The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge

 

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 610,891; Tuesday, 610,952; Wednesday, 611,288; Thursday, 611,801; Friday, 612,122.

President Biden on Thursday directed more than 2 million civilian workers and contractors to become vaccination ambassadors for the rest of the country, requiring them to get inoculated or submit to regular COVID-19 testing (The New York Times and The Hill). 

The president’s decision at the six-month mark of his term to switch from gentle persuasion to orders with punitive overtones underscored the health risks he perceives for all the procrastinators and vaccine skeptics who won’t budge, or will not take action without incentives or fear. Just as important, Biden turned to mandates because scientists are now worried about the risks of delta-strain infection among Americans who got fully vaccinated this year and hoped they were home free.

“We all want our lives to get back to normal, and fully vaccinated workplaces will make that happen more quickly and more successfully,” Biden said in the East Room. “We all know that in our gut. With incentives and mandates, we can make a huge difference and save a lot of lives.”

The federal government’s decision to require vaccination or testing among public workers follows the lead taken by the Veterans Affairs Department, New York City and state, California, North Carolina, some public and private universities, as well as some other municipalities. It opens the door to similar requirements backed by the administration for implementation by private employers and industries.

“With incentives and mandates, we can make a huge difference and save a lot of lives,” Biden said.

The administration’s vaccine mandate for civilian employees and guidance to all Americans to wear masks indoors in public spaces are unpopular among Republican members of Congress, some GOP governors and millions of mostly conservative voters who view mandates during a pandemic as violations of their personal freedom, and in some cases ineffective policy tied to iffy science. 

The Associated Press: Biden’s directive poses uncomfortable workplace questions.

U.S. data and multiple studies around the world have established that the delta variant is more transmissible through the air than the original coronavirus, and that available vaccines work well and safely to keep uninfected and even infected individuals out of ICUs and morgues.  

People with so-called breakthrough infections — cases that occur despite full vaccination — of the delta variant may be just as contagious as unvaccinated people, even if they have no symptoms, according to recent studies (The New York Times). 

Although Biden told Americans that July 4 could mark “Independence Day” from COVID-19 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially told those fully vaccinated that they could jettison their masks with little risk, a lag in the U.S. vaccination rate and the adaptive capabilities of the delta variant sent infections soaring, particularly in the South and West. 

“Cases will go up further before they start to go back down,” Biden added.

Some public health experts, eyeing the situation in the United Kingdom where the delta variant got a head start, believe U.S. infection rates could begin to fall within weeks. But no one, least of all the president, wants to project a timeline when so many uncontrollable factors are in play. 

 

Don't panic tattoo

 

On Thursday, Biden also

> Directed the Defense Department to study how and when to add coronavirus inoculations to vaccinations required for all members of the U.S. military; 

> Called on states, U.S. territories and local governments to pay $100 incentives to those who are now ready to get their jabs, a technique first announced days ago by New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioGoogle to purchase Manhattan building for .1 billion New York to start weekly COVID-19 testing in schools Three arrested for allegedly assaulting NYC hostess who asked for COVID-19 vaccine proof MORE (D). Paying for cooperation is considered controversial among those who put up with significant inconveniences in order to get vaccinated, and among public health experts who believe disease prevention is the incentive message the government should pitch; 

> Told small- and medium-sized businesses they can be reimbursed for offering their employees paid leave to get family members, including children, vaccinated;

> Called on U.S. school districts to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic over the coming weeks, with the goal of increasing vaccination rates among children 12 and older.

More coronavirus headlines: Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in DC orders school and child care staffers, student athletes to be vaccinated with no testing option Biden to GOP governors planning vaccine mandate lawsuits: 'Have at it' MORE (D) announced an indoor mask mandate beginning on Saturday (The Washington Post). … The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine’s shelf life to six months amid state officials’ concerns of expiring doses (The Hill). … The FDA on Thursday approved a manufacturing facility in Baltimore, which was shut down after quality control problems, to resume production of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses (The Hill). … Israeli officials are recommending citizens age 60 and older receive booster shots of a COVID-19 vaccine (The Washington Post). U.S. government officials have said discussions about booster inoculations are ongoing, but no determination about additional shots has been made. … In Australia, a COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney may be enforced by the military as restrictions fail to quash an outbreak of the delta variant (Reuters).

