The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - Relief bill to become law; Cuomo in trouble

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning: 525,035.


As of this morning, 17.2 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 9.2 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.

The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is on the verge of becoming law, pending action by the House and White House in the coming days, as health experts warn that the current level of cases in the U.S. is untenable and the nation races to vaccinate the masses.


The House is set to follow the Senate’s lead and OK the nearly $2 trillion stimulus blueprint on Tuesday, with President BidenJoe BidenFour members of Sikh community among victims in Indianapolis shooting Overnight Health: NIH reverses Trump's ban on fetal tissue research | Biden investing .7B to fight virus variants | CDC panel to meet again Friday on J&J On The Money: Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats | Justice Dept. sues Trump ally Roger Stone for unpaid taxes MORE’s signature coming shortly after to check a big-ticket item off the administration’s 100-day to-do list. 


Among other things, the package provides another round of stimulus checks, aid for state and local governments — an issue that had stalled out in previous rounds of relief negotiations — and more help for small businesses and schools. Despite cries from across the aisle that the bill is laden with Democratic pet projects, wasteful spending and provisions unrelated to the ongoing pandemic, the GOP has to contend with a major political issue: the bill’s popularity. 


Multiple polls conducted prior to the legislation’s passage in the upper chamber on Saturday show that the $1.9 trillion plan enjoys broad support. According to a recent Monmouth University survey, 62 percent of respondents were in favor of the bill, while 71 percent gave a thumb up to the plan when polled by Morning Consult.


Adding to the good news for Democrats, Biden continues to receive high marks for his handling of the pandemic. According to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, 68 percent approve of Biden's handling of the pandemic (ABC News).


As The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Alexander Bolton write, Democrats remain ever-aware of what happened last decade after the 2009 stimulus package became law, with Republicans bludgeoning that and the Affordable Care Act en route to massive wins in the 2010 midterms. Biden last week encouraged House Democrats to “speak up and speak out” about the rescue plan, suggesting that the Obama administration “paid a price” for not taking enough of a victory lap after the 2009 recovery package.


“Any of my colleagues at the time would say that we didn’t do enough to explain to the American people what the benefits were of the rescue plan and we didn’t do enough to do it in terms that people would be talking about at their dinner tables,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden, Japan's PM focus on China, North Korea in first bilateral meeting Castro confirms he's stepping down as Cuban leader White House reverses course on refugee cap after Democratic eruption MORE said Friday. “That’s one of the reasons we, of course, have been trying to break down the impact of the American rescue plan into the key components that will impact people directly.”


The New York Times: What’s in the stimulus bill? A guide to where the $1.9 trillion is going.


The Washington Post: “An essential service”: Inside Biden’s struggle to meet his school reopening promises.


CNBC: Futures slip after Senate passes $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.


Meanwhile, the efforts to corral the pandemic are reaching a critical phase as public health officials fret that the current level of daily infections remains too high and that another wave of the virus could be in the offing due to the rise of variants, even with the national effort to vaccinate Americans. 


As of Sunday, the U.S. is averaging 60,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, a steep decline from the dead of winter when the U.S. averaged more than 200,000 new infections daily. However, As The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports, case totals have plateaued over the past week, raising fears that a new wave is just around the corner. 


“We could not have made a more wonderful environment for this virus to take off than we have right now,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention at the University of Minnesota. “We are not driving this tiger. We’re riding it. And the first time we may be able to drive it is with widespread use of the vaccine, and we’re not there yet.”


The Hill: Former Biden COVID-19 adviser: “We are in the eye of the hurricane right now.”


The Wall Street Journal: Republican governors diverge over COVID-19 restrictions as experts urge caution.


The Hill: Scott Gottlieb: “Probable” that high schoolers will get coronavirus vaccines this year.


Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health: NIH reverses Trump's ban on fetal tissue research | Biden investing .7B to fight virus variants | CDC panel to meet again Friday on J&J Fox News's Bret Baier posts vaccination selfie The Hill's 12:30 Report: Nearly half of U.S. adults partially or fully vaccinated MORE, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the current state of daily infections “unacceptable” and warned governors against the expeditious rollback of mask mandates and reopenings. 


“Historically, if you look back at the different surges we’ve had, when they come down and then start to plateau at a very high level, plateauing at a level of [60,000] to 70,000 new cases per day is not an acceptable level. That is really very high,” Fauci told “Face the Nation” (The Hill).


According to Bloomberg News’s daily tracker, the U.S. is averaging 2.2 million vaccinations per day over the past week, with Saturday’s total of 2.9 million doses administered setting a new single-day total. 


