Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 419,215; Tuesday, 421,129; Wednesday, 425,216.
President Biden said on Tuesday that the administration wants to purchase an additional 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, which could provide enough doses for nearly every American to get inoculated by the end of the summer.
Continuing his focus on the pandemic, Biden said the government is seeking to purchase 100 million doses from Pfizer and 100 million from Moderna in addition to the 400 million combined doses the companies had already committed to providing to the United States. The president said the administration expects to be able to confirm an agreement soon (NBC News).
“It will be enough to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans to beat the pandemic,” Biden said.
The purchase would ease the country’s reliance on additional vaccines from other manufacturers, which are expected to come on line for emergency use and sales soon. Johnson & Johnson said it will release data for its single-dose vaccine in the coming days. Projections for available new vaccine supplies were not possible in December, according to current and former federal officials, because of uncertainty about manufacturing and instability in the supply chain, The Washington Post reports.
Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsBiden officials hold call with bipartisan group of senators on coronavirus relief plan Disjointed vaccine distribution poses early test for Biden Biden under pressure to deliver more COVID-19 shots MORE, coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus response, told governors on Tuesday that federal allocations of coronavirus vaccine doses to states and other jurisdictions are expected to increase by about 16 percent next week, easing shortages that have intensified nationwide. The decision does not fully alleviate current supply problems. The weekly allocation is forecast to go from about 8.6 million doses to about 10 million doses (The Washington Post).
The Hill: Biden to take action on ObamaCare, Medicaid.
The Washington Post: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds scant spread of coronavirus in schools with precautions in place.
CNBC: AstraZeneca defends slow supplies to the European Union, but says it ordered doses three months later than United Kingdom.
The Associated Press: International Olympic Committee, Tokyo Olympics to unveil rule book for beating pandemic.
Also on Tuesday, Biden — who was criticized during the 2020 primary contest for his role as a senator in enacting tough-on-crime laws that disproportionately locked up a generation of Black men — signed orders and directives focused on racial equity and criminal justice. Civil rights groups and advocates are pressing for more (The Washington Post).
The Hill: Biden directs the Justice Department to phase out private prisons, and Susan RiceSusan Rice5 things to know about Biden’s racial equity orders The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – Vaccination goals for 2021 Watch live: White House holds press briefing MORE (pictured below), his White House domestic policy adviser, said the president’s racial equity initiatives are “essential” to economic growth (Fox News).
The Hill: Five things to know about Biden’s racial equity executive orders.
NBC News: The Biden Justice Department on Tuesday officially rescinded the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration program, which previously resulted in the separation of more than 3,000 migrant families. The largely symbolic move officially removes the policy from the Justice Department’s guidance to federal prosecutors and instructs prosecutors to use discretion when prosecuting misdemeanor border offenses.
Also on Tuesday, a federal judge in Texas blocked for 14 days Biden’s deportation freeze following a legal challenge in the Lone Star State. The ruling is effective nationwide and represents a swift legal setback for the president’s immigration agenda, which he is expected to expand this week (Reuters).
> Today, Biden is expected to announce a new temporary suspension of oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters, and order that nearly a third of federally run acreage is conserved for the next decade. The president’s orders will impact mostly Western states, as well as offshore drilling acreage located mainly in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Tribal lands, which host significant reserves of oil and gas, will not be included in Biden’s executive actions (Reuters).
> Biden for the first time as president spoke on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinUS, Russia making ‘remarkable’ progress on extension of nuclear arms control treaty, diplomat says How socialism saved America US joins G-7 in condemning Russia over ‘politically motivated’ arrest of Putin critic MORE in a delicate diplomatic opener in which the 46th president aims to be tougher, more transparent and more effective than was his predecessor on a host of issues, including a New START nuclear agreement. Biden met Putin years ago as vice president (CNN and The Associated Press).
> Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBlinken holds first calls as Biden’s secretary of State President Biden must prioritize international religious freedom Biden’s Cabinet gradually confirmed by Senate MORE (pictured below) got to work on the diplomatic puzzle with Russia and a pileup of other challenging international issues when he became the nation’s 71st secretary of State late on Tuesday. The Senate voted 78 to 22 to confirm Biden’s longtime adviser to lead Foggy Bottom, where he began his career, and he was sworn in immediately (The Associated Press). The Senate has also cleared Cabinet leaders at Treasury and the Pentagon and to coordinate national intelligence (The Hill).
The Hill: Biden’s cyber priorities zero in on Russian hack.
