Sen. ROY BLUNT’S (R-Mo.) announcement this morning that he won’t seek a third term next year marks yet another blow to the governing wing of the GOP.
Blunt joins four other Republican incumbents heading for the exits: Sens. RICHARD BURR (R-N.C.), PAT TOOMEY (R-Pa.), RICHARD SHELBY (R-Ala.) and ROB PORTMAN (R-Ohio). Each is the kind of legislator out of fashion in the party today.
Blunt, 71, is a longtime Capitol Hill fixture, serving for seven terms in the House before succeeding former Sen. KIT BOND in 2010. He was in leadership in both chambers and had the occasional cross word for former President DONALD TRUMP, though he voted mostly with him and his agenda — including acquitting Trump in both impeachment trials.
The race to replace Blunt gives Trumpworld yet another opportunity to mold the GOP in the former president’s image. Looming large over the burgeoning primary battle is former Gov. ERIC GREITENS, who resigned in 2018 amid a torrent of personal and official scandal. But we’ve noticed Greitens reemerging in recent months, particularly on Trump-friendly media outlets, like STEVE BANNON’S podcast. (Other potential GOP candidates include Reps. ANN WAGNER and JASON SMITH, state A.G. ERIC SCHMITT, Lt. Gov. MIKE KEHOE and Secretary of State JAY ASHCROFT, the son of the former senator and Bush-era A.G.).
Democrats will make a run at Blunt’s seat — he already had a declared challenger, former state Sen. SCOTT SIFTON, who had assembled a credible campaign team with a history of winning in red states. But Trump won the state by 15 points last year, and it will be uphill for the party to mount a real challenge in a Democratic midterm year. More from Andrew Desiderio … Blunt’s video announcement
— FOR THE RECORD … CLAIRE MCCASKILL (@clairecmc): “To all that are asking: thank you to the many who have said kind things. But I will never run for office again. Nope. Not gonna happen. Never. I am so happy I feel guilty sometimes.”
White House press secretary JEN PSAKI said President JOE BIDEN will deliver his first primetime address on Covid-19 on Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of shutdowns.
On the fate of the filibuster, Psaki said the president’s preference is to not “get rid of” or “make changes to” the filibuster, pointing to what the administration has accomplished in the past six weeks.
Psaki said the delegation of administration officials who traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border this weekend visited the Carrizo Springs facility, the first child migrant facility opened under the administration. JULISSA REYNOSO, first lady JILL BIDEN’S chief of staff, said the team on the ground spoke with children about the situation at the border and will brief the president on the trip this week.
THE NEW CDC GUIDANCE — ANDY SLAVITT said the U.S. is now vaccinating nearly 2.2 million people per day. As of today, about 9.2% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, CDC Director ROCHELLE WALENSKY said.
Walensky also outlined the CDC’s initial guidelines for fully vaccinated people, which were released this morning. Per the guidelines, fully vaccinated people can …
— visit with other fully vaccinated people in small groups indoors and without masks or physical distancing.
— visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk of severe Covid-19 infection without masks or physical distancing. She noted specifically that grandparents can visit with unvaccinated grandchildren, so long as the child and family are not in high-risk categories for Covid-19.
— refrain from entering quarantine after a known exposure to Covid-19 as long as the vaccinated person remains asymptomatic.
Despite the new guidance, Walensky said the CDC’s travel guidance has not changed, and that any visits she described should be local. She also noted that fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks and maintain physical distance when going out in public. She said she is hopeful that the next set of recommendations will have more information regarding travel. Read the full CDC guidelines
— ERIN BANCO, ADAM CANCRYN and SARAH OWERMOHLE have more on the new guidelines: “An earlier draft of the guidelines included a travel section but senior health officials decided not to release that portion of the recommendations at this time, one senior administration official told POLITICO. Advice on whether vaccinated people need to quarantine after exposure to someone with Covid-19 also sparked debate at a White House meeting Friday, one day after the guidelines were originally set for release.”
SCOTUS WATCH, via JOSH GERSTEIN: “Justice John Roberts made history Monday, by dissenting solo in a case for the first time since he joined the Supreme Court in 2005. The chief justice — known for prizing consensus on the court — stood alone in an 8-1 decision upholding the right of former students at a public Georgia college to challenge a since-abandoned policy enforcing free-speech zones on the campus. Roberts said that his colleagues were wrong to allow the suit to continue over the nominal sum of $1 in damages.
“In a withering opinion, Roberts said the ruling threatened to turn the federal courts into ‘moot court’ debating matches with no real injury at stake and no real relief to be granted. ‘The Court sees no problem with turning judges into advice columnists,’ the chief justice said, warning that the majority’s decision amounted to ‘a radical expansion of the judicial power.’” The opinion
— “U.S. Supreme Court dumps last of Trump’s election appeals,” Reuters: “The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday disposed of the last of three cases brought to the justices by former President Donald Trump challenging his election loss, bringing a muted end to his futile quest in the courts to hold onto power.
“The court without comment rejected Trump’s appeal challenging thousands of absentee ballots filed in Wisconsin, an election battleground that the Republican businessman-turned-politician lost to Democrat Joe Biden by more than 20,000 votes. … It was the last of three petitions filed at the Supreme Court near the end of Trump’s presidency that the justices declined to take up.”
