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 reported each morning this week: Monday, 486,106; Tuesday, 486,325.
As of this morning, 11.9 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 4.5 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.
President Biden will be in Milwaukee tonight for a CNN town hall program focused on progress and setbacks during his first three weeks in office.
Both the House and Senate are out of Washington this week, giving Biden a salesman’s spotlight. Ahead is a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan he wants to enact by mid-March, with or without Republican support, and potentially without a hike in the federal minimum wage, which has unsettled many progressives.
As Biden prepares to answer questions this evening in the Midwest, sufficient coronavirus vaccine doses lag behind the millions of people eager for shots, at the same time that disagreements linger over what’s “safe” inside pandemic-hobbled schools. Half of Biden’s Cabinet still isn’t Senate-confirmed, and major legislation the president hopes to sign later this year — an immigration overhaul; $2 trillion in upgrades to roads, bridges and broadband; energy and environmental policy changes — could fall victim to partisan clashes over the economy and federal spending within a narrowly divided Congress.
Meanwhile, 2022 election battles are heating up as Republicans regroup following former ’s second impeachment acquittal at the same time that Democrats in Congress worry they could lose their majorities next year, in no small measure because that’s what history predicts is most likely to occur (NBC News).
The New York Times: Biden takes center stage with ambitious agenda after Trump’s trial ends.
The Associated Press: Biden faces questions about his commitment to a proposed minimum wage hike to $15 per hour. Here are key players to watch during the wage battle (The Hill).
The Washington Post: Will additional state and local assistance from the federal government survive in Biden’s proposed relief plan? Republicans oppose such spending, calling it a “blue state bailout” that would reward poor local financial management. Democrats say that without this help, states and local governments could turn into a drag on an already slow economic recovery.
Meanwhile, Speaker (D-Calif.) on Monday announced plans for a 9/11-style independent commission to study the Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol (NPR), a proposal she first raised weeks ago (The Associated Press). The idea of a legislatively blessed blue ribbon panel picked up steam among respected current and former lawmakers in both parties over the weekend (NJ.com) but triggered partisan infighting about the panel’s mandate and the players who would be involved.
Pelosi said such a commission will “investigate and report on the facts and causes” that are tied to what she called the “domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex.” She said the House also will take up a measure to spend more on Capitol security, including for lawmakers.
More in Congress: The Hill’s Marty Johnson reports on Senate Democratic bills designed to assist Black farmers during the pandemic. … The Hill’s Jessie Hellmann reports on pressure felt by Congress and the Biden administration to deal with a worsening drug addiction crisis in this country.
LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: The backlash is coming swiftly for Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach or convict Trump as state parties move to punish them and warn the rest of the party to fall in line behind the ex-president.
The North Carolina Republican Party voted unanimously to censure Sen. (R-N.C.) on Monday night, while the Republican Party of Pennsylvania is lining up to do the same in short order to Sen. (R-Pa.) (pictured below). The two are among the seven Senate Republicans who broke with the party to support Trump’s conviction on Saturday (The Hill).
In a weekend note to committee members, Republican Party of Pennsylvania chairman Lawrence Tabas called a “special meeting” of the party to “address issues and consider action related to the impeachment vote,” with all indications pointing to a rebuke of Toomey.
GOP sources in the Keystone State lambasted the decision, saying that the move is an attempt to placate the Trumpiest factions within the party who are upset with the two-term senator’s vote. They also complained that the party is abusing the censure process, undercutting the argument that Democrats on Capitol Hill are abusing the impeachment lever.
“This is to appeal to the loud minority of state committee members,” one Pennsylvania-based GOP operative told the Morning Report. “Lawrence probably doesn’t want to do this either but … he never stands up to anybody anymore.”
“Simple fact is this: The state party doesn’t need to say or do anything about this,” the operative added. “It’s a cluster-f—.”
The Hill: Maine’s GOP to consider censuring Sen. (R-Maine) following her vote to convict Trump.
The Wall Street Journal: Pro-Trump candidates launch early Senate, governor bids.
The moves by the state parties also come after Sen. (R-La.) received a tongue lashing from the Louisiana GOP, including a censure. Unlike Toomey and Burr, who are retiring at the end of 2022, Cassidy won reelection in November by 40 percentage points.
One state, however, took a different tact as the Utah Republican Party issued a statement supportive of Sens. (R-Utah) and (R-Utah), who were on opposite sides in Saturday’s vote.
“The differences between our own Utah Republicans showcase a diversity of thought, in contrast to the danger of a party fixated on ‘unanimity of thought,’” the party said on Monday (Forbes).
CNN: Rep. (R-S.C.) faces down impeachment backlash in pro-Trump U.S. House district.
The New York Times: Rep. ’s (R-Ill.) lonely mission.
