unspecified “conduct she has exhibited.” 


“Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene must be held accountable for her reprehensible statements, and I am discussing with Members the best course of action to do so,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse to vote on DC statehood, gender pay gap Moderate Democrats warn leaders against meddling in Iowa race Democrats vow to go 'bold' — with or without GOP MORE (D-Md.), who spoke to McCarthy about the situation involving Greene, said in a statement Monday afternoon. 


As Jonathan Easley writes, the push to punish Greene is part of an ongoing effort to make Greene the national face of the GOP, not unlike what Republicans have attempted to do with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezNew York City's suicide mission should alarm the entire nation Marjorie Taylor Greene rakes in over .2M in first quarter The strategy Biden needs to pass his infrastructure plan MORE (D-N.Y.). 


Republicans are worried that the move could harm their efforts to win back the moderates, independents, women and suburban voters they need to retake the House and Senate. In a statement first shared with The Hill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS McConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists MORE (R-Ky.) slammed Greene’s embrace of “loony lies and conspiracy theories,” calling it a “cancer for the Republican Party.”


“Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality,” McConnell said. “This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”


CNN: Cheney gets boost from McConnell amid divisive intraparty battle over Trump's impeachment.


Politico: Trump pollster's campaign autopsy paints damning picture of defeat.


CBS News: In recounting of Capitol riots, Ocasio-Cortez reveals she is a sexual assault survivor.


> Senate map: Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanTrump faces test of power with early endorsements DC delegate pushes for removing Capitol fence despite car attack Former Ohio health director won't run for Senate MORE (D-Ohio) is expected to launch a bid to fill the open seat being vacated by Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTo encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Biden-GOP infrastructure talks off to rocky start MORE (R-Ohio) in March, according to The New York Times


Ryan has reportedly been encouraged to run by a number of Ohio and national Democrats, while also discussing a potential bid with members of the Ohio congressional delegation and union leaders. 


The seat is expected to attract a number of prominent candidates on each side of the aisle. In a potential primary, Ryan could face Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Amy Acton, the former director of Ohio’s Department of Health who ran the state’s COVID-19 response last year (The Hill). 


Niall Stanage: The Memo: Rep. Marci Kaptur (D-Ohio) says many in her party “can't understand” working-class concerns.


The Associated Press: South Dakota Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - World mourns the death of Prince Philip The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Five things to watch for at the GOP's donor retreat MORE (R) raised almost $1 million in the fourth quarter of 2020. She is seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2024.


The Hill: Trump legal switch hints at larger problems.




MORE ADMINISTRATION: Biden today will expand on his administration’s early approach to overhauling immigration policies, considered part of an ambitious agenda complicated by a narrow Democratic majority in the Senate and decades of complex politics when it comes to undocumented migrants already living in the United States and those trying to get across the border. 


The president today is focused on a multi-part plan for “safe, lawful and orderly migration,” plus a restoration of the asylum system. “The situation at the border will not transform overnight, due in large part to the damage done over the last four years,” the White House said in a fact sheet.


Biden will sign three executive orders focused on reforming the immigration system and undoing Trump administration policies, including establishing a family reunification task force and calling for a review of a rule defining when immigrants have received U.S. public benefits.


One of the orders will create a task force focused on identifying all of the minor children separated from their parents or guardians due to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy in 2018, which a senior Biden administration official called a “moral failure and a national shame.”


The task force has the responsibility of reuniting hundreds of migrant children with their families, many of whom were deported. The group will advise the president how the administration can prevent future separations of immigrant families (The Hill).


Biden’s announcements this evening will build on his executive actions after his inauguration, including steps to preserve and fortify protections for Dreamers, end the Muslim and Africa ban, halt border wall construction and protect Liberian nationals living and working in the United States, the White House says. Biden last month sent Congress the United States Citizenship Act with proposed reforms he would like to enact this year.


> Nominations: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which has regulatory jurisdiction to protect investors, is under pressure to sort out the recent GameStop Corp. stock frenzy and Reddit-driven stock rallies that elevated the market power of small traders against professional investors, including hedge funds. Veteran regulator Gary GenslerGary GenslerOn The Money: Biden .5T budget proposes major hike in social programs | GOP bashes border, policing provisions The truth behind companies' 'net zero' climate commitments Biden's push for a more noble capitalism is destined to fail  MORE is Biden’s nominee to head the SEC, but a Senate confirmation hearing has not been scheduled as yet (The Hill).


NBC News: Biden administration eyes Rahm Emanuel for ambassadorship.


Bloomberg News: The Senate Banking Committee, chaired by Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownA bold fix for US international taxation of corporations Democrats offer competing tax ideas on Biden infrastructure Former Ohio health director won't run for Senate MORE (D-Ohio), has not set a date for Gensler’s confirmation hearing, although Brown has said the committee will hold a hearing on the GameStop drama.


The Wall Street Journal and Financial Post: Meet Keith Gill, 34, the Massachusetts-based trader who helped drive up GameStop’s stock until his E-Trade brokerage account held $33 million as of last week.


The Wall Street Journal: On Monday, online investors who spurred a trading frenzy in the shares of GameStop and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. moved to the global silver market, powering the precious metal to its biggest one-day advance in more than a decade. Many investors piled into silver bars and coins online, along with silver-linked exchange-traded funds and shares of silver producers. Many traders with experience in commodities say the trade is highly speculative. 


> Cyber profile: In 2016, Suzanne Spaulding was the Obama administration’s cyber security chief in charge during Russia’s efforts to interfere with the presidential election. She tells The Hill that she is pushing for more U.S. action to combat disinformation, which influenced the 2020 presidential contest. Spaulding is now a senior adviser for homeland and international security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.