TODAY AT 1600 PENN — “Biden to Sign Executive Orders to Advance Gender Equity,” NYT: “President Biden will sign an executive order on Monday — International Women’s Day — establishing a Gender Policy Council in the White House that will seek to advance gender equality in both domestic and foreign policy across government. The council will report directly to the president, making it the most powerful body of its kind to date. …
“Almost every cabinet secretary will be required to participate with the council, signaling that the council’s work is of top priority for every federal agency and that it will touch on many issues like national security, health care and economics.”
— “Biden directs fresh review of Title IX rule on campus sexual assault,” WaPo: “It’s not clear, though, how he will go about it. Unraveling a regulation that is already in place may require a second complex rulemaking process.”
— “Jill Biden helps honor women from 15 countries for courage,” AP: “First lady Jill Biden says nearly two dozen women the State Department is honoring for their courage made an ‘intentional decision’ to persist and demand justice despite their fear. The 21 women being recognized Monday with the department’s International Women of Courage Award include seven from Afghanistan who are receiving posthumous honors.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS — “White House Moves Vaccine Event After Critical Emergent Report,” Bloomberg: “The White House moved an event celebrating Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co.’s collaboration on a coronavirus vaccine after the original host — Emergent BioSolutions Inc. — came under fire for federal contracts that drained the government’s budget for its stockpile of medical supplies. President Joe Biden will now host the event at the White House, according to guidance released Sunday, reversing the plan announced last week to hold the festivities at Emergent in Baltimore.”
INFRASTRUCTURE WATCH — “How Biden is betting on Buttigieg to drive a new era of racial equity,” by Sam Mintz: “A central plank in President Joe Biden’s agenda of improving racial equity requires dismantling or reimagining parts of America’s transportation system, which has long stacked the odds against people who most rely on it to climb up the economic ladder. …
“‘This is not just a matter of halfway accidental neglect,’ Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview. ‘We’re talking about some really intentional decisions that happened, and a lot of them happened with federal dollars.’ Reversing the most harmful of those decades worth of decisions about how America’s transportation system is designed falls to Buttigieg, Biden and a team determined to power a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure plan through Congress.”
CLIMATE FILES — “Biden Team Races to Assemble New Climate-Change Strategy,” WSJ: “The Biden administration is racing to complete a wide-ranging climate-change strategy next month, enlisting agencies across the government to craft a plan that could reshape the U.S. economy and disrupt major industries.
“President Biden and his senior aides are exploring pairing executive actions—like tighter pollution standards, targeted investments and changes in federal procurement—with congressional action to speed a shift toward low-carbon energy. The effort could rock fossil-fuel companies and boost renewable energy businesses, while for the first time putting extensive government requirements on the financial sector regarding climate policy.”
JAN. 6 FALLOUT — “Security review recommends enhanced background checks, retractable fencing to secure Capitol,” by Kyle Cheney: “Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, flanked by a team of veteran military and national security officials, will propose a series of intensive security measures that they say respond to glaring gaps in Capitol security measures that enabled a violent mob to overtake the building and disrupt the transfer of presidential power.” The review
REOPENING READING — “House Republicans seek investigation into impact of school closures on students with disabilities,” ABC: “‘We are hearing from parents across the U.S. whose children with disabilities are bearing the greatest burden as schools remain closed,’ Reps. Steve Scalise, R-La., James Comer, R-Ky., Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., wrote in a letter to the Democratic chairs of four House panels.” The letter
THE SKEPTICISM CHALLENGE — “Vaccine-skeptical Trump country poses challenge to immunization push,” by Joanne Kenen: “One coalition of health groups and nonprofits has even engaged a prominent GOP pollster and wordsmith to help them break through with pro-vaccine messages. But the damage from months of mixed messaging about the virus’s severity, whether from Trump world or social media, has been done, say public health experts and health care workers administering shots in rural America. …
“One thing President Joe Biden and his coronavirus team have going for them: The nation’s governors, some of whom have politicized masks and defied public health guidance on reopening businesses, have been solidly united on vaccines … But reaching the most vaccine skeptical in those communities — which polls regularly find are white, Republican and under 50 — will be a messaging challenge that helps determine the pandemic’s trajectory in the coming weeks and months.”
IMMIGRATION FILES — “Special Report: How Trump administration left indelible mark on U.S. immigration courts,” Reuters: “As U.S. President Joe Biden works to undo many of the restrictive immigration policies enacted by former President Donald Trump, he will confront one of his predecessor’s indelible legacies: the legion of immigration judges Trump’s administration hired.
“The administration filled two-thirds of the immigration courts’ 520 lifetime positions with judges who, as a whole, have disproportionately ordered deportation, according to a Reuters analysis of more than 800,000 immigration cases decided over the past 20 years. … Biden has promised to dramatically expand the courts by doubling the number of immigration judges and other staff. … Although there are no statutory limits on the number of judges who can be hired, expanding the court would be costly and could take years.”
MEDIAWATCH — The NYT is bulking up its Texas presence, tapping Edgar Sandoval as San Antonio bureau chief, J. David Goodman as Houston bureau chief, Ruth Graham to cover faith in America from Dallas and Jamie Stockwell as editor. Announcement
TRANSITIONS — Michael DiRoma and Andrew Eck are joining the National Security Institute as visiting fellows. DiRoma and Eck are co-founders of DiRoma Eck & Co.
BIRTHWEEK (was Sunday): Sammie Yeager