Presented by The AIDS Institute
Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Today 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 each morning this week: Monday, 498,901; Tuesday, 500,310.
and Vice President Harris on Monday held a White House candle-lighting ceremony to mark 500,000 COVID-19 deaths. Biden said flags on federal property will be flown at half-staff for five days (CBS News).
For , Biden’s outspoken progressive pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, Monday’s pile-up of senators vowing to vote against her confirmation was not a good omen.
Tanden’s nomination is near collapse, despite protestations from the White House and a promise by Senate Majority Leader (D-N.Y.) to find enough votes to put the tart-tweeting president of the Center for American Progress in a new job that requires regular interaction with lawmakers and their staffs.
Sens. (D-W.Va.), (R-Maine), (R-Pa.), (R-Ohio) and (R-Utah) have said they are “no” votes (Politico).
Tanden’s odds of joining the Biden Cabinet fell apart largely because of her past statements, particularly on social media, in which she leveled partisan and often personal criticism at lawmakers in both parties. Republicans as well as Manchin question whether she would be able to bring the kind of “unity” that Biden has promised, regardless of her policy experience (The New York Times).
Senior Democratic and GOP aides privately said they expect the administration to withdraw Tanden’s nomination, considering the lack of support in the Senate (The Washington Post). The White House is privately discussing backup plans (The Hill). CNN reports that Shalanda Young, nominated last month to be deputy director of OMB, is the leading candidate now to be nominated as director. Young, who was the first Black woman to serve as the staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, has strong relationships on Capitol Hill and no Twitter trail.
Democrats have accused Manchin and Republicans of bias and hypocrisy that Tanden is ineligible to direct the administration’s budget process because of her history of partisan commentary on social media, especially during the Trump years (Politico).
The Senate has confirmed about half of Biden’s Cabinet, although more nominees are making their way through the process, including , who on Monday began two days of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings as the president’s shoo-in choice to become attorney general.
Rep. (D-N.M.), who would be the first Native American to lead the Interior Department and the first Native American in the Cabinet, faces a tough confirmation hearing today during which deep divisions between the parties will be on display (The New York Times).
A month after Biden’s inauguration, bipartisanship he pledged to usher into Washington appears scarce in Congress, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports.
House Democrats are barreling this week toward passage of a nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that will attract scant Republican support before it moves to the Senate. There it will be buffeted by horse-trading to line up 50 Democratic votes for passage under a budget strategy that was constructed to sidestep Republican input and downplay opposition.
Where Americans need help: Tenants are struggling amid a patchwork of state rental relief efforts. Some states such as Michigan have still not approved the federal aid for renters who are affected by job losses and COVID-19 because of partisan standoffs (Stateline). … Biden on Monday announced new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) changes that will help “mom and pop businesses,” he said. The PPP, which was created by the CARES Act last year, will on Wednesday open a 14-day application period exclusively for businesses with fewer than 20 employees who need loans to hang on. “American small businesses are hurting badly and they need help now,” the president said. Since the beginning of the pandemic, some 400,000 small businesses have closed in the United States (The Hill).
LEADING THE DAY
ADMINISTRATION: Garland, who is expected to be confirmed as attorney general as soon as next week, told senators that he wants to steer clear of politics at the Justice Department, eager to turn a page from Biden’s predecessor.
He testified nearly five years after Senate Republicans blocked his Supreme Court nomination and pledged to confront domestic terrorism and racial inequalities while rebuilding the department (The Hill).
The Associated Press: The 68-year-old federal appeals court judge said the Justice Department must be politically independent. “I have grown pretty immune to any kind of pressure, other than the pressure to do what I think is the right thing, given the facts and the law. That is what I intend to do as the attorney general,” Garland said. “I don’t care who pressures me in whatever direction.”
More in Washington: Today, Biden will announce a U.S.-Canada Partnership Roadmap during a virtual meeting with Canadian Prime Minister . The roadmap includes shared goals dealing with the pandemic, economic prosperity and infrastructure investments, climate change, national and hemispheric defense and commitments to global alliances (CNN). … Tree planting is a big part of Rep. ’s (R-Ark.), nature-based approach to climate change. He’s the new ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, but trees are unlikely to take root among Democrats as a primary fix for climate change (The Hill). … Texans expect to see Biden this week in response to the state’s recent power grid emergency. “The president is eager to go to Texas,” White House press secretary says.
