The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Biden to hit road, tout COVID-19 relief law
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning: 534,889.
As of this morning, 21 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 11.3 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.
Fresh off signing the massive stimulus bill into law, the Biden administration is now facing a heavy lift as it begins to sell the $1.9 trillion package while concurrently pushing to ramp up vaccinations and spur economic growth.
President Biden, Vice President Harris, first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will hit the road in an effort to pitch the bill to key corners of the country, all the while building support for the law, which is broadly popular with Americans. The group is set to appear in Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico and Georgia, with Harris and Emhoff appearing in Las Vegas later today.
“Almost every single aspect would be significant. … Every one of those pieces standing alone would be viewed as a significant accomplishment,” Biden said in the Rose Garden on Friday while touting the bill and discussing the upcoming “Help is Here” tour (ABC News).
As part of the effort, Biden will sit down for an interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, which is set to air on Wednesday.
The Wall Street Journal: Biden, Harris plan cross-country tour to tout COVID-19 aid.
The Hill: GOP goes on the attack against Biden relief bill.
The New York Times: Stimulus bill as a political weapon? Democrats are counting on it.
The Hill: Poll: Approval of Biden’s handling of coronavirus ticks up to 65 percent.
The sales job comes as the U.S. fights a multi pronged battle to curb the spread of the virus, headlined by the ongoing push to vaccinate Americans and convince individuals that getting a jab is the right thing to do and something they should do right away.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned on Sunday that another surge in COVID-19 infections could be on the horizon and urged Trump supporters to get the vaccine who remain hesitant to do so.
Fauci, the head of Biden’s COVID-19 response team, pointed to the rises across Europe, noting that the trend lines there are generally a few weeks ahead of those in the U.S.
“They thought they were home free, and they weren’t, and now they are seeing cases going up,” Fauci told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace.
The leading U.S. infectious diseases expert added that former President Trump should urge his supporters to get vaccinated in an effort to combat vaccine hesitancy. According to a recent PBS poll, nearly half of all Republican-aligned men said they would not get the shot.
“I think it would make all the difference in the world” if Trump were to express support for vaccines, Fauci said. “He’s a widely popular person among Republicans. … I just don’t get it, Chris, why they don’t want to get vaccinated.”
Fauci added in a separate appearance on “Meet the Press” that it’s “disturbing” that Trump backers don’t want the vaccine (The Hill).
Despite Fauci’s concerns, the U.S. vaccination campaign hit its highest marks over the weekend. On Saturday, 4.6 million people received a dose of the vaccine — the largest single day of vaccinations by a 1.7 million-shot margin. Over the last seven days, an average of 2.4 million doses were administered across the country (Bloomberg News).
Peter Sullivan, The Hill: Five things that must happen to get people vaccinated.
The Hill: Los Angeles set to reopen indoor restaurants, gyms, movie theaters.
Elsewhere on the vaccine front, Biden is under increasing pressure to share the national stockpile of COVID-19 vaccine doses with the rest of the world after he announced plans to purchase an additional 100 million doses from Johnson & Johnson.
The new addition to the U.S. supply is likely going to become a surplus, as The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel reports, with much of the world struggling with shortages. But the administration has not said how much vaccine it considers sufficient for Americans or what threshold it would set before considering exporting vaccines.
The Wall Street Journal: States are finding more unreported COVID-19 deaths.
> Economy: The Biden administration is riding a wave of rising optimism about the recovery from the COVID-19 recession as it hits the road in an effort to sell the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan that was signed into law on Friday.
According to The Hill’s Sylvan Lane and Niv Elis, economists say that the U.S. is poised for an expeditious bounce back thanks in part to the relief law. However, they caution that some of the longer-term economic issues brought forward by the pandemic will be trickier to solve and could take more time.
The Hill: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says economy can have “near full employment” next year.
NBC News: Stimulus checks start hitting bank accounts nationwide.
The Hill: Pandemic sparks marijuana sales boom.
