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Wake Up To Politics - May 5, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Biden’s new vaccine goal
Wake Up To Politics - May 5, 2021

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, May 5, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 552 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,280 days away.

Biden sets new goal as vaccinations slow

President Joe Biden announced a new goal for COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday: he wants 70% of American adults to have received at least one vaccine dose by the Fourth of July.

“In two months, let’s celebrate our independence as a nation, and our independence of this virus,” Biden said.

The biggest obstacle to achieving Biden’s target is no longer supply, but demand. Even with the vaccines becoming available to any American over age 16 who wants them, the pace of vaccinations has begun to slow considerably across the country. “Providers are now administering an average of about 2.19 million doses per day, about a 35 percent decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported on April 13, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the New York Times reported.

According to Bloomberg, “the number of people getting their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine is declining in at least 47 out of 50 U.S. states.” With many Americans indicating they don’t plan to take the vaccine, some experts now believe that the U.S. may never reach “herd immunity” from the virus, or at least not anytime soon.

President Biden answers questions after his remarks on vaccinations on Tuesday. (Doug Mills/New York Times)

Biden outlined three areas of focus in the next phase of vaccinations:

  • Reaching hesitant Americans. Biden announced a slew of new incentives aimed at encouraging skeptical Americans to receive the vaccines, from special discounts at grocery stores to promotions by major sports leagues. “I want to be absolutely clear: You do need to get vaccinated,” the president said.
  • Making it more convenient to get a shot. The Biden administration is winding down its mass vaccination sites, instead planning to open a greater number of small sites in closer proximity to unvaccinated individuals. Biden also said he was directing all 40,000 federal pharmacy partner sites to provide walk-in hours to offer vaccinations without appointments, and that more vaccines would be shipped to rural health clinics.
  • Vaccinating children. The FDA is expected to authorize the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for use by Americans between the ages of 12 and 15 by next week. “The FDA, and the FDA alone, will make that decision,” Biden said — but when they do, he pledged to “immediately move” to make 20,000 pharmacy sites in the U.S. ready to vaccinate children. He also said his administration planned to ship vaccines directly to pediatricians.

The administration also told governors on Tuesday that it was shifting how vaccine doses are allocated among the states: as some states begin to turn down does they don’t need amid declining demand, unwanted doses will be redistributed and made available to other states, which the Washington Post called “the most significant shift in domestic vaccine distribution since Biden took office.”

As Ezekiel Emanuel, a member of Biden’s transition coronavirus task force, told the Post, the new phase of vaccinations represent a difficult “balancing act” for the president, as he encourages vaccinated Americans to continue to take precautions against the virus while also attempting to convince those hesitant about the vaccine that things will change if they get the shot.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is actually growing brighter and brighter,” Biden said on Tuesday. “We need you to bring it home. Get vaccinated.”

More vaccine reading:

  • “The coronavirus vaccine skeptics who changed their minds” Washington Post
  • “There’s not just one kind of vaccine hesitancy” Axios
  • “Next generation of Covid-19 vaccines could be pill or spray” Wall Street Journal

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House GOP leaders turn on Cheney

The top two House Republicans — Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise — “are quietly working behind the scenes” against the third member of their leadership team, Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), according to Punchbowl News.

Scalise has publicly endorsed a challenger to Cheney, throwing his support behind Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) to take over as conference chair after an expected vote to oust Cheney from the position later month. McCarthy is also reportedly backing Stefanik behind the scenes, and he is not hiding his opposition to Cheney: the GOP leader said in an interview on Fox News that his members are “concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message.”

McCarthy was also caught on a hot mic after the Fox interview going even further. “I think she’s got real problems,”  McCarthy said of Cheney, according to Axios. “I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence.”

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (left), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (center), and House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (right). 

Cheney is quickly losing support among her Republican colleagues because of a string of comments bashing former President Donald Trump; she most recently tweeted that anyone who claims that the 2020 election was stolen — as Trump does — is “turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.” Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Stefanik — the new frontrunner to unseat Cheney as the No. 3 House Republican — is known as an ardent Trump ally, having gained the spotlight as a fierce defender of the former president during his first impeachment process. She is also a prolific fundraiser with relationships across the Republican fold, and her elevation atop the conference would ensure that a woman would remain in the House GOP leadership ranks even if Cheney is removed.


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern.)

President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9:50 a.m. He will deliver remarks on his administration’s implementation of the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed in March, at 2 p.m.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Providence, Rhode Island. At 1 p.m., she will participate in an event featuring small businesses focused on social impact. At 2:05 p.m., she and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will hold a roundtable with female small business owners.
  • First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Salt Lake City, Utah. At 4 p.m., she will visit Glendale Middle School. At 5 p.m., she will deliver remarks at the school. At 5:45 p.m., she will visit a nearby vaccination clinic.
  • Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will travel to Allentown, Pennsylvania. At 11:40 a.m., he will tour businesses at a manufacturing incubator and participate in a listening session with small business owners to discuss the American Rescue Plan.
  • U.S. public health officials will hold a press briefing at 11 a.m. on the COVID-19 response effort. Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, and White House COVID-19 senior adviser Andy Slavitt will participate.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m. She will be joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The House, Senate, and Supreme Court will not meet today.

Facebook’s Oversight Board will announce its decision on whether former President Donald Trump can return to the platform at 9 a.m.

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