CORONAVIRUS: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new guidelines on Monday saying that drug companies and vaccine developers no longer need to conduct lengthy trials to determine the efficacy of shots created to ward off COVID-19 variants.
According to the new guidance, developers will not need large randomized control trials comparing it to a placebo, as they did in the creation of the original COVID-19 vaccines. Instead, as The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel writes, the FDA is recommending that companies submit data from small trials comparing a person’s immune response to a vaccine that has already been authorized.
The new guidance will allow pharmaceutical companies to expedite the creation of booster shots and new shots to deal with emerging variants.
“We know the country is eager to return to a new normal and the emergence of the virus variants raises new concerns about the performance of these products. By issuing these guidances, we want the American public to know that we are using every tool in our toolbox to fight this pandemic, including pivoting as the virus adapts,” Janet Woodcock, the agency’s acting commissioner, said in a statement.
The Hill: Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20 million Americans by end of March.
Meanwhile, the ongoing effort to vaccinate Americans has spawned a new debate: whether the U.S. should start by giving individuals one dose of the two-dose vaccines even as coronavirus variants identified in Great Britain, South Africa and Brazil gain steam.
As The Hill’s Peter Sullivan writes, the idea has gathered momentum among some medical experts, but has yet to be embraced by the White House, which argues the potential strategy is untested and could give birth to more variants, not to mention that it could erode confidence in the current batch of vaccines.
The Atlantic: The U.S. COVID-19 strategy on vaccines seems to be comparatively superior to what’s happening in Europe.
Reuters: Teachers contribute to in-school COVID-19 transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
> State Watch: New York and New Jersey on Monday rolled out a series of reopening plans as infection counts continue to fall across the nation.
In New York City, Gov. (D) gave movie theaters the green light to reopen at 25 percent capacity beginning on March 5, with no more than 50 people allowed inside at any given time. Venues outside New York City were allowed to reopen in October (Variety).
The news comes a week after Cuomo allowed the first batch of fans entry to sporting events at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center.
NBC New York: Cuomo sets NYC movie theater date as state kicks off huge reopening week; delayed vaccines arrive.
Across the Hudson River, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced that MetLife Stadium, home to the New York Giants and New York Jets, and other stadiums and arenas in the Garden State will be allowed to reopen at 15 percent capacity.
The Associated Press: Germany reopens some schools amid fears the pandemic may rebound.
The Associated Press: U.K. unemployment rate rises for 6th straight month.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: After five years, investigators will get Trump’s financial records, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a blow to the former president (The New York Times).
The justices issued the order in the long-running dispute between Trump and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (D) without comment or noted dissents.
“The work continues,” Vance tweeted in response. The court’s order comes in response to an emergency request filed to the Supreme Court by Trump in October, having already lost several rounds in the lower courts (The Hill).
Hours later, Trump responded by panning the decision as politically motivated, declaring that he will “fight on.”
“The Supreme Court never should have let this ‘fishing expedition’ happen, but they did,” Trump said in a statement. “This is something which has never happened to a President before, it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo” (The Hill).
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Trump faces deepening legal troubles.
The New York Times: Trump’s tax returns aren’t the only crucial records prosecutors will get.
> They’re running: Former aides to Trump are testing the waters for possible runs for political office, underscoring the former president’s lasting influence on a Republican Party that is searching for its identity more than a month after he left the White House.
As The Hill’s Jonathan Easley reports, , the former acting director of national intelligence, is eyeing a bid to serve as chief executive of California if Gov. (D) is recalled next month, having received prodding from Fox News’s .
Katrina Pierson, a former Trump spokeswoman, says she’s been approached about running for the seat previously occupied by the late Rep. (R-Texas). Additionally, Max Miller, a former White House aide from Ohio, is looking to primary Rep. (R-Ohio), who was among the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the ex-president. In Arkansas, Sanders has already announced her bid to replace outgoing Gov. (R).
Politico: Trump taunts don’t shake Senate Minority Leader ‘s (R-Ky.) hold on Senate GOP.
The Hill: Sen. (R-S.C.) says Trump joined a weekend meeting to talk about 2022 contests and strategy.
The Associated Press: Dominion Voting Systems sues “MyPillow Guy” for $1.3 billion.
The Hill and The New York Times: Today Capitol Police officers are set for a grilling as part of a major oversight hearing focused on the Capitol riots and security breaches on Jan. 6.