During an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Senate Minority Leader (R-Ky.), who opposed an impeachment trial for a president no longer in office but criticized Trump’s actions and rhetoric, signaled his willingness to get involved in primary elections to improve his party’s chances of regaining control of the Senate in 2022. The key is “getting candidates who can actually win in November,” he said. “That may or may not involve trying to affect the outcome of the primaries.”
The Hill: Nearly 60 percent say Trump should have been convicted in impeachment trial: poll.
Juan Williams: Bring sanity back to the GOP.
The Washington Post: A GOP donor gave $2.5 million for a voter fraud investigation. Now he wants his money back.
As the chasm between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump grows, one thing remains unlikely to take place: a divorce on either side in the formation of a third party.
As The Hill’s Max Greenwood writes, Republicans expressed skepticism that the issues would lead to a brand-new party, even after a meeting last week between dozens of high-profile conservatives that raised the possibility. The unlikely effort would likely amount to little more than a spectacle and threaten conservatives’ hopes of recapturing the House, Senate and White House in the years ahead.
“I’ll be the first to say that our electoral system is stacked against third parties,” said Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security under Trump who was among those who took part in the meeting. “If that’s the route we decide to go, we are very clear-eyed about the fact that there’s a graveyard of third parties out there.”
Jordain Carney, The Hill: Senate GOP ready to turn the page on Trump.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: former Sen. (R-Ga.) explores Senate comeback bid against Sen. (D-Ga.) in 2022.
NBC Des Moines: “I think he’s running for reelection,” according to Iowa GOP sources who know Sen. (R-Iowa), 87, who must decide if he’ll run for another six-year term next year.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CORONAVIRUS: How did the former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner (pictured below) avoid landmines and make his way through the perfect storm of politics and manage the approval of vaccines? That’s a question The Hill’s Reid Wilson sought to answer in a deep dive on Hahn and the group of scientists that helped keep the ex-FDA chief keep his eye on the ball instead of getting caught up in election-year craziness that could have derailed the vaccine approval process.
In a series of interviews, Hahn, senior administration officials and half a dozen of the nation’s leading scientists who became members of Hahn’s main sounding board described the tense months that led up to the authorization of vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna before Christmas — an arduous undertaking that could have been thwarted by political considerations.
Hahn pointed to calls for his resignation from influential corners as a wake-up call, prompting him to put together a group of informal advisers to help him manage through the final months of the administration.
“After a series of events, including [the decision to authorize] plasma, I realized that in addition to the counsel I was getting from folks up to that point, both internal and external, I really would benefit from having more input,” Hahn said. “It always helps as a leader to get as much outside information as you can, and you have to sift through it.”
Roughly two months after the approvals, the U.S. is now vaccinating more than 1.5 million people per day, on average.
The Associated Press: COVID-19 shots might be tweaked if variants get worse.
CNN: World Health Organization’s Wuhan mission finds possible signs of wider original outbreak in 2019.
The Associated Press: United Nations approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.
> Shortages: Hospitals around the country say their supplies of crucial medical supplies including personal protective equipment are lower than ever as demand for different items has soared to an all-time high.
Data detailing usage rates of masks, gowns and other supplies analyzed by Premier, a company that consults for health care systems, revealed that usage of supplies for COVID-19 testing and treatment has reached the highest rate seen since the pandemic began last year. Along with personal equipment, the supplies of sterile water, pipette tips and micro pipettes have also dwindled at hospital and treatment facilities (The Hill).
Wavy-TV 10: Sailors with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group received their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
The Washington Post: Four reasons experts say coronavirus cases are dropping in the United States.
The New York Times: New Yorkers rush to get vaccine doses after eligibility expands and supply remains tight.
The Hill: New York Gov. Andrew Coumo (D) defended his administration on Monday following heightened scrutiny over nursing home deaths tied to hospital discharges ordered last year during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Hill: Kansas says it’s working to fix vaccine reporting issues.
ADMINISTRATION: This morning, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Agriculture announced an extension to June 30 of forbearance and foreclosure relief programs announced by the new administration in January.
> Today through May 15, U.S. consumers who are uninsured or underinsured during the pandemic can purchase coverage for 2021 during a special enrollment period accessible at Healthcare.gov. The Department of Health and Human Services has embarked on a $50 million education campaign about expanded coverage made available under the Affordable Care Act beginning this week, which will get a communications boost from federal spending on broadcast, radio and digital advertising (The Hill).
> Tax season: It’s now. Tax returns are due by April 15. The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda reports that challenges and confusion are expected as taxpayers and the IRS navigate pandemic-related issues, including issues with federal stimulus checks.
> Guns: Biden administration officials are conferring with advocates who support gun reforms, including tougher background checks. However, a November Gallup poll found public support for stricter gun laws at its lowest level seen since 2016 (The Hill).
