The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation – Biden: Back to ‘normal’ still means ‘beat the virus’
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 525,035; Tuesday, 525,816; Wednesday, 527,699; Thursday, 529,203; Friday, 530,821.
President Biden used his first national address Thursday night to mourn COVID-19’s victims, mark the country’s progress after a year of pandemic sorrows and science, and to motivate Americans to “do your part” to “beat the virus.”
Hours after he signed into law one of the largest federal recovery measures in history, the president devoted just minutes in a 23-minute speech to describe where Americans will see the government’s $1.9 trillion investments. He said he will travel with first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Harris and Cabinet members to explain how the American Rescue Plan will help pull the country out of crisis.
The New York Times: A weeks-long campaign to sell the stimulus bill to the American public began on Thursday.
Biden sought to tantalize listeners with images this spring and summer of grade school students back in classrooms, of hugs with millions of lonely grandparents and picnics and barbeques among small groups of friends and relatives on the Fourth of July.
“It’s the small details of life that matter the most,” he said.
Getting “back to normal” will happen when the United States can prevent major new outbreaks of infection, and getting there, Biden repeated, requires public cooperation, precautions, masks and a willingness to get vaccinated. “I need you,” he said while leaning toward the East Room camera surrounded by dozens of flags.
Bracketing his upbeat rhetoric was a brief caveat: “A lot can happen. Conditions can change. The scientists have made clear that things may get worse again as new variants of the virus spread.”
The president will direct all states to make adults eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations by May 1. Biden, who did not directly reference the Trump administration’s contributions to vaccine development, hailed the history-making innovations that produced, in record time, three and likely more than three effective and safe versions of U.S.-approved vaccines.
Administration officials say the government will expand vaccination locations and use military personnel to support efforts to meet Biden’s May goal of embracing all adults, regardless of age, condition or occupation, to be eligible that month for a vaccine appointment to be administered by late spring or early summer (The Associated Press). The president said the administration will have distributed 100 million vaccine doses by March 21, ahead of the ambitious 100-day goal he initially set by the end of April.
The Hill: Biden urges national unity to reach normalcy.
The Hill: The president on Thursday signed into law a $1.9 trillion relief plan that House and Senate Republicans opposed and which he will continue to sell to the American people. “In the weeks that this bill has been discussed and debated, it is clear that an overwhelming percentage of the American people … have made it clear they strongly support the American Rescue Plan,” Biden said before signing the bill in the Oval Office. “Their voices were heard.”
The president today plans a ceremonial Rose Garden event with invited Democratic lawmakers and committee chairs to mark the enactment of the first major law of his tenure.
The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes that Biden’s new definition of bipartisan governance — delivering policies that have majority public support rather than hunting in vain for bipartisan collaboration in a narrowly divided Congress — worked in response to a public health crisis. Two-thirds of the population approves of Biden’s handling of the pandemic and 75 percent backed the just-enacted American Rescue Plan, according to a CBS News poll released Thursday.
The Associated Press: Stock indexes saw all-time highs on Thursday as the coronavirus relief bill became law.
The Hill: Here’s how much federal aid each state will receive from the American Rescue Plan law.
The Hill: White House says $1,400 payments to eligible recipients could begin going out this weekend.
More in Congress: House Democrats have not settled on the next big policy challenges they will tackle using another budget reconciliation package this year, and it may become “a kitchen sink,” reports The Hill’s Scott Wong. … House Democrats are leaving the door open to retaining proxy voting for lawmakers in some form in the future beyond the pandemic, reports The Hill’s Cristina Marcos.
LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: In what could be a confusing trend, some states are easing restrictions while mayors and county officials are announcing their own coronavirus precautions and guidelines. Texas, Maryland, Mississippi, Connecticut, Arizona, West Virginia and Wyoming are moving to significantly reopen their economies and terminate their mask mandates despite pleas from top U.S. officials to tread carefully until more Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19. New York, New Jersey and California are taking more gradual steps at easing restrictions, aiming initially at reviving restaurants and tourist attractions (CNBC).
Baltimore’s mayor wants coronavirus restrictions to remain in place because of “the numbers and public health indicators” and will explain the city’s rules today at a news conference (Fox5 Baltimore). … California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) says a 2-million-vaccinations threshold will be reached today in the state, which will allow counties to move out of the toughest tier of restrictions when their average rate of daily new COVID-19 infections reaches 10 per 100,000 residents — a looser standard than the current 7 per 100,000 residents (ABC7). Los Angeles County and Orange County expect to move within days to looser guidelines for reopening movie theaters, theme parks and outdoor live events (Deadline).
