Good morning! It’s Monday, February 1, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 645 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,373 days away.
Biden, Republican moderates to kick off stimulus talks
President Joe Biden entered office with two main priorities: to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and attendant economic crisis with a big, “bold” stimulus package and to bring about a new age of bipartisanship and “unity” in Washington.
It’s unclear if he’ll be able to do both at the same time — but today, he’ll kick off his campaign to try, meeting in the Oval Office with 10 Republican senators who have offered a compromise stimulus proposal. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and her nine colleagues penned a letter to Biden on Sunday, outlining a $600 billion package that they said could receive bipartisan support in Congress.
The group of 10 plan to unveil their full proposal today, but told reporters Sunday that it would include targeted $1,000 direct checks, an extension of the weekly $300 enhanced unemployment benefits, $160 billion in vaccine funds, and money to aid school reopening.
The pricetag is about a third of Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan, which includes $1,400 direct checks to a wider pool of recipients, a boost in enhanced unemployment benefits to $400 a week, and other Democratic policy priorities such as a $15 hourly minimum wage.
“In the spirit of bipartisanship and unity, we have developed a COVID-19 relief framework that builds on prior COVID assistance laws, all of which passed with bipartisan support,” the 10 GOP senators wrote in thier letter to Biden. “Our proposal reflects many of your stated priorities, and with your support, we believe that this plan could be approved quickly by Congress with bipartisan support.”
Biden spoke to Collins by phone on Sunday; White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that the meeting today will include a “full exchange of views,” although she underlined Biden’s view that “the scale of what must be done is large.”
“As leading economists have said, the danger now is not in doing too much,” Psaki added. “It is in doing too little.”
Even as Biden prepares to meet with Republican senators about a slimmed-down proposal today, Democratic lawmakers are preparing to move forward with a resolution jumpstarting the reconciliation process, which would allow them to pass a stimulus package without GOP support. Bills passed under reconciliation cannot be filibustered, meaning they can be passed with 51 votes in the Senate instead of 60.
While Collins and her allies would give a possible $600 billion package enough votes to break a filibuster — granted it received unanimous Democratic support — it is unlikely that anything much bigger could receive the backing of 60 senators.
Just like the two impeachment Q&As in last week’s newsletters, I’ll be answering questions on the stimulus negotiations and the reconciliation process throughout the week. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to submit a question.
IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: Former President Donald Trump named two attorneys who will lead his defense in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial, after all five members of his original legal team quit over the weekend.
- According to CNN, the original group — which was to be led by South Carolina-based lawyer Butch Bowers — stepped down after a rift with Trump over legal strategy for the trial. “Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he’s left office,” the network reported.
- Trump announced Sunday that his new legal team would be led by Georgia trial lawyer David Schoen and former Pennsylvania solicitor general Bruce Castor.
- The Senate trial is due to begin in just over a week, on February 9. Trump’s legal team has until Tuesday to file their first pre-trial brief, a formal response to the article of impeachment from the House.
CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE: Cases of coronavirus in the United States are falling in the United States after a post-holiday peak, but the risks from a collection of new, more infectious variants are growing. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is having difficulty finding their footing as they attempt to jumpstart the vaccination process.
- According to Politico, Biden’s team “spent much of the last week trying to wrap their hands around the mushrooming crisis” and is “still trying to locate upwards of 20 million vaccine doses that have been sent to states — a mystery that has hampered plans to speed up the national vaccination effort.”
- However, Bloomberg notes, even as Biden and his advisers deride the pace of vaccinations under the Trump team, the new administration has “so far have made only modest changes to the plan that’s meeting their target pace of more than one million shots a day.”
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) is also under fire for his pandemic response: according to the New York Times, he “has all but declared war on his own public health bureaucracy,” leading nine of his top health officials to quit in recent months. The state’s attorney general is investigating a report that Cuomo’s administration understated the coronavirus death toll in New York nursing homes by almost 50%.
CAPITOL RIOT: New details are emerging about the groups that planned the pro-Trump rally on January 6 that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
- According to the Wall Street Journal, the rally — which Trump addressed — was largely funded by Julie Jenkins Fancelli, a top Trump campaign donor, and Alex Jones, the far-right conspiracy theorist.
- According to text messages obtained by ProPublica, a Trump campaign aide named Caroline Wren “oversaw logistics, budgeting, funding and messaging” for the rally. Hundreds of attendees of the event would storm the Capitol building later in the day.
- In addition, Republican lawmakers such as Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) are coming under scrutiny for their ties to an array of far-right organizations that have been linked to the Capitol attack.
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Inside the final days of the Trump administration: “77 Days: Trump’s Campaign to Subvert the Election” New York Times
Inside Congress: “‘I’m just furious’: Relations in Congress crack after attack” Politico
Inside the rise of MTG: “How Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, promoter of QAnon’s baseless theories, rose with support from key Republicans” Washington Post
Number of the Day: $31.5 million. That’s how much money former President Donald Trump raised for his new leadership PAC, “Save America,” between November 9 and the end of last year, as he asked for donations to overturn his election loss. Wall Street Journal
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. in the Oval Office
They will meet with 10 Republican senators — Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Todd Young (R-IN) — on coronavirus relief legislation at 5 p.m. in the Oval Office.
- Biden was originally scheduled to visit the State Department and deliver a foreign policy address today but postponed the event due to the winter storm in Washington, D.C.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12:30 p.m. in the White House briefing room.
U.S. public health officials will hold a virtual press briefing at 11 a.m. to “discuss the status of the federal government’s COVID-19 pandemic response.”
- Participants in the briefing will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chairwoman of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force; and Andy Slavitt, a senior advisor to the White House COVID-19 response team.
The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. and resume consideration of Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas.
- The upper chamber was also forced to shuffle its schedule because of the D.C. weather, postponing a planned confirmation vote for Mayorkas until tomorrow.
The House will meet at 3 p.m. for a brief pro forma session.
The Congressional Budget Office will release its new 10-year economic projections at 11 a.m.
The Supreme Court is not in session.