> White House: National security adviser , 44, is the youngest person to hold that West Wing job in 60 years. The Hill’s Amie Parnes profiles a talent who was pegged as a rising star a decade ago. Sullivan has long impressed colleagues and mentors with a prized combination of policy chops, communications savvy and a sophisticated understanding of politics. When weighed a second presidential campaign in 2012, she lauded Sullivan, then her aide, while speaking to an audience. “I told my husband about this incredibly bright rising star — Rhodes scholar, Yale Law School. And my husband said, ‘Well, if he ever learns to play the saxophone, watch out.” At the time, Clinton waited a beat for her punchline: “Now we travel all over the world together and people say how excited they are to meet a potential future president of the United States, and of course they mean Jake.”
> Keep or sweep? With some policy decisions, Biden is picking up where the Trump administration left off. Here’s a list of holdovers, including elements of criminal justice reform, the U.S. Space Force and the Middle East Abraham Accords (The Hill).
> Yemen: The Pentagon and the White House are feeling pressure to explain the details of Biden’s announcement that U.S. support for offensive military operations in Yemen is ending (The Hill).
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!
Impeachment is over. Bring on the criminal investigations, by Michelle Goldberg, opinion columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3jQ32Wf
The deep green freeze: Power shortages show the folly of eliminating natural gas and coal, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/3psuo5Q
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. for a pro forma session and returns to legislative work next week.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. No votes are scheduled this week.
The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 12:30 p.m. in the Oval Office. Biden will depart the White House at 5:30 p.m. to participate in a CNN town hall live discussion in Milwaukee, Wis., at 8 p.m. ET, and will arrive back at the White House around 1 a.m. on Wednesday.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 11:30 a.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 rollercoaster 2020 campaign and nail-biting victory against a crowded primary field and then former President Trump is 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.
INVITATIONS to The Hill’s Virtually Live events:
✓ TODAY at 1 p.m., “Aspiration and Resilience: The New Space Age.” Rep. (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Committee on Science, Space & Technology, NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins and others will talk to The Hill’s Steve Clemons about friendly competition and cooperation among countries in space exploration and how the missions will attract the next generation of scientists, engineers and inventors. RSVP HERE.
✓ THURSDAY at 1 p.m., “Prioritizing the Patient.” Rep. (D-Ill.), vice-chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee and chair of CBC Health Braintrust, Rep. (R-Ind.) former Del. (D-V.I.), board chair of Consumers for Quality Care, and a panel of experts will convene for a discussion about moving the needle on quality, affordable healthcare and addressing inequities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. RSVP 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.
➔ CYBERSECURITY: Rep. (D-R.I.), the chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s newly minted cybersecurity panel, is looking to bring a new spotlight to the nation’s defensive cyber capabilities and international cyber diplomacy (The Hill).
➔ TRANSPORTATION: Jaguar announced Monday that 100 percent of its new vehicle sales will be electric vehicles by 2025, becoming the latest company to embrace the trend away from fossil fuel use. Jaguar CEO Thierry Bolloré made the announcement, saying that electric vehicles would make up 60 percent of new vehicles sold under the company’s Land Rover SUV brand by 2030 as well (The Hill).
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Myanmar police filed new charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, which may allow her to be held indefinitely without trial, her lawyer said today. Suu Kyi, who was ousted in a military coup on Feb. 1, has already been charged with possessing walkie-talkies that were imported without being registered. Groups of demonstrators turned out in Yangon and other cities today to protest the coup and demand that Suu Kyi and members of her ousted government be freed from detention (The Associated Press). The military junta in Myanmar today said it would hold an election and hand over power, denied that ouster of an elected government was a coup, and accused protesters of violence and intimidation (Reuters). … In Iraq, a Monday rocket attack that struck the airport in the northern city of Erbil killed a civilian contractor with the American-led military coalition and wounded six others, including a U.S. service member. Secretary of State condemned the attack in a statement and pledged U.S. government support for “all efforts to investigate and hold accountable those responsible.” It was unclear who carried out the rocket barrage, but previous attacks have been attributed to militias funded and directed by Iran (The New York Times).
And finally … When Texas suffers through rolling blackouts and power problems during a frigid cold snap in February, everyone hears about it. It was 8 degrees Fahrenheit in Dallas on Monday morning as the Lone Star Twitterati compared the winter conditions to the 2004 disaster movie “The Day after Tomorrow” (The Statesman).
The Associated Press reported two deaths near Houston blamed on the cold, with single-digit temperatures overnight as far south as San Antonio and throughout many Southern states while nearly 4 million Texans shivered without electricity during peak demand (The Washington Post). Snow and ice on Monday halted the delivery of new COVID-19 vaccine shipments as vehicles slid off roadways. Massive power outages across Houston included a facility storing 8,000 doses of Moderna vaccine, and health officials scrambled to find takers at the same time authorities were pleading for people to stay home.
Little Rock, Ark., could see a foot and a half of snow by Wednesday, and not to put too fine a point on misery, the average February temperature in Austin (seen below on Monday) is usually a balmy 65 degrees.
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