Biden this week has been seen and heard and has answered questions from the White House press corps. His West Wing communications advisers, all of whom are women, are eager to have the president speak regularly to the public (The Hill). Coronavirus-related press briefings conducted via Zoom by government experts, which are now expected to occur three times a week, begin this morning. “Any questions you have, that’s how we’ll handle them because we’re letting science speak again,” Biden said (The Associated Press).
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS & IMPEACHMENT: Just five senators on Tuesday balked at conservative colleagues who declared former President TrumpDonald TrumpBlinken holds first calls as Biden’s secretary of State Senators discussing Trump censure resolution Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they ‘forgot who was the true leader’ MORE’s upcoming impeachment trial unconstitutional, signaling the Senate is far, far away from the 67 votes needed to convict Trump on a House charge of inciting an insurrection. This was not a surprise. Seventeen Republican senators would need to join every Senate Democrat to convict Trump, who left office on Jan. 20.
Only five GOP senators rejected an effort by Republican Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenators discussing Trump censure resolution Senate GOP signals it’s likely to acquit Trump for second time Trump ex-chief says Senate vote signals impeachment effort ‘dead on arrival’ MORE of Kentucky to declare a Trump trial, set to begin the week of Feb. 8, unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president. The five who did not support Paul’s point of order: GOP Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyJust five GOP senators vote Trump impeachment trial is constitutional Senate committee advances Biden’s DHS pick despite Republican pushback Press: The case against Citizen Trump MORE (Utah), Ben SasseBen SasseJust five GOP senators vote Trump impeachment trial is constitutional Senate committee advances Biden’s DHS pick despite Republican pushback Juan Williams: Let America be America MORE (Neb.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators discussing Trump censure resolution Senate GOP signals it’s likely to acquit Trump for second time Just five GOP senators vote Trump impeachment trial is constitutional MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate GOP signals it’s likely to acquit Trump for second time Just five GOP senators vote Trump impeachment trial is constitutional Portman’s exit underscores Republican identity crisis MORE (Alaska) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Appeals court rules NSA’s bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel MORE (Pa.), who is retiring from Congress next year (The Hill).
The Hill and Axios: Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenators discussing Trump censure resolution Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command Senate GOP signals it’s likely to acquit Trump for second time MORE (D-Va.) and Collins pitch Senate colleagues on a Trump censure option.
Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFormer Ohio state health director reportedly considering Senate bid Senate GOP signals it’s likely to acquit Trump for second time Just five GOP senators vote Trump impeachment trial is constitutional MORE (R-Ohio), who plans to leave the Senate in 2022, supported Paul’s push to debate whether a president who has left office can be convicted on an impeachment indictment under the Constitution. The question of constitutionality and process is central to Senate Republicans’ answer to the article of impeachment received from the House on Monday. Portman says Trump’s words and actions contributed to a violent mob that breached the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“I do have questions about the constitutionality of holding a Senate trial and removing from office someone who is now a private citizen,” he added in a statement. “Today I voted for allowing debate on this issue. … I will listen to the evidence presented by both sides and then make a judgment based on the Constitution and what I believe is in the best interests of the country.”
Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, an opinion contributor with The Hill, met with senators on Tuesday to argue a Trump trial is unconstitutional. It’s a line of thinking that is in dispute in the legal community but that is becoming a shield for Republican senators who want to vote to acquit Trump for the second time in a year (The Hill and NBC News).
The Hill’s John Kruzel reports why the trial’s presiding officers will not include Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. His decision to decline the invitation to be the presiding officer, after spending weeks in that role last year, may reflect his long-stated aim to keep the high court out of the political fray. Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySen. Patrick Leahy returns home after being hospitalized What the shift in Senate control means for marijuana policy reform Senate sworn in as jurors for Trump impeachment trial MORE (D-Vt.), the 80-year-old president pro tempore of the Senate who is expected to preside over the trial in two weeks, briefly went to a D.C. hospital on Tuesday as a precaution after complaining he felt ill. He went home after some tests (The Hill).
The Senate, now narrowly under Democratic control, faces a busy spring and summer. Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHumanist Report host criticizes ‘conservative Democrats:’ They ‘hold more power’ than progressives Bush-, Obama-era officials urge Senate to swiftly confirm Biden’s DHS pick OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court upholds ruling invalidating Dakota Access, but doesn’t shut down pipeline | Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency | Biden seeks to bolster consultation with Indian Country MORE (D-N.Y.) told colleagues on Tuesday that the upper chamber next week could begin to pave the way for reconciliation on proposed COVID-19 legislation sought by Biden. The reconciliation budget tool takes time and requires a simple majority for final passage rather than a 60-vote threshold (The Hill).