> Vaccines: Novavax Inc. says its COVID-19 vaccine is 96.4 percent effective against “mild, moderate, and severe disease caused by the original COVID-19 strain” in a completed late-stage clinical study. The company plans to use the data to support its bid for regulatory approval of the vaccine worldwide (MarketWatch). … In an assertive move aimed at beneficence tied to the Olympics, China offered COVID-19 vaccines to Tokyo for the summer games and to international participants at the 2022 Beijing Olympics (The Wall Street Journal).
CBS News: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained during a Thursday interview recently relaxed federal visitation guidelines for nursing home residents was motivated by a desire to support the “overall health” of seniors in care facilities, as well as the emotional wellbeing of families.
> Who pays? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said during an interview with The 19th on Thursday that future costs of COVID-19 vaccines and potential booster shots are a concern. “I worry about the day where the vaccine will no longer be free,” Walensky said, referring to the federal government’s decision to cover vaccine costs initially to get most Americans inoculated. “What about if we need a third booster? What happens then, who’s going to pay for that? … I think there are extraordinary number of questions that are going to be associated with how this pandemic is going to be paid for, how the future of health care is going to be paid for, how the future of public health care is going to be paid for, because we are a product of the fact that we did not invest in that,” she added (The Hill).
> Help for small businesses: Creative state legislatures have designed special grant programs, delayed taxes or permit fees and even set up funds to win over workers who can now work from home as a way to keep small businesses alive during the pandemic. Moving to Northwest Arkansas? Bonus: a free mountain bike, reports The Hill’s Reid Wilson.
> Litigation: Reacting to his wife’s death in New Jersey last year, a husband is seeking compensation for what he claims were failed COVID-19 interventions, seeking a settlement from a 30-year-old U.S. government fund created for victims of injuries or deaths tied to vaccines and treatments. The $30 billion fund, overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, previously denied compensation in 90 percent of the cases filed prior to the pandemic, mostly for H1N1 flu vaccines (Reuters).
> Pro-vax coalition: The exclusive club of former presidents and first ladies reunited for an ad campaign to urge Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. But missing from the campaign of powerful influencers is former President Trump and former first lady Melania Trump.
In the newly released “It’s Up To You” ad campaign, former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and former first ladies Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, urge people to get inoculated as soon as they’re eligible. One ad in the campaign shows the former presidents and first ladies receiving their vaccines and sharing personal anecdotes, and another features Clinton, Bush and Obama standing together in a direct address to the American people (CBS News).
POLITICS: Andrew Cuomo’s standing as the Democratic governor of New York continues to weaken. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) on Thursday said he authorized the Assembly Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment investigation into misconduct allegations against Cuomo as public calls for the governor’s resignation grew louder (WBNG). Cuomo was elected governor in 2011 and has won three consecutive terms in a state with no term limits.
For weeks he has rejected calls to step down following accusations from six women of sexual misconduct plus a separate uproar over New York State nursing home deaths during the pandemic. His insistence that he could continue to govern effectively was challenged on Thursday as the Albany Police Department discussed a report from a state official about an alleged incident at the Executive Mansion involving Cuomo and a female aide that officials said may rise “to the level of a crime.”
The department received the referral Wednesday night after the publication of an article in The Times Union of Albany that detailed accusations leveled by an unidentified aide who accused Cuomo of groping her at the governor’s mansion late last year (The New York Times). The Albany Police Department had not received a formal complaint from the woman herself.
Cuomo has carefully denied improperly touching anyone, while also acknowledging conversations with former female aides that he conceded made them “uncomfortable” and for which he apologized. The sexual harassment allegations are the subject of an independent investigation supervised by the New York attorney general.
The Associated Press: Resignation demands grow as police receive Cuomo groping report. At least 121 members of the state Assembly and Senate have said publicly they believe Cuomo can no longer govern and should step down now, according to an AP tally.
Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, his party’s campaign arm to try to win the majority in 2022, says he will visit Trump at Mar-a-Lago this week. “I want to be an additive, I want us all to row the boats in the same direction,” Scott, Florida’s former governor, told the Miami Herald. “My goal is to tell the [former] president what I’m doing. I’ve talked to him, and he tells me he wants to be helpful to me. He’s committed to Republicans taking back a majority in the U.S. Senate.”
Scott and Trump (pictured below in 2018) have already diverged when it comes to strategy for Senate GOP primaries. The Florida senator, who may have 2024 presidential aspirations, says he prefers to focus on fundraising to support Republican incumbents while steering clear of endorsements in open-seat primaries. The former president, however, is eager to publicly denounce Republican senators seeking reelection who he believes opposed his bid for a second term or supported his impeachment.
