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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 513,091; Tuesday, 514,657.
The U.S. is set to begin administering doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine today, marking a momentous milestone in the national effort to combat the pandemic as health officials warn that variants could wipe away all progress made over the past month.
Johnson & Johnson’s began shipping nearly 4 million doses across the country on Monday, the first batch of the expected 20 million doses the pharmaceutical giant is slated to distribute by the end of March. Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said in interviews on Monday morning that the first shots will take place within 24 to 48 hours (NPR) and touted the effectiveness of the new vaccine, which was approved more than two months after Pfizer’s and Moderna’s shots.
“For the last 13 months our physicians, our scientists, our engineers have been working around the clock to make this day possible. We couldn’t be more excited,” Gorsky told “Good Morning America.”
“It’s important to remember about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is we did the clinical trials roughly from October 2020 to January of this year and it was really during the peak of the incidence rate of this virus,” Gorsky added.
As The Hill’s Peter Sullivan and Nathanial Weixel note, the 3.9 million doses being doled out this week are the entire stockpile held by the company, and there will be no additional shipments next week, according to administration officials. Governors have been informed about the “uneven” distribution and are expecting most of the vaccine to be delivered in the back end of the month.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is the first one-shot variety to be approved for emergency use. In all, the U.S. is expected to receive 100 million doses of the shot by the end of June.
NBC News: Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be a “game changer.” Here’s why a third option matters.
The Hill: 41 percent say they are not willing to receive coronavirus vaccine.
The Associated Press: Tensions over vaccine equity pit rural against urban America.
The vaccine’s rollout also comes at a tenuous moment for the nation as variants continue to spread, with experts warning that the precipitous downturn in cases could be reversed if the pace of vaccinations does not pick up and if American’s let down their guard. The U.S.’s seven-day average of cases sits at 67,000.
“Our recent declines appear to be stalling, stalling at over 70,000 cases a day,” (pictured below), director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a White House press briefing. “With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19” (The Hill).
“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Walensky added (CNN).
According to USA Today, the U.S. is recording record numbers of variant COVID-19 cases by the day, with the majority of case growth taking place across Florida, Texas and Michigan.
The Associated Press: Countries urge drug companies to share vaccine know-how.
Bloomberg News reports in detail with charts: COVID-19’s death toll can be compared with other things that kill us. One selected fact drawn from data: If you compare COVID-19 deaths with deaths from all causes in recent years, what stands out is that the relative risk increase imposed by the novel coronavirus seems to have been highest not for the very oldest Americans, but for those aged 65 through 84. Those 65 and older account for 81 percent of the deaths from COVID-19.
> House relief bill now in the Senate… will lobby by virtual hookup for support from Senate Democrats on Tuesday during their weekly lunch. The Senate could begin consideration of the stimulus measure as soon as Wednesday — with final votes as soon as late Thursday — pending full Democratic support and sign-off from the parliamentarian (Bloomberg News). In the meantime, Sen. (D-W.Va.) and other senators began talking about potential modifications to shrink the $1.9 trillion relief bill. Manchin called it “targeting” (The Hill).
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It’s time to update internet regulations
The internet has changed a lot in 25 years. But the last time comprehensive internet regulations were passed was in 1996.
We want updated internet regulations to set clear guidelines for addressing today’s toughest challenges.
LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: A third woman on Monday alleged an unwanted advance by New York Gov. (D), claiming he asked to kiss her at a 2019 reception while placing both of his hands on her cheeks. She said she felt “uncomfortable and embarrassed.”
The New York Times reported that Cuomo met Anna Ruch, 33, at a wedding 17 months ago. After Ruch thanked the governor for toasting the newlyweds, Cuomo reportedly put his hand on her bare lower back. Ruch said she removed his hand. Subsequently, Cuomo said she seemed “aggressive” and proceeded to place his hands on her cheeks and inquire if he could kiss her. The Times published a photo of the encounter.
A spokesman for the governor did not directly address Ruch’s account, referring to a general statement that Cuomo released on Sunday in which he acknowledged that some things he has said “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”
“To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that. … To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody,” the statement said.
As The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports, Empire State Democrats are critical of the governor as he deals with allegations of inappropriate personal and professional conduct with former female aides.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) said Monday she has received authorization to investigate multiple allegations of sexual harassment leveled against the longtime governor last week by two female former employees. She said that she will make her findings public.
Rep. (D-N.Y.) became the first member of the state’s congressional delegation to call for Cuomo’s resignation on Monday night following the latest allegation of impropriety.
The Associated Press: Cuomo allegations leave Democrats grappling with response.
The fury is also raining down from state legislators over Cuomo’s handling of nursing home patients treated for the coronavirus in the early weeks and months of the pandemic. Adding to the problems, a number of legislators and journalists have reported that Cuomo frequently used bullying tactics, including angry tirades shouted down a phone line at all hours.
“There’s an ongoing pattern here of abuse of power. It’s making the working relationship with the governor a real distraction from the work we have to do for the people,” said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (D), who represents Schenectady. “I firmly believe that the governor’s resignation is for the good of the state at this point” (The Hill).
