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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Today is Wednesday! 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 each morning this week: Monday, 498,901; Tuesday, 500,310; Wednesday, 502,660.
Top security officials involved in the response to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol pointed fingers, blamed “intelligence failures” and argued that the Pentagon left officers vulnerable to the deadly attack on the Capitol complex.
Lawmakers grilled top officials on Capitol Hill, eager to lay blame for the stunning attack, which resulted in five deaths when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol and attempted to derail the formal Electoral College tally (The Hill).
Although Tuesday’s witnesses maintained innocence and shifted blame in the direction of others, the four officials who testified agreed the Pentagon dragged its feet in approving and sending National Guard troops on the afternoon of Jan. 6. They told senators there were major intelligence failures leading up to the Capitol siege (The Hill).
Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund told a pair of Senate committees that the Pentagon delayed sending troops to aid in the defense of the Capitol for hours, even after the building was breached by protesters and multiple officers were assaulted. Sund and acting D.C. police Chief Robert Contee noted that they had a call with Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt in a desperate plea for help, but was initially rebuffed as the Pentagon was fearful of the “optics” of Guard troops armed outside the U.S.’s legislative home.
“Lt. Gen. Piatt then indicated that he was going to run the request up the chain of command at the Pentagon,” Sund said. “Almost two hours later, we had still not received authorization from the Pentagon to activate the National Guard” (Politico).
Scott Wong and Mike Lills: The Hill: Five big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings.
The Washington Post: Former Capitol security officials blame intelligence lapses for deadly Jan. 6 riot.
Pentagon officials are expected to appear before the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the Senate Rules Committee next week.
Sund also told lawmakers that he did not receive a copy of an FBI report warning of violence that was issued on Jan. 5, adding that he was only informed of that report within 24 hours of his appearance on Capitol Hill.
The Hill: Law enforcement officials lay out evidence that the Capitol riot was a “coordinated” attack.
The Associated Press: Takeaways from Congress’s first hearing on Capitol riot.
The Hill: House panel to dive into misinformation debate.
’s applause later this week for the expected House passage of his proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan will die down quickly with evident pushback from Democratic Sens. (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
Democrats always understood that a proposed $15 federal minimum wage was a steep climb in the narrowly divided Senate, and Manchin is now actively working to whittle it to $11 an hour, arguing it’s a more reasonable goal in rural West Virginia, where the current minimum is $8.75 (The Hill). In 2016, Manchin supported raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour (Politico and WDTV).
The power of any Democratic holdout in the Senate is immense. GOP centrists, who could potentially side with the majority party, in that circumstance become more influential. The disagreements among Democrats involve squabbles over rural and urban differences, the definition of a living wage and the intricacies of a budget tool known as reconciliation and policies that fit within its rules.
On Tuesday, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins (pictured above) predicted the relief plan the House will adopt will attract zero support from Republican senators, and she’s blaming Senate Majority Leader (D-N.Y.) and , the White House chief of staff, for offering the president what she maintains is misguided, partisan advice.
“The administration has not indicated a willingness to come down from its $1.9 trillion figure and that’s a major obstacle,” Collins told reporters. “We have indicated a willingness to come up from our $618 billion, but unfortunately the White House seems wedded to a figure that really can’t be justified given the hundreds of billions of dollars that are still in the pipeline from the December [$900 billion coronavirus relief] bill,” she added (The Hill).
The Hill: Schumer urged Democrats to stick together on Biden’s relief plan. “I made a pitch today to our entire caucus and I said that we need to pass this bill. The American people, the American public demands it and everyone is going to have things that they want to see in the bill and we’ll work hard to see if we can get those things in the bill,” he told reporters.
Lawmakers are anxiously waiting for the Senate parliamentarian to determine if minimum wage legislation can be passed using rules of the budget reconciliation process.
> Nominees: Senators on Tuesday asked tough questions about climate aims during a confirmation hearing for Rep. (D-N.M.), nominated to lead the Interior Department (seen below) (NPR), and heard California Attorney General , Biden’s choice to be secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, describe goals for the mammoth department that reach beyond responding to the pandemic (The Associated Press).