> Profile: When armed insurrectionists stormed the complex last month, Vidhya Ramalingam was not surprised. A day earlier, her company, Moonshot CVE, which monitors online extremism, set up a crisis team in response to a flood of indications that the long-scheduled pro-Trump rally could turn violent, reports The Hill’s Niv Elis.
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!
Republicans fear monger about regulation, but deregulation is what left Texas in the dark, by Catherine Rampell, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/37VJoU7
Why Merrick Garland deserves to become the new attorney general, by Senate Majority Whip (D-Ill.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3spa7QJ
Reparations: A Black existential crisis and supremacy for liberal whites, by Jason D. Hill, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3aJHvLN
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 2 p.m.
The Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of to become ambassador to the United Nations. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a confirmation hearing at 9:30 a.m. for Haaland. … The Judiciary Committee holds the second of two days of hearings to consider Garland’s nomination to be attorney general. … Members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Rules and Administration committees convene an oversight hearing at 10 a.m. to examine the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and security failures. … The Senate Intelligence Committee holds an oversight hearing at 2:30 p.m. to examine the SolarWinds breach of government databases, which has been blamed on Russia. … Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifies about the economy and monetary policy during two days of testimony, beginning with the Senate Banking Committee at 10 a.m.
The president receives the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Biden at 1:15 p.m. conducts a roundtable with Black workers deemed essential during the pandemic, moderated by domestic policy adviser . He will hold his first bilateral meeting (virtually) at 4 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room with Trudeau, attended by Vice President Harris, after which Biden will make a statement at 5:45 p.m. The president, vice president and U.S. Cabinet members, including Treasury Secretary , will also meet with their Canadian counterparts during a virtual discussion of bilateral and global issues.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at noon.
INVITATION to The Hill’s Virtually Live “Race and Justice Imperative” event on Thursday, Feb. 25, 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 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: Luca Attanasio, 43, Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, was killed on Monday in an ambush attack in the east of the country after the United Nations (U.N.) convoy in which he was traveling came under fire. The convoy reportedly belonged to the U.N.’s World Food Programme. An Italian military police officer and a Congolese driver were also killed. The attack in North Kivu province is believed to have been an attempted kidnapping (BBC and Yahoo News). … New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin is the latest target of the Russian President and the Kremlin after a Russian newspaper reported allegations of assault against the NHL player in retaliation for his support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Panarin’s ex-coach told an outlet that he got into an altercation with an 18-year-old woman in 2011, which the Rangers called a “fabricated story” in a statement, adding that Panarin will take a leave of absence from the team. Last month, Panarin signaled his support for the Kremlin foe, saying “Freedom for Navalny” in an Instagram post (ESPN).
➔ CYBERSECURITY: The ongoing fallout from the recent massive Russian hacking incident that has become known as the SolarWinds breach will be in the spotlight on Capitol Hill this week, as multiple House and Senate panels examine the extent of what is likely the largest cyberattack in U.S. history (The Hill). … States have paid out billions in fraudulent unemployment benefits over the course of the pandemic as creaky governmental systems first created decades ago struggle to keep up with evolving digital technology and cyber hacks that expose millions of Social Security numbers to international criminals (The Hill).
➔ SUMMER ‘BEE’: The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which had to be canceled last year because of COVID-19, is being recast in a new format as a purely oral contest for 200 contenders. Instead of compressing the entire competition into a week — spellers often refer to Bee Week as a highlight of their young lives — the bee will be stretched over several weeks and take place semi virtually. The preliminary rounds will be held in mid-June, the semifinals on June 27 and the ESPN-televised finals on July 8, with in-person competition limited to a dozen contestants who will gather at Walt Disney World in Florida, Scripps announced on Monday (The Associated Press). Find out how to enter HERE.
And finally … What’s old is still new, especially in the science of black holes. The late Stephen Hawking, the British theoretical physicist and author, once bet that the Cygnus X-1 system, discovered in 1964, did not include a black hole — but conceded his mistake in 1990 when scientists had broadly accepted that Cygnus X-1 contained the first known black hole in the universe.
Fast-forward to 2021, and new observations suggest that black hole is much bigger than previously thought, weighing 21 times as much as the sun. Why is that important? Because for a black hole that massive to exist in the Milky Way, its parent star must have shed less of its mass through stellar winds than initially thought, scientists say. How Cygnus-X1 became a black hole is now less certain. One other update: Cygnus X-1 is now calculated to be 7,200 light-years from Earth (Science News).
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