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Wake Up To Politics - March 19, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: 100 million shots in 58 days
Wake Up To Politics - March 19, 2021

Good morning! It’s Friday, March 19, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 599 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,327 days away.

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Biden to reach goal of 100 million vaccinations

President Joe Biden is poised to meet his goal today of the United States administering 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office, achieving the milestone 58 days after being sworn in.  

In total, the U.S. has administered more than 115 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines since they first were authorized by the FDA in December. According to Bloomberg, about 98 million of those vaccinations were during Biden’s tenure; at the current rate of about 2.5 million doses a day, he is slated to cross the 100 million mark at some point today.

Biden took an early victory lap on the milestone Thursday, declaring that his administration had switched to a “war footing” to accelerate the speed of vaccinations. “That’s weeks ahead of schedule, and even with the setbacks we faced during the winter storms,” he said of meeting the goal today. “And it’s another big step on the path to putting checks in pockets and shots in people’s arms.”

Biden added that he will announce a new goal for the vaccination campaign next week, adding that “this is a time for optimism, but it’s not a time for relaxation.”

As the New York Times put it last week, Biden’s vaccination goals have been a classic case of underpromising and overdelivering. Contrary to his false claim (which he repeated on Thursday) that his “100 million shots in 100 days” goal was seen as “ambitious” and “audacious” when he announced it in December, it was widely described as doable at the time — and the U.S. was already on track to achieve it by the time he took office, due to the quickening pace of vaccinations towards the end of the Trump administration. (The pace has increased by about a million shots per day since then.)

Former President Donald Trump has frequently complained that he has received insufficient credit for the vaccination campaign. “I hope everyone remembers when they’re getting the COVID-19 (often referred to as the China Virus) Vaccine, that if I wasn’t President, you wouldn’t be getting that beautiful ‘shot’ for 5 years, at best, and probably wouldn’t be getting it at all,” Trump said in a statement earlier this month.

Although Trump’s administration launched the process of developing, approving, and administering the vaccines, his name went unmentioned in Biden’s celebratory remarks on Thursday, continuing a familiar pattern.

President-elect Joe Biden receives his first vaccine dose in January. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As vaccinations speed up in the U.S., coronavirus restrictions are also beginning to ease. Governors across the country have begun to relax their mask mandates and limits on indoor dining, sometimes against expert advice. The Biden administration is also making plans to “relax restrictions on travel across the borders with Mexico and Canada and on inbound international travel from the U.K., Europe and Brazil” sometime in mid-May, according to CNBC.

The CDC is also expected to release a major update to its physical distancing guidelines for schools today, allowing students to sit three feet apart instead of six — a change that could allow more schools to reopen for in-person learning. A study released last week found little difference between the two distances in a review of infection rates at Massachusetts schools.

After criticism of the country’s growing stockpile, the U.S. will soon begin sharing vaccine doses with its neighbors. White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on Thursday that about 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be shipped to Mexico and about 1.5 million to Canada; the FDA has yet to approve the AstraZeneca shot for use in the United States.

Domestically, the increase in vaccinations is coinciding with an expansion in eligibility. Biden has urged states to make the vaccine available to all adults by May 1 — another goal that might be met ahead of time. According to the New York Times, officials in at least 17 states have announced plans in recent days to make all adults eligible for the vaccine in March or April.

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The Rundown

BIDEN CABINET: The Senate confirmed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services in a narrow 50-49 vote on Thursday, placing him in a key role atop the U.S. coronavirus response.

  • The chamber also approved veteran diplomat William Burns’ nomination to be CIA Director by voice vote, finalizing Biden’s slate of top national security officials.

IMMIGRATION: The House passed a pair of immigration bills on Thursday, approving proposals to offer pathways to legal status for the millions of “Dreamers” who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors and for hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmworkers. The “Dreamer” bill was backed by every Democrat and nine Republicans, while the farmworker bill was backed by 30 Republicans and all but one Democrat.

AFGHANISTAN: President Biden is considering keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan until November, past the May 1 deadline set in a peace agreement between the Taliban and his predecessor, according to NBC News.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra at his confirmation hearing. (Greg Nash/Pool/Reuters)


All times Eastern.
Executive Branch
President Joe Biden will receive President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Then, he and Vice President Kamala Harris will travel (separately) to Atlanta, Georgia. At 2:15 p.m., they will visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters. At 3:35 p.m., they will meet with Georgia Asian-American leaders after six people of Asian descent were killed in a series of Atlanta shootings earlier this week. At 4:40 p.m., Biden will deliver remarks at Emory University. The president and vice president will then return to Washington, D.C.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will continue their meetings with Chinese officials in Anchorage, Alaska. They will also meet with Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan at 4:30 p.m.

Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Atlanta.

U.S. public health officials will hold a press briefing at 12:30 p.m. on COVID-19 response. Participants will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC Director; and Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator.

Legislative Branch
The Senate is not in session.

The House will convene at 9 a.m. After five one-minute speeches per party, the chamber will hold an hour of debate on H.R. 1868, which would prevent the across-the-board spending cuts triggered by the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

After voting on the spending measure, the chamber will hold a vote under “suspension of the rules” on H.Res. 134, a resolution to condemn the coup in Myanmar.  

Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court will meet for its weekly conference.

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