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Wake Up To Politics - November 17, 2020

It’s Tuesday, November 17, 2020. Inauguration Day is 64 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

The Biden Transition

President-elect Joe Biden pressed the Trump administration to engage with his transition team on Monday, laying out the consequences of an uncoordinated transfer of power. “More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden declared, explaining the need for his team to be fully briefed on the administration’s plans for distributing an eventual coronavirus vaccine.

  • Public health officials have made similar statements about the importance of the outgoing and incoming administrations working hand-in-hand amid the ongoing pandemic: “Of course it would be better if we could start working with them,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN on Sunday.
  • Although most major news organizations declared more than a week ago that Biden won the presidency, General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy has yet to formally “ascertain” his victory. No government officials, from public health agencies to intelligence briefers, can coordinate with the Biden transition team until the GSA signs off.

Biden also called on Congress to pass a new economic relief package as soon as possible. Negotiations have mostly stalled over a new stimulus bill, which Biden said was essential to assist Americans struggling due to the economic fallout of the pandemic. “Things are going to get much tougher before they get easier,” he said, repeating his warning of a “dark winter” ahead.

  • The president-elect expressed support for the $3.4 trillion plan passed by House Democrats in May, which included a new round of $1,200 direct payments to taxpayers, aid for state and local governments, and an extension of $600-a-week enhanced unemployment benefits. Senate Republicans have backed a more narrow, $500 billion proposal.
  • Guided by a 13-member task force, Biden is already preparing his plans to combat coronavirus once in office. Dr. Céline Gounder, one of the task force advisers, told the New York Times that the incoming administration will likely urge new statewide mask mandates, enact an expansion in free nationwide testing, and invoke the Defense Production Act to manufacture protective gear for health workers.

Biden is expected to name at least three additional members of his White House staff today. According to Bloomberg and other news outlets, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) will be appointed to a senior role that will include overseeing public engagement; Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager, will be named Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations; and Steve Ricchetti, Biden’s campaign chairman, will become a Counselor to the President.

  • Richmond, O’Malley Dillon, and Richetti were three of Biden’s closest advisers on the campaign and are likely to form his inner circle at the White House, along with incoming Chief of Staff Ron Klain.
  • Richmond signed on as national campaign co-chairman on the day Biden announced and served as a top surrogate for the remainder of the race. O’Malley Dillon, a veteran of former President Barack Obama’s campaigns, led former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s presidential bid before joining Biden’s team in April. Ricchetti, a former aide in the Clinton White House, served as Biden’s chief of staff during his second term as vice president.

For more on presidential transitions and the consequences of a delay, listen to the latest episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast.

The Trump Administration

President Trump is reportedly preparing to order significant troop withdrawals in his final weeks in office. According to the Associated Press, Trump’s plan would leave about 2,500 troops each in Afghanistan and Iraq; there are currently about 4,500 troops in Afghanistan and about 3,00 in Iraq. The New York Times reported that the Pentagon is also preparing to pull out “virtually all” of its 700+ troops in Somalia.

  • These moves would fulfill one of Trump’s core campaign promises from his 2016 bid, bringing American forces home from foreign conflicts. According to CNN, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper sent a classified memo to the White House earlier this month asserting that he and the top military commanders opposed any drawdown in Afghanistan. Esper and other top Pentagon appointees were fired last week and replaced by officials who have supported troop withdrawals in the past.
  • Trump’s plans to withdraw troops have already been met with criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike. “A rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan now would hurt our allies and delight the people who wish us harm,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Monday, in a rare separation from the president.

Trump has also pursued other consequential actions as his term winds to an end. According to Fox News, he broached the possibility of a military strike against Iran’s main nuclear site last week but was pushed away from the idea by advisers. The Trump administration is also moving quickly to auction off drilling rights in Alaska’s 1.6 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas firms before Biden assumes office.

Election 2020

Georgia is conducting a full hand recount of its ballots after President-elect Biden emerged victorious in the state by a razor-thin margin. The recount has gone smoothly, although an intraparty fight has broken out between Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other top Republicans. In a Monday interview with the Washington Post, Raffensperger criticized fellow GOP politicians for promoting baseless allegations of voter fraud in Georgia.

  • Raffensperger told the Post that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked him whether he had the power to toss all of the mail ballots in certain counties, a request that stunned the secretary of state. Graham called the allegation “ridiculous” in a comment to reporters on Capitol Hill.Legal challenges to the presidential results continue to face stumbling blocks. Four separate election lawsuits — in Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — overseen by a top Republican lawyer were pulled on Monday. In addition, three law firms have now withdrawn from aiding challenges brought by the Trump campaign. So far, none of the Trump campaign and the Republican Party’s allegations of election irregularities have been proven in court.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled.

Vice President Mike Pence will lead a meeting of the White House Coroanvirus Task Force at 3 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive a briefing on national security in Wilmington, Delaware.

First Lady-designate Jill Biden will address a virtual summit hosted by the Military Child Education Coalition at 11 a.m.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will vote at 11 a.m. to confirm the nomination of Kristi Haskins Johnson as a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi and to advance the nomination of Benjamin Joel Beaton as a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Kentucky.

  • The chamber will then recess for weekly caucus meetings, before voting at 2:15 p.m. on confirmation of Beaton’s nomination and to advance the nomination of Judy Shelton to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. A confirmation vote on Shelton is also possible.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Breaking the News: Censorship, Suppression, and the 2020 Election,” with testimony from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, at 10 a.m.

The House will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will consider a motion to go to conference on H.R. 6395, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. The chamber will also vote on 25 pieces of legislation:

  • H.R. 4499, the NIMHD Research Endowment Revitalization Act
  • H.R. 5668, the MODERN Labeling Act
  • H.R. 4712, the Fairness in Orphan Drug Exclusivity Act
  • H.R. 2466, the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act
  • H.R. 2281, the Easy MAT for Opioid Addiction Act
  • H.R. 2117, the FASTER Act
  • H.R. 5855, the Bipartisan Solution to Cyclical Violence Act
  • H.R. 3878, the Block, Report, And Suspend Shipments Act
  • H.R. 4806, the DEBAR Act
  • H.R. 4812, the Ensuring Compliance Against Drug Diversion Act
  • H.R. 6096, the READI Act
  • H.R. 6624, the USA Telecommunications Act
  • H.R. 7310, the Spectrum IT Modernization Act
  • H.R. 2610, the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act
  • H.R. 6435, the Combating Pandemic Scams Act
  • H.R. 8121, the Pandemic Effects on Home Safety and Tourism Act
  • H.R 2914, the Housing Survivors of Major Disaster Act
  • H.R. 8408, the Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act
  • H.R. 8266, the FEMA Assistance Relief Act
  • H.R. 4611, the Ocean Pollution Reduction Act II
  • H.R. 8326, the Child Care is Economic Development Act
  • H.R. 5919, the National Children’s Museum Act
  • S. 1869, the Secure Federal LEASEs Act
  • H.R. 5953, the Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act
  • H.R. 4358, the Preliminary Damage Assessment Improvement Act

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will hold a press conference, along with other House Republican leaders, at 5 p.m.

  • House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) will hold a press conference, along with other House Democratic leaders, at 11:30 a.m.

The Supreme Court has no oral arguments or conferences scheduled.

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