The Wall Street Journal: Russian disinformation campaign aims to undermine confidence in Pfizer, other COVID-19 vaccines, U.S. officials say.


The Hill: White House COVID-19 coordinator: Administration focused on expanding vaccine access. 


Josh Rogin for Politico Magazine: Diplomats warned of a coronavirus danger in Wuhan — two years before the outbreak.



Vials of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine



CONGRESS: The coronavirus relief efforts will soon be in the rearview mirror, prompting attention to be refocused toward the rest of the Biden administration’s legislative priorities and raising questions about the viability of passing many of the items on the Democratic wish list in the coming months.


As The Hill’s Jordain Carney points out, the upper chamber is threatening to derail the bold agenda laid out by Democrats, with progressives training their fire at the unlikely elimination of the filibuster. The passage of a number of major items in the House is putting a spotlight on the fact that without structural changes, many of the party’s campaign promises are heading for the Senate graveyard.


Senate Majority Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia Schumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform MORE (D-N.Y.) is pledging to put the bills on the floor, daring Republicans to vote against them, effectively turning them into messaging votes. Progressives are hoping that the expected GOP blockade of Democratic bills could help sway the few Democratic senators who have voiced opposition to getting rid of the 60-vote threshold.


The Associated Press: With virus aid in sight, Democrats debate filibuster changes.


Chief among that group is Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOn The Money: Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats | Justice Dept. sues Trump ally Roger Stone for unpaid taxes Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats 'Just say no' just won't work for Senate Republicans MORE (D-W.Va.) (seen below). The West Virginia moderate was the center of attention on the Sunday show circuit, reiterating his belief that the filibuster is a tool for good overall and a necessity to a functioning Senate.


“I'm not going to change my mind on the filibuster. I will change my mind if we need to go to a reconciliation to where we have to get something done once I know they have process into it,” Manchin told “Meet the Press.” 


“But I'm not going to go there until my Republican friends have the ability to have their say also,” Manchin said. “And I'm hoping they'll get involved to the point to where we have 10 of them that'll work with 50 of us or 15 of them that'll work with 45 of us” (The Hill).



Sen. Joe Mancin (D-W.Va.)



Manchin also received some backup from the White House. Communications director Kate BedingfieldKate BedingfieldWhite House says Biden 'first to say' gun executive actions are 'not enough' Manchin throws cold water on using budget reconciliation 'SNL' mocks Biden trip on Air Force One stairs MORE told CNN's “State of the Union” that Biden remains committed to winning Republican support even after GOP lawmakers voted unanimously against the massive relief bill (The Hill).


The Sunday Shows: Manchin in the spotlight after pivotal role in coronavirus aid debate.


The Washington Post: Narrow relief bill victory provides warning signs for broader Democratic agenda.


The Hill: Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-N.J.), after flipping parties, bashes bills he once backed.


The Hill: Lawmakers gird for spending battle over nuclear weapons.




POLITICS: New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoNew York Philharmonic gives first public performance in more than a year Ron Kim on nursing home immunity repeal: It was critical 'to hold these facilities accountable' NY Democratic chair blasts primary challenge against Maloney MORE (D) maintained on Sunday that he will not resign after two additional women accused him of sexual harassment or unwanted advances and more high profile New York Democrats called for his ouster, saying that he will allow state Attorney General Letitia James (D) to complete her investigation into the claims.


“I was elected by the people of the state. ... I'm not going to resign because of allegations,” Cuomo told reporters on a conference call. “There is no way I resign” (Fox News).


On Saturday, Karen Hinton, a former aide to Cuomo, accused him of making an unwanted advance in a hotel room in 2000. The governor forcefully disputed the allegations, calling Hinton a “longtime political adversary.” 


“Every woman has a right to come forward. That’s true. But the truth also matters. What she said is not true,” Cuomo said of the allegation. 


The Wall Street Journal also reported on Saturday of another allegation from Ana Liss, a former staffer who said that Cuomo made her uncomfortable by inquiring about her dating life and kissing her on the hand in 2013.


The new revelations also brought forth a potential political deathblow as Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the head of the New York state Senate, called for his resignation, saying it would be “for the good of the state.”


“Every day, there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “We need to govern without daily distraction. Governor Cuomo must resign.”


As The New York Times notes, Cuomo is following the same track as former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), who saw his standing evaporate when political leaders in Albany called for him to step down amid his 2008 prostitution scandal. 


Politico: Cuomo leans on crisis management playbook as walls close in.