Becerra, who served in the House for more than 20 years, pledged to expand health insurance coverage, lower prescription drug costs and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in medical care. He testifies again this afternoon before the Senate Finance Committee.
The Hill: The Senate on Tuesday confirmed to be secretary of the Department of Agriculture, a position he previously held for eight years. Vice President Harris will swear him in at 6:15 p.m. by virtual hookup.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman (I-Vt.) voted with six Republicans against Vilsack, making Sanders the first senator who caucuses with Democrats to vote against a Biden Cabinet nominee.
GOP Sens. Rick Scott (Fla.), (Ky.), (Mo.), (Fla.), (Texas), and (Alaska) also voted against Vilsack returning to the USDA. Hawley has voted “no” on all of Biden’s nominees to date.
The Washington Post: Veteran diplomat will be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as soon as she’s sworn in today by Harris at 12:35 p.m.. The Senate confirmed Thomas-Greenfield’s nomination on Tuesday by a vote of 78 to 20.
CNN: Republicans are targeting the president’s domestic policy nominees as Biden’s choice to head the Office of Management and Budget, , languishes. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Budget committees are scheduled to vote today on whether to send Tanden’s nomination to the full Senate.
The Washington Post, Karen Tumulty opinion: The people concerned about Tanden’s incivility sure didn’t seem to mind in the Trump era’s.
Senate Minority Leader (R-Ky.), who in 1997 voted against to become a federal appeals court judge and five years ago blocked consideration of his nomination to the Supreme Court, says he will vote to confirm Garland to be attorney general (Politico).
> Economy & monetary policy: Senators peppered Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell with questions on Tuesday. He did not retreat from his view that recovery in which 10 million Americans remain jobless warrants another fiscal boost and that inflation worries are exaggerated (The Hill). Powell will testify before the House today. “The economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain,” Powell said in testimony to the Senate Banking Committee (The Associated Press).
LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: More help on the vaccine front is on the way. That was the message from vaccine developers on Tuesday as they laid out plans to dramatically increase the total amount of doses in the coming months and indicated that the worst of the manufacturing and distribution of the vaccines is in the rearview mirror.
Executives from Pfizer and Moderna, the only two companies that have approved COVID-19 vaccines, said they will be able to deliver more than 130 million additional shots combined by the end of March. The two vaccine producers are also expected to be able to fulfill their contractual obligations to provide 600 million doses by the end of July, giving the U.S. a major boost in its effort to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to a crawl.
“Because of the dire need to vaccinate more people, we have ramped up production of doses,” Pfizer Chief Business Officer John Young told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, noting that the company has invested significantly in domestic manufacturing sites.
Young added that Pfizer has shipped approximately 40 million doses over the first two-plus months and is on track to make a total of 120 million doses available for shipment by the end of March. 80 million more doses are expected by the end of May.
The U.S. is also likely to receive more help in the form of a third vaccine by Johnson & Johnson. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the vaccination for emergency use in the coming weeks, with the company set to have 20 million doses distributed by the end of March (The Hill).
The New York Times: Federal regulators are expected to allow the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be stored at standard freezer temperatures.
Reuters: AstraZeneca to miss second-quarter EU vaccine supply target by half.
The Associated Press: “Don’t worry, come forward:” Asian nations get 1st shots.
Reuters: South Africa says Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Moderna vaccines for “immediate use.”
> Guidance for vaccinated: , the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to release a new set of guidance for individuals who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Fauci told CNN that the new set of guidelines should arrive after agency officials “sit down, talk about it, look at the data and then come out with a recommendation based on the science.” Included in the expected recommendations is that fully vaccinated people no longer have to quarantine if they are exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 (The Hill).
ABC News: New York City Mayor (D) says New Yorkers should double mask until early June.
The Athletic: PGA Championship to allow 10,000 spectators each day of event.
