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, 837,664; Tuesday, 839,500.
The White House is staring down a two-pronged attack in the coming days as President BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal MORE prepares to address voting rights in Atlanta today and deliver a speech on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday.
Biden and Vice President Harris are set to visit the epicenter of the political South this afternoon as part of the Democratic pressure campaign to alter Senate rules in order to pass two wide-ranging election reform and voting rights bills. The president, a longtime defender of the filibuster, is expected to throw his weight behind a proposed exception from the 60-vote threshold specifically for voting rights legislation. It’s a change for Biden and is opposed by Republicans (The New York Times).
“Tomorrow is an opportunity to speak about what the path forward looks like,” said White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiZelensky says 'there are no minor incursions' after Biden's comments on Ukraine, Russia The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Dems regroup as Biden agenda stumbles Biden clarifies any Russian movement into Ukraine 'is an invasion' MORE before confirming Biden’s pending call to change the rules in the upper chamber (Reuters).
The Hill: Biden to call expected Senate action on voting bills a “turning point.”
However, whether the chance of the concerted effort paying off in the form of legislative action remains slim to none. As The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo, that circumstance also raises the question of whether Democrats are setting themselves up for failure by playing the expectations game. While the Democratic base clamors for action on the topic, the inability to win over Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBriahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Manchin: Biden spending plan talks would start 'from scratch' Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaBriahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Manchin: Biden spending plan talks would start 'from scratch' Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials MORE (D-Ariz.) — both of whom support the pair of proposals — to alter the 60-vote filibuster threshold could prove fateful in the long run.
On Monday, Manchin indicated that he hasn’t seen anything to change his stance.
“Maybe someone is hiding something. They haven't shown it to me,” the West Virginia centrist told CNN.
Compounding their issues, Sinema reiterated her unwillingness to change the filibuster at the Senate Democratic conference’s virtual lunch last week (The Washington Post).
Politico: Dems filibuster conundrum: It's not just Manchin and Sinema.
The speeches also come days as Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure Voting rights and Senate wrongs MORE (D-N.Y.) plans to hold a vote on the issue ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.
In response, Republicans are using Schumer’s push to scrap the 60-vote prerequisite to launch a counteroffensive. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service Biden clarifies any Russian movement into Ukraine 'is an invasion' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks MORE (R-Ky.) laid out to The Wall Street Journal a list of legislative priorities Republicans would move on. Among them are proposals to block the IRS from implementing the Biden administration’s push for banks to collect information about customer accounts to the tax collecting service and to bar schools from using the available $164 billion in COVID-19 relief funds if they are not operating in person.
Jordain Carney, The Hill: Democrats face moment of truth in filibuster fight.
On the COVID-19 front, Biden is set to deliver another address on the topic on Thursday as cases explode across the nation from the omicron variant and laid out his plan for insurance to cover COVID-19 kits.
The administration issued new rules requiring private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests starting on Saturday after weeks of test shortages that have plagued the administration. Insurers will be required to cover the cost of eight at-home COVID-19 tests per person each month.
The announcement comes on the heels of mounting criticism from health experts to increase availability as testing locales across the country have been hit by long lines and pharmacies have quickly sold out of the rapid at-home tests (The Hill).
The variant has also wreaked havoc at the school level, with Chicago serving as ground zero. However, the Chicago Teachers Union reached a deal on Monday night to resume in-person instruction after a standoff between its leaders and city officials led to five days of canceled classes.
The deal still needs to be approved by the union of roughly 25,000 teachers and would put students back in the classroom starting on Wednesday.
“We know this has been very difficult for students and families,” Chicago Mayor Lori LightfootLori LightfootChicago students protest for virtual learning, COVID-19 stipends School infrastructure is a children's human rights issue — it's time the US acknowledges that The Hill's Morning Report - Biden champions filibuster reform, but doesn't have the votes MORE (D) said at a Monday press conference after days of criticizing the union. “No one wins when students are out of a place where they can learn the best and where they’re safest” (The Associated Press).
The Washington Post: The U.S. today is poised to break a 2021 record with more than 142,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Nathaniel Weixel, The Hill: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Overnight Health Care — Biden faces pressure from Democrats on COVID-19 MORE, a physician and scientist, faces a precarious political moment.
