Good morning! It’s Friday, March 12, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 606 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,334 days away.
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“America is coming back,” Biden promises
President Joe Biden delivered his first primetime address to the nation on Thursday, mourning the Americans lost to COVID-19 on the pandemic’s one-year anniversary while promising “hope and light of better days ahead.” Here are the key points from the speech, in case you missed it:
A new goal: all American adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1. Biden announced his plans to direct “all states, tribes, and territories to make all adults — people 18 and over — eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1.” The president stressed that the goal did not mean that all adults will have a shot by May, “but it means you’ll be able to get in line” by then. So far, about 19% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine; only one state, Alaska, has made the shot accessible to all adults.
“We’re proving once again something I have said time and time again... America is coming back,” Biden declared.
A target for normalcy: July 4. Biden also gave Americans another date to circle on their calendars. “By July the 4th,” he said, “there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbeque and celebrate Independence Day.”
As has been common in his pandemic response, the president shied away from making a concrete promise — “a lot can happen, conditions can change” — but he expressed hope that on that date the U.S. will “not only mark our independence as a nation, but we begin to mark our independence from this virus.”
New vaccine initiatives. To meet the goal of a relatively normal Independence Day, Biden also laid out new steps he would take to maintain the current U.S. pace of two million vaccinations a day — double his goal when he entered office. Biden said that, when all adults become eligible for the vaccine in May, the federal government would launch a website to assist Americans in finding places to get the vaccine. “No more searching day and night for an appointment for you and your loved ones,” he promised.
The White House also announced plans to double the number of U.S. pharmacies administering vaccines and double the number of federally-run mass vaccination centers in the country. The administration will also take steps today to “expand the pool of qualified professionals able to administer shots” to include dentists, veterinarians, and other health professionals.
Biden assumes the role of mourner-in-chief. Joe Biden’s life and career have long been marked by death and grief. As he did frequently during the campaign, Biden channeled that history on Thursday night in order to minister to a mourning nation. “We’ve lost so much over the last year,” Biden acknowledged. “We’ve lost family and friends. We’ve lost businesses and dreams we spent years building. We’ve lost time — time with each other.”
While repeatedly seeking to remember the 530,000 Americans who have succumbed to the virus over the past year, Biden also sought to sound an uplifting note throughout the address. “We are emerging,” he promised, “from a dark winter into a hopeful spring and summer.”
New York lawmakers have launched an impeachment investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo. State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced on Thursday that he had authorized the chamber’s Judiciary Committee to begin interviewing witnesses and subpoenaing documents in an impeachment probe of Cuomo. Six women have accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct, including one who says he aggressively groped her without her consent. The Democratic governor is also facing allegations surrounding his administration’s cover-up of the COVID-19 death toll at New York nursing homes.
President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion stimulus package into law on Thursday. The signing had been slated to take place today, but was moved up after Congress enrolled the bill quicker than expected. (A ceremony with congressional leaders will still take place in the Rose Garden today.) White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that “the first wave” of $1,400 stimulus checks authorized by the package will begin to appear in some bank accounts this weekend. About 280 million Americans will receive direct payments as a result of the legislation, according to the Washington Post.
Two controversial Biden Cabinet nominees have advanced in the Senate. Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland and Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra have both attracted Republican opposition in recent weeks: Haaland for her calls to ban all fossil fuel exploration on public lands, Becerra for his lack of health care experience and his support of abortion rights. But both picks advanced in the Senate on Thursday with support from both parties: Haaland picked up four GOP votes to advance 54-42, while Becerra picked up one in a 51-48 procedural vote. The two votes set the nominees up to be confirmed next week; Biden will then be only missing a Labor Secretary in his 15-person Cabinet.
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet virtually at 8:30 a.m. with the other leaders of the “Quad” nations: Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan. At 10:30 a.m., Biden and Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief. At 12 p.m., Harris will ceremonially swear in Cecilia Rouse as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.
At 12:30 p.m., Biden and Harris will have lunch together. At 2:30 p.m., they will deliver remarks at a ceremony celebrating the enactment of the American Rescue Plan, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and other Democratic lawmakers in attendance. At 3:40 p.m., the president and First Lady Jill Biden will depart for Wilmington, Delaware, where they will spend the weekend.
- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12 p.m. with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
- U.S. public health officials will hold a press briefing at 11:15 a.m. on the COVID-19 response effort. Participants 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; and Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator. The Senate is not in session.
The House will meet at 10:30 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.
- The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on “reviving competition” and “saving the free and diverse press.” The witnesses will include Microsoft President Brad Smith and journalist Glenn Greenwald. The Supreme Court is not in session.
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