> Masks and seafaring males: The CDC partnered with Discovery Channel to create a public service announcement in Alaska to encourage mask use during the pandemic. The 30-second PSA features fisherman from “Deadliest Catch,” one of Discovery’s top shows, which attracts white male audiences. The spot airs on Discovery beginning this week (Axios).
ADMINISTRATION: The president is experiencing a short honeymoon, but with patience, empathy and what some believe is a retro supply of optimism about Washington.
Biden has been leaning hard into his role as empathizer in chief in a nation with an abundance of tragic events. This week he mourned the deaths of the more than 500,000 Americans who did not survive their infections with COVID-19. He spent an hour visiting an old friend, former Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.), who started treatment for cancer on Monday at age 97 (People). And he will comfort Texans who this month battled bitter cold, rolling blackouts and tainted water supplies (The Hill).
> The president will be in Houston on Friday, White House spokeswoman announced (The Hill).
The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in The Memo that Biden’s challenges are escalating on all fronts.
> Bloomberg Green: Biden’s White House climate adviser , the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, was asked about the power grid problems experienced by the Lone Star State. “What happened in Texas was not a failure of renewable energy — just the opposite,” she said. “It was the fact that they had not invested in their own systems of refineries and they did not have a grid that connected Texas with other states in a way that other states are aligned together. So it made the response much more difficult. … Everything eventually has to be electrified. And so we need to have a grid system that actually allows that to be seamless. Renewable energy is cheaper, so it doesn’t matter if you’re in a Democratic state or a Republican state.”
> First lady will visit Richmond, Va., today for her first official solo trip outside of Washington since Jan. 20. She plans to tour Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center and meet with researchers (WRIC).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: The GOP effort to claw back a Senate seat in Georgia took a hit on Tuesday when former Sen. (R-Ga.) announced that he will not launch a bid for the Republican nod to take on Sen. (D-Ga.) in 2022 (The Hill).
Perdue made the revelation in an email to supporters, saying his decision was “personal” and not a political one. According to a source familiar with Perdue’s decision making, the former senator had put the wheels in motion toward launching a bid, which included a meeting with former over the weekend. However, he was deeply concerned with what he heard from the former president, according to the source, including an obsession with the November election, his inability to overturn the results and retribution against the likes of Georgia Gov. (R) and Arizona Gov. (R).
“It sounds like the president is just consumed with rage toward these governors,” the source told the Morning Report. “It was very unsettling for Perdue, and he’s just decided maybe this isn’t for him at this time.”
As for who will run instead, former Sen. (R-Ga.) indicated on Monday that she is exploring a rematch against Warnock. Former Rep. (R-Ga.) is also a possibility. Trump, however, would prefer to see Collins challenge Kemp in a primary.
Perdue’s decision is a blow to the party, which is itching to avoid a primary throwdown in a must-win contest. Perdue was viewed as someone who could bridge the gap between the pro-Trump crowd and establishment Republicans.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told CNN.
The New York Times: Perdue won’t challenge Warnock in the 2022 Georgia Senate race, after all.
Politico: South Dakota Gov. (R) gets a Trump-hosted fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago.
The Hill: Former Vice President huddled on Tuesday with senior members of the Republican Study Committee (which he used to chair).
The New York Times: Sen. (R-Utah) predicts Trump would win the 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president.
> Divided politics: According to The Hill’s Reid Wilson, the U.S. is as politically divided today as at any point in a century, and the results of the 2020 election bears that out.
Biden captured 224 congressional districts in the November elections, compared to 211 for Trump, with only 16 districts — nine held by Republicans, seven by Democrats — splitting their vote between the presidential contest and congressional races.
The Hill: Democrats look to improve outreach to Asian and Latino communities.
The Hill: Arkansas state senator says he’s leaving Republican Party.
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!
Will Europe defect to China? by Gordon Chang, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3kizDnH
Is Biden pursuing a ‘third way’ trade policy? by Jerry Haar, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2NSbRTB
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m. The Oversight and Reform Committee at 10 a.m. dives into U.S. Postal Service finances and proposed reforms with testimony from the much-criticized Postmaster General (The Hill). The Financial Services Committee will hear from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. A subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce panel holds a hearing at 10 a.m. (virtually) on disinformation and extremism in the media.