More administration news: Biden on Thursday called on Congress to extend a federal ban on rental evictions during the pandemic, a moratorium that expires on Saturday and has been extended once. A House vote is possible today before the August recess (The Hill). Economic analysts and advocates believe a historic eviction crisis could be coming (CNBC). … The administration evacuated from Afghanistan an initial group of translators and others who served U.S. forces during decades of war. Biden, in a statement today, said, “These arrivals are just the first of many as we work quickly to relocate [Special Immigrant Visa]-eligible Afghans out of harm’s way — to the United States, to U.S. facilities abroad, or to third countries — so that they can wait in safety while they finish their visa applications” (The Hill). The administration is finalizing a deal with big automakers and is in talks with the United Auto Workers for a voluntary pledge to have electric vehicles compose at least 40 percent of new cars and light trucks sold by 2030. The White House would like to see the United States get to 50 percent, to reach U.S. climate goals. An announcement could come next week (The Washington Post).

 

Evictions protests

 

Still more administration headlines: The U.S. economy expanded in the second quarter at a 6.5 percent annual rate, considered positive news but indicative that headwinds remain (The Hill). The White House responded by telling voters the expansion between April and June was Biden’s doing. “This isn’t an accident: It’s the result of a successful campaign against the virus and an economic policy that has been focused squarely on getting help to the working and middle-class Americans who need it the most,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiReporters lodge complaint with White House over Biden-Johnson meeting access White House faces increased cries from allies on Haitian migrants Harris 'deeply troubled' by treatment of Haitian migrants MORE said in a statement. … First lady Jill BidenJill BidenFirst Lady visits schools to discuss COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden travels west as Washington troubles mount MORE received minor medical treatment at Walter Reed National Medical Center on Thursday for a puncture wound to her left foot suffered when she walked on a beach in Hawaii during her return travels from Japan (U.S. News & World Report). … The White House released its visitor log for April with 1,509 entries HERE. … Thousands of federal inmates who were released to home confinement during the pandemic are grappling with an uncertain future as the administration appears resolved to send them back to prison (The Hill).

 

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LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: A fury broke loose on Capitol Hill on Thursday as House Republicans erupted at the new directive handed down by the head of the U.S. Capitol Police that officers are to arrest anyone on the House side who refuses to wear a mask. 

In a Wednesday letter, Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger ordered that officers enforce new mask guidelines across the Capitol complex, headlined by Capitol physician Brian Monahan’s mask mandate on the House side of the Capitol and in all House office buildings. 

“If a visitor or staff member fails to wear a mask after a request is made to do so, the visitor or staff shall be denied entry to the House Office Buildings or House-side of the U.S. Capitol,” Manger wrote. “Any person who fails to either comply or leave the premises after being asked to do so would be subject to an arrest for Unlawful Entry.” 

Strict enforcement, however, does not apply to members of Congress. According to Manger, officers are asked to report maskless lawmakers to supervising officers, “who will, in turn, refer the matter to the House Sergeant at Arms.”  

Nevertheless, if House Republicans were upset by the mask mandate order issued by Monahan, the move by Manger made them irate. A number of GOP lawmakers refused to don masks to vote on Thursday night before lawmakers broke for the August recess (The Hill).

“Madam Speaker, your insane power grab is showing. Today I’m not wearing a mask outside of the chamber b/c I follow science — not Pelosi. Come and get me,” Rep. Nancy MaceNancy MaceLawmakers making Instagram appearance before Free Britney rally at Capitol GOP seeks to keep spotlight on Afghanistan as Dems advance Biden's .5T spending plan At least 90,000 students have had to quarantine because of COVID-19 so far this school year MORE (R-S.C.) tweeted on Thursday evening.  

However, Pelosi’s staff maintained the Speaker was not responsible for the Capitol Police’s enforcement uptick. Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said that she “does not control the U.S. Capitol Police,” adding that the office was not aware of the new guidance (Politico).

Notably, the mask mandate does not apply to the Senate side of the building as Monahan did not order one for the upper chamber. Multiple House GOP lawmakers were seen doing interviews with reporters on the Senate side due to the lack of a mask order (The Hill). 

