Good morning! It’s Thursday, December 17, 2020. Inauguration Day is 34 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
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The United States once again set single-day records for new coronavirus cases and deaths on Wednesday. The nation reported 244,365 new infections and 3,607 deaths from COVID-19, according to the New York Times, smashing records set just last week. A record number of Americans — 113,090 — are currently hospitalized with the virus, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
The rising numbers come as health care workers and nursing home residents have begun to receive the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, which received authorization in the United States last Friday. “We should celebrate the fact that the science has come through,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS News, “but it is not over yet. We have a ways to go.”
Pharmacists opening boxes of the vaccine this week were surprised to find six or seven doses in some vials, which were only supposed to contain five. The FDA said Wednesday that the extra doses could be used, a move that could expand the nation’s vaccine supply by up to 40 percent.
More vaccines are also on the way: an FDA advisory committee will offer its recommendation on the Moderna vaccine today, clearing the way for the agency to grant approval on Friday. The Trump administration also anticipates that two more vaccine developers, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, could seek FDA authorization by the end of February.
Vice President Mike Pence is slated to become the highest-ranking U.S. official to receive the vaccine at a public event on Friday; President-elect Joe Biden is also expected to get a shot early next week.
More coronavirus news:
- French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for COVID-19 early this morning.
- Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was also diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday, becoming the second Trump Cabinet member to test positive.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is currently quarantining after being exposed to someone who tested positive. Pompeo has hosted several large holiday parties in recent days.
- A Trump administration official pushed for the country to adopt a “herd immunity” strategy over the summer, newly released emails show.
Vera Leip, 88, receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a Florida retirement community on Wednesday. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Congressional leaders are closing in on a roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief deal. According to the Washington Post, the package is “expected to include hundreds of billions of dollars in aid for ailing small businesses and jobless Americans; tens of billions of dollars in aid for other critical needs, such as vaccine distribution and schools; and a one-time check of between $600 and $700 for millions of Americans below a certain income threshold.”
The agreement will not include state or local funding, a Democratic priority, or a liability shield for corporations, a Republican priority. The package is likely to be paired with a government funding deal, which must be passed by Friday night to avert a government shutdown. Lawmakers have not released finalized the texts of either piece of legislation.
Congress has not passed any coronavirus relief measure since March. According to new data released on Wednesday by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame, 7.8 million Americans have fallen into poverty in just the last five months.
U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed on Wednesday that the computer networks of several government agencies were recently hacked. The FBI, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) described the breach in a joint statement as “significant and ongoing.”
The Russian government is suspected to be behind the intrusions, which targeted computer systems run by the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security, as well as the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The U.S. government has reportedly spent tens of billions of dollars on beefing up its cyberoffensive abilities in recent years, but the nation’s defense system failed to detect the Russian attack — which has been underway since spring but was only discovered by the private sector in the past few weeks.
Recommended read: “I Was the Homeland Security Adviser to Trump. We’re Being Hacked.” (New York Times op-ed)
The incorrect title was given for Kevin McCarthy in Tuesday’s newsletter. He is a Republican congressman from California and the House Minority Leader.
- Thanks to Karen von Bergen for catching the error.
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump will sign H.R. 473 into law at 2:15 p.m. in the Oval Office. The bill will authorize the establishment of the Every Word We Utter Monument in Washington, D.C., which will commemorate the women’s suffrage movement. First Lady Melania Trump will also attend the signing ceremony.
- The monument is named after a passage from a letter Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote to fellow suffragist Lucretia Mott: “Every word we utter, every act we perform, waft unto innumerable circles, beyond.”
Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Georgia. He will deliver remarks at “Defend the Majority” rallies in Columbus at 12 p.m. and Macon at 2:15 p.m. to support Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) ahead of next month’s runoff elections.
President-elect Joe Biden and incoming First Lady Jill Biden will appear on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” tonight for their first joint interview since the election.
- Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will also receive the President’s Daily Brief and meet with transition advisers.
The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will virtually meet from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna and recommend whether the FDA should grant the company an emergency use authorization.
- The agency is expected to authorize the Moderna vaccine on Friday, making it the second COVID-19 vaccine approved in the United States.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken at the State Department, one of the first face-to-face meetings between a Biden Cabinet nominee and a Trump Cabinet member.
The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and vote at 11:30 a.m. to confirm the nomination of Charles Edward Atchley Jr. to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee and advance the nomination of Zachary N. Somers to be a Judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
The House will convene at 12 p.m. for “morning hour” debate and at 2 p.m. for legislative business. The chamber will vote from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on nine pieces of legislation:
- S. 3989, the United States Semiquincentennial Commission Amendments Act of 2020, as amended
- S. 3418, the STORM Act
- S. 979, the Federal Advance Contracts Enhancement Act
- S. 2730, the Drone Advisory Committee for the 21st Century Act
- H.R. 6535, a bill to deem an urban Indian organization and employees thereof to be a part of the Public Health Service for the
- H.R. 3250, the Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Schools Act of 2020, as amended
- H.R. 7460, the Peace Corps Commemorative Work Extension Act
- H.R. 5472, the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park Redesignation Act
- H.R. 5852, the Weir Farm National Historical Park Redesignation Act
is not in session.The Supreme Court is not in session.
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