A billboard urges New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign



> Lone Star uprising?: It’s been a rocky start to 2021 for Texas Republicans, boosting hopes among Lone Star State Democrats that they can bounce back from a poor 2020 cycle that saw them lose a number of key congressional races, fall in their bid to flip the Texas state House and fail to unseat Sen. John CornynJohn CornynIntelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law Senate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Application portal for venue grants down for five days with no updates MORE (R-Texas). 


As The Hill’s Jonathan Easley writes, the once-in-a-blue-moon power grid failure that led to a humanitarian crisis last month drew attention to the GOP’s leadership in a state that has not elected a Democrat to statewide office in nearly a quarter-century. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzUS has seen 45 mass shootings in the past month The Hill's 12:30 Report: Nearly half of U.S. adults partially or fully vaccinated Cruz no longer wearing mask in Capitol MORE’s (R-Texas) brief jaunt to Cancun, Mexico, during the crisis also ignited anger and severe blowback. 


Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced he was lifting the statewide mask mandate and fully reopening Texas for business despite lagging vaccination rates and a higher coronavirus infection rate than the national average, eliciting a response from the president in the process. 


Texas Democrats are still picking themselves up off the mat after a dismal 2020 showing. But the rough two months in the national spotlight for Texas Republicans has Democrats optimistic about 2022 as they seek to win in swing districts where they were defeated last cycle.


The Hill: Nevada looks to shake up presidential primary calendar.


The New York Times: Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Republican lawmakers reintroduce bill to ban TikTok on federal devices MORE (R-Mo.) Is “not going anywhere.” How did he get here?


Reid Wilson, The Hill: GOP's tyranny of the minority.


Washingtonian: 250 of the most influential experts and advocates who shape policy debates (working outside of government), organized by subject categories.


Bloomberg News: Researchers have found a stronger correlation between political instability and rising homicide rates than prevailing hypotheses, such as economic distress and prevalence of guns.


ADMINISTRATION: The president signed a new executive order on Sunday to leverage federal resources in an effort to protect and strengthen access to the ballot, a response to ongoing effort by GOP state legislatures to restrict voting rights after the 2020 election (The Hill). 


Biden's order, which directs agencies to increase access to voter registration materials and reduce barriers to voting for certain groups, comes amid a push by congressional Democrats to pass H.R. 1, a sprawling bill the House passed last week to reform voting processes and elections. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) acknowledged on Sunday the reality that the bill will likely die in the Senate because of the filibuster, adding that the result will be “catastrophic.”


“There’s no way under the sun that in 2021 that we are going to allow the filibuster to be used to deny voting rights. That just ain’t gonna happen. That would be catastrophic,” Clyburn told The Guardian.


The president’s executive action coincided with the 56th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Ala., which served as a catalyst for the passage of the Voting Rights Act. As The Hill’s Marty Johnson notes, Sunday’s commemoration of the 1965 violent clash between 600 civil rights marchers and white police officers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge was the first to take place without the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisProgressives put Democrats on defense Democrats face mounting hurdles to agenda Democrats see opportunity as states push new voting rules MORE (D-Ga.), who died in July. 


The Associated Press: Biden marks “Bloody Sunday” by signing voting rights order.


The Hill: Biden to formally establish new Gender Policy Council.


> Border: The Biden administration is faced with a burgeoning crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border as officials have seen the number of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S. rise steadily over the first six weeks of the nascent presidency. 


Thousands of migrants have crossed into the U.S. since Biden took office, many of them unaccompanied minors, testing the administration’s resources and ability to quickly implement its own strategy at the border in the face of criticism from across the aisle. According to The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Jonathan Easley, the Biden administration is rapidly adapting its approach to meet the growing need for space and manpower in a reflection of the seriousness of the situation.


The Hill: Political landmines await Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandHillicon Valley: Facebook Oversight board to rule on Trump ban in 'coming weeks' | Russia blocks Biden Cabinet officials in retaliation for sanctions Russia blocks key Biden Cabinet officials from entering in retaliation for sanctions Garland rescinds Trump-era memo curtailing consent decrees MORE at Department of Justice.


Axios: Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga set to become first foreign leader to visit Biden in White House.

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! 


The road to reopening won’t be a straight line, by Scott Gottlieb and Mark McClellan, opinion contributors, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3tbfDqz 


Do liberals care if books disappear? By Ross Douthat, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3v3gpaI 


The House meets at noon. 


The Senate convenes on Tuesday at 3 p.m. and will resume consideration of the nominations of Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeFudge on police shootings: Officers want to go home each night, and 'so do we' Julia Letlow sworn in as House member after winning election to replace late husband Working for lasting change MORE (D-Ohio) to become secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Garland to lead the Department of Justice. 