Politico: Senate GOP braces for more retirements after Portman stunner.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: Campaign finance experts are increasingly skeptical that companies that have vowed to freeze political contributions to GOP lawmakers who objected to the electoral results on Jan. 6 will move ahead with those pledges in the coming months in a way that makes a difference.
As The Hill’s Alex Gangitano writes, Fortune 500 companies including Amazon and Comcast announced a halt to giving monies to that group of Republicans following the deadly mob attack on the Capitol, decrying attacks on the democratic process and peaceful transition of power. However, a number of companies and organizations left wiggle room for corporate PACs to provide indirect financial support or resume direct support for those Republicans.
When contacted, more than half a dozen companies that took a public stand this month declined to comment on if they would commit to a permanent ban on donations to the GOP lawmakers, despite earlier condemnations of the “direct assault” on the peaceful transition of power and the “appalling” violence exhibited three weeks ago. Whether these companies remain on the sidelines later in the 2022 midterm cycle remains the main question.
“Honestly I am dubious that it will last … Our current system is pay-to-play politics, and most companies are eager to pay the price of admission because the federal government has such power over their bottom line,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a group that advocates for campaign finance reform.
Politico: A top MAGA gathering finds life complicated after Trump.
> Big Tech: Nearly three weeks after Trump was booted from Twitter for good, with other prominent right-wingers following suit, conservatives have leaned into the idea that they’re being silenced by technology giants and corporate media conglomerates, an argument that resonates with a grassroots base that is deeply angry over how Trump was treated when he was in office.
As The Hill’s Jonathan Easley writes, critics note that many of those making claims about censorship have massive platforms and continue to amplify them today on Twitter and via other methods.
> States & territories: Top officials in Puerto Rico say they believe they can make progress toward statehood after voters on the island approved a statehood referendum and now that Democrats control Congress and the White House (The Hill). … Maryland: Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s ‘wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE is taking a look at a possible gubernatorial bid in a blue state adjacent to Washington, D.C., which is governed by popular term-limited Gov. Larry Hogan (R) (Politico).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Does Biden want a bill or an issue? by William Galston, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3poCnlb
The teachers’ unions’ ransom demand, by National Review senior editorial staff. https://bit.ly/3qUVN1v
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
The Senate meets at 10:30 a.m. The Foreign Relations Committee holds a confirmation hearing at 10 a.m. to consider Linda Thomas-GreenfieldLinda Thomas-GreenfieldThis week: Senate stuck in limbo Biden taps career civil servants to acting posts at State, USAID, UN Record number of women to serve in Biden Cabinet MORE to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs holds a confirmation hearing at 3 p.m. to consider Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughBiden VA pick faces ‘steep learning curve’ at massive agency Biden nominee: VA staff hampered by ‘mismanagement’ A crisis that unites veterans MORE to be secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department.
The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. At 11:45 a.m., Harris will ceremonially swear in Blinken. Biden, with Harris in attendance, will speak about climate change and sign executive actions at 1:30 p.m. in the State Dining Room.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 12:15 p.m. It will include John KerryJohn KerryOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Internal watchdog to probe Trump officials who cast doubt on climate science | Kerry on climate talks: ‘I regret that my country has been absent’ | Biden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate Kerry on climate talks: ‘I regret that my country has been absent’ Biden must wait weekend for State Department pick MORE, special presidential envoy for climate, and national climate adviser Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyBiden faces tall order in uniting polarized nation Biden to rejoin Paris agreement, revoke Keystone XL permit Biden to sign flurry of executive actions in first hours of presidency MORE.
The Federal Reserve concludes a two-day meeting with a statement and news conference by Chairman Jerome Powell at 2 p.m..
INVITATIONS: The Hill Virtually Live hosts events as the new administration gets underway: TODAY at 11:30 a.m.: “Relief to Recovery: What’s Next for Small Business?” The discussion features Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOn The Money: GOP digs in on defending Trump tax cuts | Democrats bullish on raising minimum wage | Financial sector braces for Biden’s consumer bureau pick The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden: Focus on vaccine, virus, travel MORE (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, and Rep. Blaine LuetkemeyerWilliam (Blaine) Blaine LuetkemeyerOn The Money: GOP digs in on defending Trump tax cuts | Democrats bullish on raising minimum wage | Financial sector braces for Biden’s consumer bureau pick The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden: Focus on vaccine, virus, travel MORE (R-Mo.), with the House Financial Services Committee and Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions. Register HERE.