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CORONAVIRUS: Biden administration officials on Monday defended the government’s recommended two-dose vaccine strategy to achieve maximum possible effectiveness amid fears of highly infectious variants of the coronavirus. There are some scientists and medical specialists, including in the United Kingdom, who believe populations would be wiser to spread available supplies of COVID-19 vaccines as widely as possible, rather than slowly schedule two doses among high-risk populations, followed by everyone else (The Hill).


“We said we would follow the science in rolling out these vaccines and that is our intent,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyOvernight Health Care: White House rebuffs call to send more vaccine doses to certain states | White House warns states to expect low weekly J&J vaccine shipments Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team briefing CDC data shows rise in Brazil variant detected in US MORE during a Monday briefing for journalists.


Some experts have also warned that giving people just one dose, and providing a lower level of protection could give the virus room to mutate further and lead to even more dangerous variants. 


“There is an ongoing concern that we would see the emergence of more variants” with a one-dose strategy, Walensky said. 


Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump endorses Rand Paul for reelection The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Let's make a deal on infrastructure, taxes Overnight Health Care: UK coronavirus variant now most common strain in US | Over 500K sign up for ObamaCare in special period | EU finds 'possible link' between AstraZeneca vaccine, blood clots MORE, the government’s top infectious disease expert, added: “The first priority will always be to get the people who've gotten their first doses to get their second dose.”


U.S. vaccine supplies are still considered scarce in most states compared with the ongoing demand and in light of circulating strains of the coronavirus. Only 8.1 percent of the U.S. population has been vaccinated, which is a pace that could require years to achieve broad population immunity (Bloomberg News vaccine tracker).


> Vaccination sites are taking on the jumbo size of athletic stadiums, a solution to the problem of moving as many people through appointment lines with the least amount of inconvenience (and the least burden on hospitals and clinics). Cities using that model include Boston, Charlotte, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Minneapolis. Even a mammoth winter storm on Monday did not stop the Fenway Park site (pictured below) from opening in Boston (WCVB). Personnel giving the shots will eventually administer as many as 1,000 doses a day at Fenway. The vaccine location, home to the Boston Red Sox, is expected to stay open through the beginning of baseball season in early April.  


> Impediments to getting vaccinated: Without a ride, many Americans in need have trouble getting COVID-19 vaccines because they have no transportation to get to sites for first and second doses (Stateline).


> Fatalities: California and New York lead the nation in deaths from COVID-19, even as caseloads of infection continue to drop. In California an average of 544 people died every day in the last week, and on Saturday the state’s fatalities exceeded 40,000 overall. New York’s fatalities now top 43,000. In California, the death rate for Latinos is 20 percent higher than the statewide average. Deaths of Black people are 12 percent higher. Case rates are 39 percent higher in communities where the median income is less than $40,000 (The Associated Press).




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! 


What canceling student debt would do for the racial wealth gap, by Naomi Zewde and Darrick Hamilton, opinion contributors, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3pEpcg1


The pros and cons of running the economy hot, by Vivekanand Jayakumar, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/39Cl9ex


The House meets at 2 p.m.


The Senate meets at 10:30 a.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg hopes cruises will return by mid-summer Biden to host bipartisan talks on infrastructure next week The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - World mourns the death of Prince Philip MORE to be secretary of Transportation. Senators will vote today on the nomination of Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro Mayorkas3M files lawsuit against Florida company over fake N95 masks Omar slams Biden admin for continuing 'the construction of Trump's xenophobic and racist wall' Biden review could reveal additional families separated under Trump 'zero tolerance' policy MORE to lead the Homeland Security Department. The Agriculture Committee will hold a confirmation hearing at 10:30 a.m. for Tom VilsackTom VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE to be secretary of the Agriculture Department (a position he previously held from 2009 to 2017).


The president and vice president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:45 a.m. in the Oval Office. At 5 p.m., Biden will sign executive orders dealing with immigration policies, joined by the vice president in the Oval Office. Harris at 5:30 p.m. will ceremonially swear in Mayorkas.


The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m.


Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenFive takeaways from Biden's first budget proposal Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike Biden proposes .2B increase in IRS budget MORE will meet (virtually) today with Democratic senators to discuss the administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal. 


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


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INTERNATIONAL: Taliban attacks against Afghan government officials, civil-society leaders and journalists are on the rise in Kabul, according to a new U.S. report. The Biden administration plans to reappraise the 2020 peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban (The Associated Press). 


AIRLINES: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is now authorized to issue fines to airline passengers who refuse to wear face coverings during the pandemic. Air travel could see a boost with mandated safety protocols, instilling more confidence among passengers until vaccine distribution is widespread. But major airlines, even those that have implemented their own mask rules on planes, lobbied against government intervention, arguing there’s no comparable nationwide requirement for other businesses (The Hill).


WINTER WEATHER: Parts of New England are braced for a foot or more of snow by the time a lumbering storm finally tapers off in the northernmost states by Wednesday evening, the National Weather Service says. Massachusetts is expecting up to 18 inches. On Monday, the weather walloped the Eastern seaboard, shutting down coronavirus vaccination sites, closing schools and halting transit as snow piled up from the Appalachians to New England. Manhattan saw more than 13 inches and northern New Jersey recorded more than 16 inches of snow. Parts of Pennsylvania were similarly blanketed (The Associate Press).


The New York Times: For a second day, the storm postponed COVID-19 vaccination appointments in New York City.


Smithsonian Magazine: Take a look at the highest-resolution photographs ever taken of snowflakes (beautiful!).





And finally …  A rare Apple 1 computer built by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak way back in the day is being auctioned for $1.5 million on eBay (Gizmodo). 


Why all the fuss for a classic Apple machine that went on sale in 1975 for $666.66?