The Washington Post: CDC weighs recommending better masks against omicron variant.
The Hill: Moderna CEO says omicron-specific booster trials will begin soon.
On Capitol Hill, three more lawmakers on Monday tested positive for the virus (The Hill). Reps. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Schumer tees up doomed election reform vote Democrats eye prime pickup chance in Katko retirement Clyburn says he's worried about losing House, 'losing this democracy' MORE (R-N.Y.), Nancy MaceNancy MaceProtecting seniors from guardianship fraud and abuse House Democratic conference postponed due to COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta MORE (R-S.C.) and Ben ClineBenjamin (Ben) Lee ClineThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Mace tests positive for COVID-19 a second time Two more House lawmakers test positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Va.) all announced positive test results, with Mace doing so for the second time. All three members were vaccinated (The Hill).
The Hill: Congress restores strict health protocols during omicron-fueled surge.
The Washington Post: Virginia declares a limited state of emergency aimed at helping hospitals in crisis.
The Associated Press: India starts booster shots for vulnerable amid omicron surge.
LEADING THE DAY
ADMINISTRATION: After eight hours of talks in Geneva on Monday, the U.S. and Russia gained a better understanding of each nation’s respective worries when it comes to Moscow’s stance toward Ukraine, which prompted U.S. intelligence last year to warn of a potential Russian invasion this month (The Hill).
“The United States came to today's extraordinary meeting prepared to hear Russia's security concerns and to share our own,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told reporters gathered in Switzerland. “Today was a discussion, a better understanding of each other and each other's priorities and concerns.”
The Associated Press: Lowered expectations, no signs of progress.
Russia repeated its pledge that despite a huge troop buildup along Ukraine’s border, there were no plans to attack. Russian officials said Monday’s talks had been professional, while both sides acknowledge they remain far apart (Bloomberg News).
Moscow wants guarantees to halt NATO’s eastward expansion and even roll back the military alliance’s deployments in Eastern Europe, while Washington firmly rejects such demands.
> Health and Human Services: Secretary Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Democrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Overnight Health Care — Insurance will soon cover COVID-19 tests MORE instructed Medicare to reassess a premium increase contemplated this year to cover high costs of Biogen’s much-debated Alzheimer’s drug (The Associated Press).
> IRS: Tax filers should expect service delays during tax filing season, which begins on Jan. 24, the government advised on Monday (The Wall Street Journal).
> Immigration: The administration has expelled more than 12,000 Haitians from the United States since September while avoiding any major policy announcements regarding the disaster-wracked Caribbean nation. The U.S. policy of expulsions led to the resignation of former special envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote (The Hill).
> Coined: The late poet and novelist Maya Angelou is the first Black woman to be featured by the Treasury Department on the quarter — commemoration through coinage — unveiled on Monday (The Hill). The U.S. Mint launched an American Women Quarters Program with the likeness of Angelou, who died in 2014. Her 1969 autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” was nominated for the National Book Award and made her a literary celebrity. In 1993, she read “On the Pulse of Morning,” a poem she wrote to mark the inauguration of former President Clinton. Former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJudge denies Trump spokesman's effort to force Jan. 6 committee to return financial records Gina McCarthy: Why I'm more optimistic than ever on tackling the climate crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks MORE awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.
CONGRESS: It’s no secret that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyHouse GOP leaders vow to end proxy voting despite widespread use among Republicans Jan. 6 committee asks Ivanka Trump to sit for interview How Kevin McCarthy sold his soul to Donald Trump MORE (Calif.), who covets the speakership in 2023, is intent on gathering support among colleagues, GOP donors and other powerful influencers, most prominently the former 45th president. In a video conversation reported on Monday, McCarthy delighted conservatives by promising to punish a trio of progressive lawmakers, should he get the chance next year. If given the authority, he said, he would strip Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSenate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Overnight Defense & National Security — DOD watchdog to review extremism screening Omar calls for closure of Guantánamo Bay prison after 20 years of 'lawlessness and cruelty' MORE (D-Minn.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCIA says 'Havana syndrome' unlikely a result of 'worldwide campaign' by foreign power The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Democrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit MORE (D-Calif.) and Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellSwalwell slams House Republican for touting funding in bill she voted down There's no such thing as 'absolute immunity' for former presidents The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden strategizes with Senate Dems MORE (D-Calif.) of key committee assignments (Breitbart).