The Senate convenes at noon and resumes consideration of the nomination of to be Energy secretary. The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a confirmation hearing at 10 a.m. for , nominated to be CIA director.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Biden and Vice President Harris will meet at 2 p.m. to discuss a semiconductor chip shortage affecting U.S. manufacturing with a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers. At 4:15 p.m., the president will sign an executive order aimed at addressing a global semiconductor chip shortage, with Harris participating.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. and will include Sameera Fazili, deputy director of the National Economic Council, and Peter Harrell, senior director for international economics and competitiveness. Separately, the White House COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 11 a.m.
Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida at 1 p.m. discusses the U.S. economic outlook and monetary policy with members of a U.S. Chamber of Commerce committee. Live stream information HERE.
INVITATION to The Hill’s Virtually Live “Race and Justice Imperative” event on Thursday for two blocks of conversation beginning at 11:30 a.m. Participants from government, civil rights and social justice organizations who work to end systemic racism will include Martin Luther King III, Rep. (D-Calif.), Rep. (D-Calif.), Michael Eric Dyson, CNN commentator and Dream Corps founder Van Jones, and many others. Information and registration HERE.
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 March 2 and available for pre-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.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Buckingham Palace said on Tuesday that Prince Philip, 99, is “comfortable” at a London hospital and is being treated for an infection. According to a statement by the Palace, the longtime husband of Queen Elizabeth II is “comfortable and responding to treatment but is not expected to leave hospital for several days,” having been admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital a week ago. His illness is unrelated to COVID-19 (The Associated Press).
➔ TECH: Facebook‘s success in getting Australia to amend its law compelling platforms to pay news publishers for links will likely set a precedent as other countries consider similar requirements. After eleventh hour negotiations, the social media giant will have more time to iron out deals with publishers before being subject to government run arbitration processes (The Hill).
➔ POLICING: A new federal grand jury has been empaneled in Minneapolis and the Justice Department has called new witnesses as part of its investigation of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who will go on trial in state court next month charged with murder in the death on May 25 of George Floyd (The New York Times). … New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced that none of the police officers who arrested Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y., last March would face charges in connection with Prude’s death while he was shirtless in a roadway in the apparent grip of a psychotic episode. A grand jury convened to investigate the case declined to charge any of the seven officers who had been on the scene. Officers had handcuffed Prude, who was Black, placed a mesh hood over his head and pressed him into the pavement until he lost consciousness (The New York Times). … Former New York police officer and former Marine Thomas Webster, who once guarded New York City Hall before retiring in 2011, was arrested on charges that he assaulted a Washington police officer with a metal flagpole during the riots at the Capitol last month. A federal prosecutor said authorities have videos of Webster attacking an officer, first with a metal flagpole that earlier had flown a Marine Corps flag, and then with his bare hands (The New York Times).
And finally … Tiger Woods suffered multiple serious injuries on Tuesday, including a compound leg fracture and a shattered ankle, and underwent surgery at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center after being involved in a car accident in a Los Angeles suburb.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Woods, 45, was involved in a single-car crash Tuesday morning that damaged his vehicle. When assistance arrived, he was alone in the car, conscious and in stable condition. Authorities said there was no evidence Woods was impaired when driving.
In a statement released from Woods’s Twitter feed 15 hours after the incident, Dr. Anish Mahajan said his patient is “currently awake, responsive and recovering” after multiple injuries.
Woods, among the best golfers of all time, had been recovering from a back procedure in December and gearing up for the 2021 season. Golfers from across the PGA Tour offered the 14-time major winner their best wishes.
“We are all pulling for you, Tiger,” tweeted Phil Mickelson, among Woods’s top rivals for more than two decades. “We are so sorry that you and your family are going through this tough time. Everyone hopes and prays for your full and speedy recovery” (ESPN).
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