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Cuomo’s fall raises questions for the news media.
The Hill: Speaker (D-Calif.): Sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo are “credible.”
White House press secretary on Monday reiterated Biden’s support for an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo but wouldn’t directly say at what point Biden views such allegations as warranting the governor’s ouster (New York Post).
> Trump time: Fresh off his appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, former said that he “can’t imagine” that any Republican would defeat him if he ran for the party nomination in 2024 (The New York Times).
“Based on the job performance, I’m not sure anybody else should be able to win,” Trump told Newsmax in an interview following the speech. “I’m going to do what’s right for our country.”
As The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Morgan Chalfant write, Trump’s reemergence in the spotlight in Orlando, Fla., which featured a number of false and misleading statements, signified that he remains the leader of the party and will carry his platform through the 2024 cycle.
However, his tendency to fan the flames of xenophobia and undermine confidence in the country’s institutions, which was on display during the 90-minute speech, shows the potential risks of the former president returning to the fold. Trump is expected to form a super PAC as part of his burgeoning future political endeavor and is already getting involved in races to prop up allies and disrupt campaigns run by individuals who supported his second impeachment. While allies expect that he ultimately will not run for president again in 2024, Trump made clear on Sunday that he will continue to openly mull and tease the possibility.
The Hill: GOP Ohio Senate candidate Jane Timken called for Rep. (R-Ohio) to resign over his vote to impeach Trump. One month earlier, Timken said that Gonzalez had “a rational reason” and was an “effective legislator.”
The New York Times: Trumpism grips a post-policy GOP as traditional conservatism fades.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: Nearly two dozen House progressives on Monday called on Biden and Vice President Harris to overturn the parliamentarian’s decision that a $15 minimum wage cannot be included in Democrats’ sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package in the Senate this week, The Hill’s Scott Wong reports.
“Eighty-one million people cast their ballots to elect you on a platform that called for a $15 minimum wage,” they said in a letter spearheaded by Rep. (D-Calif.), a leader with the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“We urge you to keep that promise and call on the Presiding Officer of the Senate to refute the Senate Parliamentarian’s advice … and maintain the $15 minimum wage provision in the American Rescue Plan,” the letter said.
The bottom line: Any Senate-passed relief bill will differ from the House-passed measure, meaning it must return to the House, where Democrats last week had just a seven-vote cushion for passage of provisions that included a hike in the minimum wage. Progressives are furious about what the Senate may do to alter the bill this week.
“Really, our options right now, at least our immediate options on this specific issue, is to do something about this parliamentary obstacle or abolish the filibuster,” Rep. (D-N.Y.) said on Friday.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that Senate progressives who sought to save the House-passed $15 per hour federal minimum wage briefly considered and then abandoned a backup strategy to try to increase the wage floor through a corporate tax penalty. Too complicated, not enough time, not enough support, they decided over the weekend.
The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that Senate Budget Committee Chairman (I-Vt.) on Monday said he wants to force a vote this week on an amendment backing the $15 wage. Sanders urged Senate Democrats to “ignore” the parliamentarian’s ruling.
The Hill: Sen. of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, shot down the idea proposed by progressives of trying to overrule the parliamentarian, suggesting that proponents work on separate legislation.
Sen. (D-Mass.) on Monday introduced the Ultra-Millionaire Wealth Tax Act, embodying a centerpiece of her 2020 presidential campaign, reports The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda. Warren said her bill could help offset some of the $1.9 trillion relief spending to address the pandemic, now under consideration by the Senate. The Warren measure would create an annual tax of 2 percent on the net worth of households and trusts between $50 million and $1 billion and a tax of 3 percent on net worth above $1 billion. The rate for net worth above $1 billion would increase to 6 percent if a “Medicare for All” health care plan is enacted.
> Balancing a budget choice: Sen. (R-Alaska), whose vote on Office of Management and Budget nominee could make or break Tanden’s opportunity to join the president’s Cabinet, said on Monday after meeting privately with the president of the Center for American Progress that she remains undecided about how she would vote. Tanden has not yet cleared key committees (The Hill).
> Capitol security: Parts of the ominous razor wire-topped fencing near the Capitol complex began to be dismantled for reuse elsewhere on Monday. The security readjustment came after Capitol Police began to reopen Washington’s 3rd Street on the National Mall to vehicles. Because the roadway will be accessible to traffic, the prison-esque razor wire moved closer to the Capitol building (WUSA).
ADMINISTRATION: The president and his advisers decided they will allow families separated at the southern border by the Trump administration to reunite and remain in this country, the White House announced Monday. “We are hoping to reunite the families, either here or in their country of origin. We hope to be in a position to give them the election. And if, in fact, they seek to reunite here in the United States, we will explore lawful pathways for them to remain in the United States,” Department of Homeland Security said.
Some 2,800 migrant families were separated in 2018 under the Trump administration and parents were in most cases deported. While some parents and offspring were reunited under court order, 550 children were not reconnected with their parents under the previous administration. Mayorkas, head of the family reunification task force established by Biden, said another 105 families have been reunited since Jan. 20 (The Hill).