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LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday, fresh off efforts to pass the stimulus bill, indicated that Democrats are moving full steam ahead in pursuit of an infrastructure and jobs package and that they will quickly work to pass a top priority of the Biden administration.
“Building roads and bridges and water supply systems and the rest has always been bipartisan, always been bipartisan, except when they oppose it with a Democratic president, as they did under President Obama, and we had to shrink the package,” Pelosi told ABC’s “This Week,” adding that she hopes there will be bipartisan buy-in (The Associated Press). The bill could also be the opening legislative piece for earmarks after House Democrats announced a plan to reintroduce them late last month. The Senate, however, has not committed to bringing them back (Roll Call).
The comments come at a time of unity within the House Democratic Caucus, which has experienced few defections on key pieces of legislation and has drastically cut down on the procedural maneuvers used by House Republicans last year to put vulnerable members in a tough spot.
As The Hill’s Cristina Marcos points out, a lone House Democrat — Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) — voted against the nearly $2 trillion blueprint. Adding to the good times for the party, the GOP’s “motions to recommit” that occasionally were successful during the final two years of Trump’s presidency have fallen short lately after the majority made rule changes to water down the mechanism. With a slim majority that can afford to only lose four votes on any party-line vote, there is little room for error.
“It clearly makes a difference that we know we don’t have any votes to spare,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), the chief deputy whip.
The Hill: Pentagon takes heat for extending Guard’s time at Capitol.
> Filibuster, cont.: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is at the center of the ongoing debate within the Senate Democratic Conference over whether to reform the legislative filibuster, a maneuver that would have monumental ramifications on the Democratic agenda and the Senate writ large.
As The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports, Merkley has intensely, but privately, lobbied his colleagues about possible changes to the 60-vote threshold, along with smaller rule changes that have been discussed within a bipartisan group.
“I was wrestling with whether to run for reelection. I’ve got a limited number of years of life. I could do many different things. … I thought, well, if I run for reelection, it’s going to be because I make an all-out push to restore the Senate as a functioning body,” Merkley said in an interview. He added that he has talked to every member of the Democratic caucus over the past year.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
ADMINISTRATION: The Biden administration is staring down a crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border, where the detention of thousands of children has threatened to spark a humanitarian crisis and undercut promises by Democrats to handle the issue with more compassion than the Trump administration.
Despite the problems along the border, which have attracted criticism from scores of Republicans, Biden has retained the support of Democratic lawmakers, who continue to lay the blame for the developing situation at Trump’s feet and argue that Biden was dealt a poor hand by the previous administration.
“What the administration has inherited is a broken system at the border, and they are working to correct that in the children’s interest,” Pelosi said on Sunday (The Hill).
As The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis write, the issue is a perilous one for Democrats after spending four years panning the Trump administration’s handling of everything border related, including arrivals at the border by migrants and the policy of separating children from their parents in an effort to deter Central American families from voyaging toward the U.S.
The Biden administration has moved to roll back provision after provision instituted under Trump, but the impact of the new arrivals has strained the ability of border authorities to process the detainees and move them to safer, more sanitary facilities. COVID-19 has only complicated that process.
Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill: Biden struggles to unravel web of Trump immigration rules.
With Trump out of power, Republican state attorneys general are doing the bidding of the previous administration and are increasingly turning to the courts in an effort to preserve elements of the ex-president’s hardline immigration agenda.
A dozen GOP state attorneys general this week, led by Arizona and Texas, asked federal courts for permission to defend the Trump-era “public charge” rule, which creates higher barriers for poorer immigrants seeking U.S. residency, according to The Hill’s John Kruzel, a move Biden is attempting to wipe out for good. This latest maneuver follows a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) to halt the new administration’s 100-day freeze on deportations.
A federal judge in Texas, nominated by Trump last year sided with Paxton and agreed to suspend Biden’s temporary deportation ban, citing the risk that Texas would “suffer imminent and irreparable harm” if its request were denied.
The Sunday Shows: Migrant surge dominates.