 

Mask requirement signage

 

> Infrastructure: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sticks to his Afghanistan deadline Biden commends Pelosi for 'masterful' leadership Overnight Energy: Democrats tout new report to defend KeystoneXL cancellation MORE (D-Ore.) on Thursday questioned the messaging emanating from the White House on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal reached earlier in the week, saying there is “a lot of spin” coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave on the topic.  

DeFazio once again questioned the merits of the bipartisan package, arguing that the bill does not do much to address climate change and that House Democratic leaders should make changes to the bill if it passes the Senate. 

“At this point, it looks anemic at best on climate change,” DeFazio told reporters outside the House chamber. “The White House spun a number last night which is impossible: hundreds of billions for climate change. That totals more than what they're offering. … I mean, there's a lot of spin coming out of the White House” (The Hill).

The comments are the latest criticism from the longtime House Democrat of the process in crafting the bipartisan blueprint. Recently, DeFazio issued a warning that there has been a severe lack of input by House Democrats in the current iteration of the bill (It’s also by no means the first time DeFazio has taken on his own party).

The Hill: Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire. 

Jim Tankersley, The New York Times: How Biden got the infrastructure deal Trump couldn’t.

The Washington Post: Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLouisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in McConnell signals Senate GOP will oppose combined debt ceiling-funding bill MORE (D-N.Y.), who is more liked than feared by colleagues, faces a test of whether he can deliver the “big and bold” agenda he’s promised. 

Axios: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Woodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China MORE’s (R-Ky.) has a Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaDemocrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (D-Ariz.) secret. 

The New York Times: Biden signals support for Democrats’ plan to advance immigration changes unilaterally, via a budget bill. 

> USCP funding: Both houses of Congress on Thursday passed the $2.1 billion Capitol security bill to provide new funding for the Capitol Police, sending the bill to Biden’s desk as monies were set to expire for the USCP. 

Senators voted unanimously, 98-0, moving the bill to the House, where it passed 416-11. As The Hill’s Cristina Marcos notes, six Democrats and five Republicans voted against the bill in the lower chamber.  

The votes took place days after Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPhotos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (D-Vt.) and Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyMcConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike MORE (Ala.), the top GOP member on the panel, struck a deal on the bill after weeks of negotiations behind closed doors.

“If we do not act, the Capitol Police will deplete salaries funding in a matter of weeks, and the National Guard will be forced to cancel needed training to carry out their mission at home and abroad. Doing nothing would be a security crisis entirely of our own making,” Leahy said before Thursday’s vote.  

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney details, the bill includes $521 million to reimburse the National Guard, roughly $100 million for the Capitol Police, $300 million for Capitol security and $42.1 million related to COVID-19 costs in the Capitol. 

 

Capitol Police patch

 

> RIP: Former Michigan Sen. Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden pays tribute to late Sen. Levin: 'Embodied the best of who we are' Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm dead at 85 MORE (D), who served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, died on Thursday at age 87. He had lung cancer (The Washington Post).

Levin served in the Senate for 36 years until 2015, including eight years atop the Armed Services Committee. His death was announced by the Levin Center at Wayne State University in Detroit,, calling him "a dearly beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle, and life-long public servant.”  

“For those who were lucky enough to be a part of his early work in Detroit, his decades in the Senate, and beyond, he was an inspirational leader and so much more,” the Levin Center said in a statement. 

Levin was interviewed in March by Michigan Radio about his memoir, “Getting to the Heart of the Matter: My 36 years in the Senate.” He praised the upper chamber as a deliberative body, adding “it’s fallen a lot short of that recently.”

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Put simply, it has not been a good week for former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE

In recent days, Trump has issued multiple scathing statements directed at GOP lawmakers over the potential passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The missives, however, have been met with a collective shrug as 17 Senate Republicans, including McConnell and multiple Trump allies threw their weight behind the $1.2 trillion package. 

Couple that with Rep.-elect Jake Ellzey’s (R-Texas) victory in the special election runoff over Susan Wright, the Trump-backed candidate in the race, on Tuesday, and it’s been a rough week for the ex-president. 

As The Hill’s Max Greenwood and Brett Samuels write, although Trump remains a towering figure in the GOP, the back-to-back blows have led some to question whether his influence may have started to wane since he left office. 