The president and Vice President Harris will receive the Presidential Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Biden and Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughOvernight Defense: Biden officially rolls out Afghanistan withdrawal plan | Probe finds issues with DC Guard helicopter use during June protests Congress must address the toxic exposure our veterans have endured Veterans shouldn't have to wait for quality care MORE at 1 p.m. will visit the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where the administration of COVID-19 vaccines to veterans is taking place. Biden, Harris and Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinSecret Facebook groups of special operations officers include racist comments, QAnon posts: report New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations Overnight Defense: Biden officially rolls out Afghanistan withdrawal plan | Probe finds issues with DC Guard helicopter use during June protests MORE will also deliver remarks on International Women’s Day from the White House at 4:20 p.m.


First lady Jill BidenJill BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden to Putin: Tough sanctions, straight talk Jill Biden to appear in 'Sesame Street' documentary Biden accompanies first lady to medical procedure MORE at 10 a.m. will address the 2021 International Women of Courage Award ceremony hosted by the State Department and Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenPompeo violated ethics rules, State Department watchdog finds Iran begins enriching uranium to highest ever level The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden to Putin: Tough sanctions, straight talk MORE. The event is live streamed HERE.


The White House press briefing is scheduled at 11:30 a.m.. The White House COVID-19 response team will brief the news media at 11 a.m.


The National League of Cities Congressional City Conference begins today through Wednesday, including virtual remarks from House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden angers Democrats by keeping Trump-era refugee cap Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones calls on Breyer to retire Biden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 MORE (D-Calif.), Schumer, Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenDear Yellen: Saving the planet is not the Fed's job Treasury announces COVID-19 relief oversight office Washington Post reporter explains how taxes in Biden infrastructure plan would affect multinational corporations MORE, Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegWhite House says gas tax won't be part of infrastructure bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden meets with bipartisan lawmakers for infrastructure negotiations Senate Republicans label Biden infrastructure plan a 'slush fund' MORE, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyOvernight Health: NIH reverses Trump's ban on fetal tissue research | Biden investing .7B to fight virus variants | CDC panel to meet again Friday on J&J CDC advisory panel will meet again on J&J vaccine in a week Biden administration investing .7B into tracking, combating COVID-19 variants MORE, Fauci and more. 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


INTERNATIONAL: Two protesters were shot dead in Myanmar on Monday by security forces as demonstrations continue to take place across the country in response to the military coup that took place last month. Two people were shot and killed in Myitkyina in Kachin State, with the military using tear gas and some automatic gunfire in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Protests also took place in Naypyitaw, the capital city, and Mandalay (The Associated Press).


TECH: Silicon Valley giants are drawing battle lines over personal data collection practices and targeted ads. Google was the latest to take a step toward data privacy by announcing plans this week to phase out its own tracking features used for personalizing ads. That move came after Apple drew Facebook's ire with its anticipated anti-tracking feature. Experts and pro-privacy advocates say that while Google’s update may be a small step toward giving users more control over their data protection, the change may hurt Google’s rivals more than the company itself (The Hill).


UN-ROYALED: Prince Harry and wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, told Oprah WinfreyOprah Gail WinfreyFox News hires high-profile defense team in Dominion defamation lawsuit Harry releases eulogy for Prince Philip Fox News Media names new general counsel, executive VP of corporate development MORE during a much-ballyhooed interview on CBS on Sunday that they struggled mightily with life in the Royal Family, including Harry saying that he felt “trapped” and Meghan making a number of allegations that could rock the British royals. The Duchess made two stunning revelations: that she had suicidal thoughts after marrying Harry and that the royals did not give her access to mental health resources, and that there were conversations within the family about "how dark” their son Archie’s “skin might be" (The Associated Press). 





And finally … Dogs are good. Sports are good. Dogs and sports together though? Of course they’re good!


The fabulous combo came together on Sunday as the 49th edition of the Iditarod kicked off (or mushed off?) in Deshka Landing in Alaska. Like other sporting events these days, it has been modified to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. The mushers — of which there are a limited number this year — are wearing masks from start to finish, and social distancing is being adhered to at all times.


The course has also been shortened to 852 miles, and organizers have asked fans to stay home. The event will also end in Deshka Landing, marking the first time in the Iditarod’s history that it will end somewhere other than Nome, Alaska.


Last year, the Iditarod was the final sporting event to be completed before the worldwide shutdown took place (Anchorage Daily News). 



Three time Yukon Quest winner and cancer survivor Lance Mackey mushes his team over frozen Willow Lake as Iditarod XXXV official begins 04 March 2007 in Willow, Alaska.