> International arena: Biden administration officials are preparing to confront China on a range of issues this week, a turn to a major foreign policy challenge for the White House in an effort to reassert the U.S. on the global stage.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan will meet with Chinese counterparts in Alaska next week, as The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Laura Kelly preview, in what will be the first high-level meeting between the two countries since Biden took office nearly eight weeks ago.
The president wants to work with Beijing on areas of mutual concern, including COVID-19 and climate change, but Biden has not shied away from criticizing the Chinese over human rights issues, along with unfair trade practices and the theft of U.S. intellectual property. With the cavalcade of issues, the Biden team has a major balancing act to deal with.
The Hill: Biden signals no rush to reverse Trump policy on Venezuela.
POLITICS: The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is positioning itself to play a leading role in next year’s midterm elections as it establishes ground as the primary political arm of the Biden White House.
Jaime Harrison, the committee’s recently installed chairman, has pledged to reassert the political power of the DNC following a rough-and-tumble decade for the organization, having taken a backseat to outside groups and progressive upstarts. As Max Greenwood writes, the president has also taken an interest in the committee, with his aides being in communication with DNC officials consistently.
Some party officials say they see Harrison’s vision as reminiscent of that of Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and DNC chairman whose 50-state strategy propelled Democrats to the House majority in 2006 and laid the foundation for Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Des Moines Register: A majority of Iowans want Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to decide not to run in 2022; 28 percent hope he will.
The Hill: Gun control groups focus all efforts on Senate.
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How to make spring the last lost semester, by Scott Gottlieb and Caitlin Rivers, opinion contributors, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3cutYYn
Learning to love daylight saving time, by Binyamin Appelbaum, editorial board member, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2Ov68Ui
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets on Tuesday at noon.
The Senate convenes 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 will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. He will deliver remarks on the implementation of the stimulus law at 1:45 p.m.
The vice president and the second gentleman will travel to Las Vegas, Nev., and visit the vaccination clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Harris and Emhoff will also visit the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas before departing for Los Angeles, where they will spend the night.
The White House press briefing takes place at 12:30 p.m. The administration’s COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 11 a.m.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: The situation continued to escalate in Myanmar over the weekend as security forces killed dozens of protesters and the military junta declared martial law in a number of townships within Yangon. On Sunday alone, 38 people were killed and many others injured as clashes between forces and protesters increased. The violence also prompted martial law to be invoked across at least six areas within Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar (The Associated Press).
➔ SPACE: NASA is collaborating with leaders of the Navajo Nation to name items of scientific interest discovered on Mars as part of its Perseverance rover’s ongoing mission with words from the Navajo language. The space agency announced in early March that it began naming features discovered by Perseverance with words from the language, having received permission from Navajo leaders. The agency said the surface missions “assign nicknames to landmarks to provide the mission’s team members, which number in the thousands, a common way to refer to rocks, soils, and other geologic features of interest” (The Hill).
➔ SPORTS: Drew Brees, the longtime New Orleans Saints quarterback and future Football Hall of Famer, announced his retirement from football on Sunday. Brees, 42, retired after 20 seasons, including the final 15 campaigns in New Orleans, which spawned a number of NFL passing records and a victory in Super Bowl XLIV. The Saints’ signing of Brees is also considered among the greatest free agent signings in football history. Brees made the announcement in an Instagram post, with his four children making the news official (ESPN).
And finally … The 2021 Grammy Awards highlighted the year for women as female performers took home the four preeminent accolades, headlined by Taylor Swift winning her third album of the year and Beyoncé becoming the most decorated woman in Grammy history.
Swift won the top album award for “folklore,” a folk-based album that landed as a surprise last July. She previously won best album for “Fearless” and “1989.” Meanwhile, Beyoncé won her 28th Grammy, having raked in four awards on Sunday night. Adding to the wins, Billie Eilish won for record of the year, H.E.R. won for song of the year, and Megan Thee Stallion took home the top honor for new artist of the year (The Associated Press).
For more, here is the COMPLETE LIST of winners from Sunday night.
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