“The Democrats have created a new thing where they’re picking and choosing who can be on committees,” McCarthy said. “Never in the history [of Congress] have you had the majority tell the minority who can be on committee.”
McCarthy detailed his criticisms of the three lawmakers during a long-form video special, taped in December in Washington. The GOP leader also hinted he might create a new committee to investigate China policies and the Chinese Communist Party if Republicans win a majority and he becomes Speaker.
Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi says she's open to stock trading ban for Congress Manchin: Biden spending plan talks would start 'from scratch' Reps. Massie, Grijalva test positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Calif.) is not offering clues about whether this will be her final year in Congress, as many expect. The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis report that while a new generation of Democratic lawmakers is restless to send the old guard packing, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi says she's open to stock trading ban for Congress Former Maryland rep announces bid for old House seat Fury over voting rights fight turns personal on Capitol Hill MORE (Md.), who will be 83 in June, and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.), who will be 82 in July, have been reaching out to colleagues to gauge their support about hanging on, even if Pelosi retires.
On Monday, Democratic Rep. Ed PerlmutterEdwin (Ed) George PerlmutterCO lawmakers ask DOJ to investigate police's knowledge about alleged shooter The Hill's 12:30 Report: 2021 ends with 40-year inflation high On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood MORE, 68, a Blue Dog representing Colorado in the House since his election in 2006, became the 26th incumbent in his caucus to announce he won’t seek reelection. “There comes a time when you pass the torch to the next generation of leaders. … Fortunately we have a strong group of leaders who are ready and able to take up that torch,” he said (The Hill).
Thirteen House Republicans to date have announced they will retire this cycle. Perlmutter's decision follows Colorado's new congressional maps, which cut the 7th District from a 15-point Democratic lean to just 6 points, according to FiveThirtyEight. Perlmutter, not seen as a break-glass sort of Democrat, has nevertheless publicly argued since 2016 that the House Democratic leadership needed fresh blood and new perspectives.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: Former President TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE stirred discord with another GOP lawmaker on Monday, directing his ire at Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsLawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine The Memo: Is Trump the GOP's future or in rearview mirror? Some in GOP begin testing party's lockstep loyalty to Trump MORE (R-S.D.) after the conservative member said that Biden’s 2020 victory was fair and legitimate.
In a Monday statement, Trump took aim at Rounds, calling him a “jerk” and vowing never to endorse him again after the remarks. Rounds, who previously served as South Dakota governor, is not up for reelection until 2026.
Rounds did not take the criticism lying down and issued a statement reiterating his Sunday remarks, adding he was “disappointed but not surprised” by Trump’s reaction.
“However, the facts remain the same. I stand by my statement. The former president lost the 2020 election,” Rounds said. “If we’re being honest, there was no evidence of widespread fraud that would have altered the results of the election.”
“As a Republican Party, our focus should be on what lies ahead, not what’s in the past. Elections are about growing support for your party, not further dividing it,” Rounds said. “Attacking Republicans certainly isn’t going to result in a winning formula. Neither is telling citizens not to vote. If we are going to win in 2022 and 2024, we have to move forward together.”
Trump’s battles on Monday were not limited to his barbs with Rounds, as a federal judge questioned his claims of “absolute immunity” in the face of three civil lawsuits accusing him of having a hand in the Capitol riot last year.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta appeared skeptical of Trump's argument during Monday’s hearing that the suits from Democratic lawmakers and U.S. Capitol Police officers should be tossed because presidential speech and actions while in office are wholly protected from civil action.
“Is there anything the president could say while president of the United States that could subject him to civil suits?” said Mehta, an Obama appointee.
Jesse Binnall, a Trump attorney, said he could not think of an example that would fall outside of that immunity (The Hill).