Progressives in Congress are unhappy with administration officials for reopening a housing facility for young migrants at the southern border, declaring such facilities inhumane after being used briefly during Trump’s term. Conservatives in Congress say Biden’s approach has encouraged increased migration to the United States border. The new administration and immigration advocates urge patience, arguing for the time required to make meaningful changes to a system that was upended (The Hill).
> U.S. to punish Russia: As early as today, the United States is expected to impose sanctions on the Kremlin and Russian officials for the poisoning of lawyer and critic Alexei Navalny (Reuters). The sanctions are expected to be imposed under two existing executive orders. The first provides broad authorities to target Russian officials, and the second covers proliferation of weapons of mass destruction under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991. Navalny recovered in Germany from poisoning thought by experts to be a Novichok nerve agent and opted to return to Moscow in January, where he was arrested and is now imprisoned in a notoriously harsh penal colony (The New York Times).
> FBI: Director Christopher Wray, held over by Biden from the Trump administration, is perched on thin ice with some Democratic senators, reports The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch. Today, Wray makes his first appearance on Capitol Hill since the Jan. 6 siege, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senators will try to press the FBI to explain what the bureau knew leading up to the deadly riots, which have been described as domestic terrorism.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: [email protected] and [email protected] We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
“Say it ain’t so, Joe,” by Fred Ryan, publisher of The Washington Post, opinion column. https://wapo.st/3sEq5Xg
Mohammed bin Salman is guilty of murder. Biden should not give him a pass, by The Washington Post editorial board. https://wapo.st/3r9VS1L
Biden betrayed his promise to defend human rights and Jamal Khashoggi, by Robin Wright, The New Yorker. https://bit.ly/3rjPncE
A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
Internet regulations need an update
It’s been 25 years since comprehensive internet regulations were passed.
But a lot has changed since 1996. We support updated regulations to set clear guidelines for protecting people’s privacy, enabling safe and easy data portability between platforms and more.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 9 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Rhode Island Gov. (D) to be secretary of Commerce. The Banking Committee holds a hearing on the nominations of to be chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at 10 a.m. (The Hill). The Budget Committee hears from Shalanda Young, nominated to be deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, at 11 a.m.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. along with the vice president. Biden will speak to Senate Democrats by phone at 1:10 p.m. The president will make remarks at 4:15 p.m. in the State Dining Room about the pandemic with Harris in attendance. The vice president will swear in Education Secretary at 6 p.m. Harris will speak to the House Democratic Issues Conference by virtual hookup at 8:15 p.m. from the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m.
The Hill’s senior correspondent Amie Parnes and co-author Jonathan Allen of NBC News have written a political book to follow their 2017 best-seller, “Shattered.” Biden’s roller-coaster 2020 campaign and nail-biting victory against a crowded primary field and then former President Trump are revealed with deep reporting, analysis and new anecdotes in “Lucky,” which is in bookstores TODAY and available for order with Penguin Random House HERE and on Amazon 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.
➔ COURTS: The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a potentially landmark case over Arizona voting laws that Democratic challengers say discriminate on the basis of race. The dispute asks the 6-3 conservative court to define the sweep of a key Voting Rights Act provision that was designed to protect minority voter rights. The court’s ruling, expected this summer, could determine whether a suite of voting restrictions working their way through GOP state legislatures will survive legal scrutiny (The Hill).
➔ INTERNATIONAL: In the United Kingdom, 99-year-old Prince Philip was moved on Monday to a different hospital for treatment of an infection and a cardiac condition (CNN). Because the Duke of Edinburgh remains hospitalized, Prince Harry and wife are under pressure in the United Kingdom to postpone broadcast of an interview already completed and scheduled for broadcast in the United States on CBS this week with (Metro). … In Myanmar, a court filed new charges against imprisoned leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, who was seen for the first time since a coup. Two additional charges include allegations of violating prohibition against publication of information that may “cause fear or alarm,” and a telecommunications law stipulating licenses for equipment (Reuters). … In France, former President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday was sentenced to three years in prison, with two years suspended, after a court found him guilty on corruption and influence-peddling charges. The court agreed with prosecutors that the former president formed a “corruption pact” with Thierry Herzog, his lawyer, and a senior magistrate to secure a job for the magistrate in exchange for providing information on an investigation into Sarkozy (The Hill).
➔ CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL: The National Park Service on Monday said “peak bloom” for the trees around Washington’s Tidal Basin is expected between April 2 and April 5. There are many magical spring days ahead for gazing at the white and pink blossoms, but “peak” is the day when 70 percent of the Yoshino buds are open in a magnificent cloud. Not to be missed this year of all years!
And finally … How did Women’s History Month come into being, and why is it in March? Let’s review: The observance began as a single day and has taken place in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia in March (and in Canada in the month of October). International Women’s Day has been around since 1911 and now takes place on March 8. Former President in 1980 designated the first official (and popular) National Women’s History Week. Seven years later, Congress declared the first official Women’s History Month (CNN). Shattered glass ceilings and strides among women definitely enliven — at the very least — 31 days.
“Too often, the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.” — Carter, Feb. 28, 1980.
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