Also TODAY, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: Biden takes steps to boost number of vaccine doses sent to states | CDC researchers find ‘little evidence’ of major school outbreaks, with precautions | Eli Lilly says antibody combo significantly cuts COVID-19 death risk Biden takes steps to boost number of vaccine doses sent to states World surpasses 100M coronavirus cases MORE, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, joins The Hill’s “Challenge of Our Time: The COVID-19 Vaccine” at 1:15 p.m. to discuss vaccine manufacturing. A second expert panel at 2:30 p.m. will discuss distribution. The first panel in addition to Fauci features Francis Collins, director, National Institutes of Health; Mikael Dolsten, chief scientific officer at Pfizer; Rep. Eddie Bernice JohnsonEddie Bernice JohnsonOvernight Health Care: Biden takes steps to boost number of vaccine doses sent to states | CDC researchers find ‘little evidence’ of major school outbreaks, with precautions | Eli Lilly says antibody combo significantly cuts COVID-19 death risk The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis Overnight Health Care: Biden says anyone who wants vaccine may be able to get it by spring | Moderna says vaccine effective on variants, but tests booster shot | California lifts regional stay-at-home order MORE (D-Texas), chairwoman, House Committee on Science, Space and Technology; Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist, World Health Organization; and Leana Wen, emergency physician and visiting professor, George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Here’s the second panel today: Susan Bailey, president, American Medical Association; John Banovetz, chief technology officer, 3M; Mayor Sharon Weston Broome (D), Baton Rouge, La.; John Brownstein, chief innovation officer, Boston Children’s Hospital; Sree Chaguturu, chief medical officer, CVS; Daniel Dawes, director, Satcher Health Leadership Institute; Peter Hotez, co-director, Center for Vaccine Development, Texas Children’s Hospital; Margaret Moss, associate professor in nursing, University of British Columbia; Jay Timmons, president and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers; Wes Wheeler, president, UPS Healthcare; and Rep. Brad WenstrupBrad Robert WenstrupOvernight Health Care: Biden takes steps to boost number of vaccine doses sent to states | CDC researchers find ‘little evidence’ of major school outbreaks, with precautions | Eli Lilly says antibody combo significantly cuts COVID-19 death risk The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis Overnight Health Care: Biden says anyone who wants vaccine may be able to get it by spring | Moderna says vaccine effective on variants, but tests booster shot | California lifts regional stay-at-home order MORE (R-Ohio), member, House Ways and Means Committee. Register HERE.
➔ TECH: Amazon on Tuesday rolled out plans to add more than 3,000 additional corporate and technology jobs in Boston in the coming years as the tech and consumer giant expands its footprint in the city. In a press release, Amazon said the jobs will be added across a number of support teams with the company, including Alexa, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon Robotics and Amazon Pharmacy. The jobs will also include roles in software development, artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as other support roles in management, finance and other departments (The Hill).
➔ MEDIA: Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron, who has led the paper for eight years through 10 Pulitzer Prizes, announced on Tuesday that he will retire at the end of February. A successor has not been named (The Washington Post). … Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE, the former director of the National Economic Council under Trump, was tapped by Fox Business Network to host a new weekday program and to serve as an economic analyst for the channel. Before his time at the White House, Kudlow was a regular on CNBC, having hosted a number of shows, including “The Kudlow Report” (Deadline).
➔ SPORTS: The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced on Tuesday that no one will be inducted into the Class of 2021. No players cracked the needed 75 percent support as voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), the first time this has happened since 2013. Curt Schilling, three-time World Series champion and an outspoken Trump supporter, was the top vote-getter with 71.1 percent, falling only 16 votes short of enshrinement. Schilling, who was slated to appear on his 10th and final BBWAA ballot next year, requested shortly after to have his name removed from the writers ballot and leave his fate to a veterans committee (ESPN).
And finally … The Pacific Northwest is considered by some enthusiasts to be the most likely area in which to spot a sasquatch (remote forests being an unproven but rumored hideout). But Oklahoma boasts an annual Bigfoot festival near the Arkansas border, and the state’s tourism revenues benefit from the hairy, woodsy version of the Loch Ness monster. That’s why Justin Humphrey, a Republican state representative whose district includes the heavily forested Ouachita Mountains in southeast Oklahoma, introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season with a state hunting license and tag. However, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, which oversees hunting in the state, appears unmoved by myth. Micah Holmes, a spokesman, told television station KOCO that the agency uses science-driven research and does not recognize Bigfoot (The Associated Press).