The New York Times: Former Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceManchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials Jan. 6 committee asks Ivanka Trump to sit for interview Pences' pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo, dies MORE and Jan. 6 committee engage in high-stakes dance over testimony.
The Hill: Search for 2024 convention sites ramps up in both parties.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
How do we know Trump’s election fraud claims are bogus? Take a look at Pennsylvania, by Henry Olsen, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3Gen6vV
The Federal Reserve needs to get a lot more hawkish, by Bill Dudley, contributor, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3HKpXg
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Alan Davidson to be assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and information. … Schumer is the featured newsmaker for a livestream event at 7 p.m. EDT about voting rights hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Information and registration is HERE.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will travel to Atlanta, where he and the vice president will lay a wreath at the crypt of MLK Jr., the late civil rights leader, and his wife, Coretta Scott King at 2:40 p.m. at the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Biden and Harris will visit Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was baptized, at 3 p.m. The president will speak at 3:50 p.m. about protecting voting rights while visiting the Atlanta University Center Consortium on the grounds of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College. Biden will return to the White House at 8:05 p.m.
The vice president while in Atlanta with Biden will deliver a speech this afternoon about protecting elections and the right to vote.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome PowellJerome PowellBiden selects Sarah Bloom Raskin, two others for Fed board Overnight Energy & Environment — Earth records its hottest years ever On the Money — SCOTUS strikes down Biden vax-or-test rules MORE appears at 10 a.m. before the Senate Banking Committee for a confirmation hearing to serve a second term. Because of economists’ outspoken criticisms of Fed policy, Powell faces questions about rate and accommodation changes anticipated this year. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service Trump by the numbers: 2024 isn't simple MORE (D-Mass.), who opposes Powell’s nomination, said on Monday the Fed must disclose information about an ethics controversy (Reuters).
➜ INTERNATIONAL: North Korea fired what was believed on Tuesday to a ballistic missile, South Korea's military and the Japanese coast guard said. It’s the second apparent missile launch in less than a week. The United States and its allies condemned the latest launch by Pyongyang as a significant threat (Reuters). … European Union Parliament President David Sassoli, 65, died early today at an Italian hospital (The Associated Press). Sassoli contracted pneumonia in September caused by the legionella bacteria and was hospitalized on Dec. 26 with immune system problems.
➜ STATE WATCH: States are preparing for a revolution in the auto industry by setting aside billions of dollars in spending on infrastructure for electric vehicles — that is, when they’re not taxing those vehicles with additional fees to make up for lost gas tax revenue (The Hill).
➜ SPORTS: After a 42-year drought, the University of Georgia is once again national champions of college football after defeating the University of Alabama, 33-18, in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs cemented the victory with an interception return for a touchdown by Kelee Ringo with less than a minute left to play, handing them the elusive championship (ESPN). … The New York Yankees on Monday tapped Rachel Balkovec (pictured below) to become the manager of its Low A-affiliate Tampa Tarpons, making her the first female manager in affiliated professional baseball. Balkovec, 34, previously served as a hitting coach in the franchise’s rookie-level club and has held coaching positions across professional baseball for a decade (MLB.com).
And finally … David Bennett, 57, was dying. He was ineligible for a human heart transplant. He had run out of life-saving options until doctors offered him a scientific longshot. They could transplant a pig heart into their patient with no guarantee the experiment would work.
Bennett seized the chance for the surgery Friday at the University of Maryland Medical Center, his son said, according to The Associated Press, and on Monday, his cardiac and transplant team said Bennett was doing well. The experimental surgery was approved by the Food and Drug Administration under emergency compassionate criteria.
The transplant of a genetically modified animal heart into an adult without immediate rejection represents tentative progress. In 1984, newborn Stephanie Fae Beauclair, known as Baby Fae, lived 21 days with a walnut-sized baboon heart after surgery in California. Prior attempts at such transplants — or xenotransplantation — failed largely because patients’ bodies rapidly rejected the animal organs.
“If this works, there will be an endless supply of these organs for patients who are suffering,” Muhammad Mohiuddin, surgeon and scientific director of the university’s animal-to-human transplant program, predicted.