The Hill: That was quick. Geraldo Rivera decided not to run for the Senate seat in Ohio in a bid to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R). He said he spent a “whirlwind” 36 hours thinking about it.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
ADMINISTRATION: Biden is scheduled to meet today by virtual hookup as part of the “Quad,” leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India, to discuss countering China’s economic and military rise (NPR). Next week, the administration will confer with Chinese officials about a range of issues including climate change when the secretaries of State and Defense meet with their counterparts while in Alaska . … Discussion of China’s “vaccine diplomacy” campaign is part of today’s Quad agenda. Biden will commit to working with Quad countries to expand manufacturing and access to COVID-19 vaccines (The Hill).
The Hill: Japan’s prime minister expected to be Biden’s first international visitor to the White House.
The Associated Press: Xavier Becerra on Thursday moved closer to a Senate floor debate on his nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) successfully maneuvered past Republican opposition to set up a final floor vote on the nomination. Becerra, a former House member from California who became the state’s attorney general, is viewed by many Republicans as too liberal and lacking in healthcare and federal management experience.
The Associated Press: An intruder last month wandered around Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, D.C., home of Air Force One, before being detained as suspicious because of his cap, which resembled “mouse ears.”
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The child tax credit is a conservative dream fulfilled. Let’s help make it permanent, by Michael Gerson, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3etApgV
For democracy to stay, the filibuster must go, by The New York Times editorial board. https://nyti.ms/38rEEpi
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10:30 a.m.
The Senate convenes on Monday at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to be secretary of the Interior.
The president and Harris will meet virtually with leaders of Japan, Australia and India, in a group known as the “Quad” at 8:30 a.m. They will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:30 a.m. Biden and Harris will have lunch at 12:30 p.m. The president will speak about the American Rescue Plan Act at 2:30 p.m. accompanied by Harris and invited members of the House and Senate in the Rose Garden (the president officially signed the bill into law on Thursday). The Bidens will depart at 3:40 p.m. for a weekend in Delaware.
Harris at noon will ceremonially swear in Cecilia Rouse as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
The White House press briefing takes place at noon, to include National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. The administration’s COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 11:15 a.m.
➔ POLICING: The Minneapolis trial this week of former police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with killing George Floyd last year, tops high-profile trials in recent memory and represents the country’s continued reckoning with policing and systemic racism, reports The Hill’s Marty Johnson, who includes a guide to understanding the proceedings. … On Thursday, a judge granted prosecutors’ request to add a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, a move that offers jurors an additional option for conviction and resolves an issue that could have delayed his trial for months. Chauvin failed to get appellate courts to block the additional murder charge (The Associated Press).
➔ SUPREME COURT: Justices on Thursday called off arguments scheduled on March 29 over a Trump-era plan to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients after the Biden administration said it was considering scrapping the policy. The new administration asked the justices in February to put the case on hold while it reviewed the plan, which it is now expected to shelve, arguing such work requirements would undermine health care needs of many low-income beneficiaries (The Hill).
➔ WAILS IN SALES: Withdrawing some Dr. Seuss books from printing sells Dr. Seuss books, apparently. More than 1.2 million copies of stories by the late children’s author sold in the first week of March — more than quadruple from the week before — following the news that his estate was pulling six books because of racial and ethnic stereotyping. For days virtually every book in the top 20 on Amazon’s bestseller list was by Dr. Seuss (aka Theodor Seuss Geisel). According to NPD BookScan, which tracks around 85 percent of retail sales, the top sellers weren’t even the books being withdrawn. “The Cat in the Hat” sold more than 100,000 copies, compared to just 17,000 in the previous week. “Green Eggs and Ham” topped 90,000 copies, and “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” sold about 88,000 (The Associated Press).
And finally … Congratulations to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! Here’s who aced our news coverage puzzle about TV personalities and networks in the headlines: Randall S. Patrick, Eric Chapman, Lesa Davis, Anita Bales, Joel M. Shaw, J. Patrick White, Daniel Bachhuber, Terry Pflaumer, Brian Gordon, Patrick Kavanagh, Mary Anne McEnery, Phil Kirstein, Candi Cee, Lou Tisler, Richard Baznik, Ki Harvey, Donna Minter, Chuck Schoenenberger, Pam Manges, John Donato, Judy Kulczycki, Joe Erdmann, Ken Stevens, Josiah Jacobson, Luther Berg and Richard Clermont.
They knew that Piers Morgan contentiously resigned from ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” following comments he made about Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.
Roger Mudd, the longtime CBS anchor and reporter who died on Wednesday at age 93, conducted a famous interview that effectively ended then-Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) bid for the presidency in 1980. Video from the interview appears HERE and HERE.
Media personality Geraldo Rivera announced Wednesday that he was mulling a Senate campaign for the seat held by retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) (he decided against it).
Finally, ESPN announced on Wednesday that it will once again carry the NHL after striking a 7-year rights deal with the league following a 16-year hiatus.