Politico: Trump’s false election fraud claims fuel Michigan GOP meltdown. 

Reid Wilson, The Hill: College football move rocks Texas legislature. 

> 2022 watch: Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) announced on Thursday that he will not launch a Senate bid to replace Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMissouri official asks court to suspend McCloskeys' law licenses GOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate MORE (R-Mo.), dealing a blow to Democrats who are seeking a top contender for the seat.  

Nixon, a two-term governor who left office in 2017, said in a statement that he appreciates the encouragement to run, but indicated he would prefer to avoid Washington altogether. 

“I have truly enjoyed the positive changes in my life and fitness since completing 30 consecutive years of public service,” Nixon said in a statement. “I am not running for U.S. Senate. I choose a different path” (The Hill). 

The Hill: Angst grips America's most liberal city.

The Associated Press: Pro-Sanders group rebranding into “pragmatic progressives.”

 

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!

 

OPINION

The CDC needs to make clear: The problem is the unvaccinated, by Leana S. Wen. contributing columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3yclH4M  

What if the unvaccinated can’t be persuaded? by Ezra Klein, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3fc7Wvr

 

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WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 9 a.m. Members will depart Washington for their summer recess. 

The Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. and will resume consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure package. 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief in the Oval Office at 9:45 a.m. Biden and Vice President Harris will meet at 11:45 a.m. in the Old Executive Office Building with a group of governors by virtual hookup to discuss wildfire prevention, preparedness and response efforts. Biden at 4:45 p.m. hosts Cuban-American leaders to discuss recent events in Cuba. Biden will depart the White House at 6 p.m. for Camp David.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis at 8:30 a.m. releases data about personal income and spending in June.   

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

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.

ELSEWHERE

STATE WATCH: The Massachusetts attorney general’s office on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Grubhub alleging that the food delivery service charged restaurants illegally high fees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state is seeking refunds for the restaurants, along with civil penalties. According to the suit, Grubhub violated state law barring third-party delivery services from charging fees to restaurants in excess of 15 percent. The fee cap lasted from mid-January through mid-June (The Associated Press). 

‘HOLY CROW!’ AN ALASKA GARDENING COLUMNIST CHRONICLES A CHANGING PLANET: Here’s one great read for your weekend ahead, by Zach St. George for The New York Times Magazine. For more than 40 years, Jeff Lowenfels, an attorney by profession, has written a weekly gardening column for the Anchorage Daily News. Lowenfels, 72, has noted Alaskans’ successes with new plants, tracked the lengthening stretch of frost-free days and recorded the arrival of new horticultural pests. He also created what has turned out to be an accidental, long-term record of climate change in the state where change is the most rapid. His beat offered Lowenfels a preview of global greenhouse effects that turned him into a believer. 

➔ CATHOLIC CHURCH: Defrocked cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, D.C., on Wednesday was criminally charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy during a wedding reception at Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 1974. The charges make McCarrick, 91, the highest-ranking Catholic official in the country to face criminal charges for sex abuse (The Washington Post).

THE CLOSER

And finally … The Morning Report Tokyo Summer Olympics coverage today continues with some great photos and a medal leaderboard. (Our weekly Morning Report quiz is on hiatus until after the Olympics wrap up next month. 

All the world loves glorious surprises at the Olympics, and here’s one for the history books: U.S. gymnast Sunisa Lee (pictured below) captured the gold medal in Tokyo on Thursday for the all-around competition (ESPN and The New York Times). Simone Biles ― dominant in the sport since 2013 but on the sidelines in Tokyo, citing her mental health ― was in the stands to cheer her teammate to the victory podium.  

Get out a Kleenex and watch Lee’s ecstatic family HERE the moment they realized Lee, now hailed as a new celebrity in gymnastics, won the gold.

The United States leads in medals with 41, of which 14 are gold. China has captured 38 (18 gold) while Japan piled up 27 medals (16 gold). Russia, competing as the Russian Olympic Committee in Tokyo, has 32 (10 gold), and Great Britain has 24 total so far, of which six are gold. Check out medals, competitions and details at NBC Olympics.

 

Suni Lee

 

Olympic basketball