This article was originally published by Politico on February 1, 2021.
HOW MUCH MONEY DOES AMERICA NEED? President JOE BIDEN is meeting with GOP senators this afternoon on pandemic relief. But the chasm between their proposals — $1.9 trillion versus $600 billion — has raised serious doubts about whether a compromise that avoids a Democratic rebellion is possible (see Sen. Ron Wyden’s statement this morning for a taste of that). Today, we got several new pieces of information clarifying their bargaining positions, and the stakes.
BURGESS EVERETT has the latest on what GOP senators are offering: “The proposal would provide $160 billion for testing, vaccines and personal protective equipment, extend the $300 weekly unemployment insurance payments until July and provide $1,000 checks to lower-income Americans, according to a draft framework.
“Those checks would begin phasing out much earlier than Biden’s plan and would be capped at $100,000 for joint filers. Dependents and children would receive an additional $500 each.” The proposal
BUT THE BIDEN WHITE HOUSE isn’t exactly unified on the size of the checks. Bloomberg’s NANCY COOK scoops: “Biden’s Promised $1,400 Checks Are Even Dividing the White House”: “At least two of the president’s top economic advisers, Heather Boushey and David Kamin, have privately expressed reservations about the size of the checks and at what level they would begin to phase out for higher-income people … The aides worry that the checks will cost so much that there won’t be enough left over in Biden’s proposed pandemic relief bill for other priorities …
“The president regards the checks as not only a political imperative, but good policy: a clear demonstration that the federal government can directly help ordinary Americans, far better than a more intangible benefit such as a tax credit.”
Press secretary JEN PSAKI said the president will not make or accept an offer today. “We saw this as a good faith proposal they’ve put forward, a good faith effort to have a discussion. The president is inviting them here in good faith, and we will see where it goes from here,” Psaki said.
SEPARATELY BUT RELATED: THE CBO put out a new economic forecast — per CAITLIN EMMA, “The economy will bounce back over the next several months, even without more stimulus aid from Congress, but employment levels are unlikely to fully recover until 2024 … The economy is expected to grow ‘rapidly’ at 4.6 percent this year, continuing to expand over the next decade.” The analysis
AND MEGAN CASSELLA breaks down the limits of Biden’s executive powers to affect the economy — and finds that congressional action will be necessary to really make an impact: “What the country needs the most is an influx of cash, [Diane] Swonk and other economists say, but for that the new president is entirely dependent on lawmakers if he wants to turn the economy around.”
MTG LATEST — “Dems to deliver GOP ultimatum over Marjorie Taylor Greene,” by Heather Caygle, Sarah Ferris and Melanie Zanona: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is planning to deliver an ultimatum to McCarthy this week: Either Republicans move on their own to strip Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments within 72 hours or Democrats will bring the issue to the House floor.”
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MYANMAR LATEST — Biden issued a statement this afternoon declaring that the U.S. might change course in its approach to the country after today’s coup: “The United States removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy. The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action.”
MENDING FENCES — “White House reached out to Manchin after Harris’ West Virginia interview,” CNN
THE TESTING PICTURE — ANDY SLAVITT announced this morning that HHS and DOD have struck a $230 million deal with Ellume to ramp up production of the first authorized at-home, over-the-counter coronavirus test — aiming to hit 19 million a month by the end of the year. 8.5 million are guaranteed to the U.S.
WHOA — IRAN WATCH … Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell “that Tehran was months away from being able to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, saying it could be only ‘a matter of weeks’ if Iran continues to lift restraints in the nuclear deal.” More from NBC
KNOWING THE NEW MEMBERS — “The freshman class starts to mix and mingle,” by Olivia Beavers: “They took office just three days before an armed mob stormed Capitol Hill. They wear masks to work and vote in turns to increase social distancing. They can’t do class meet-and-greets or other typical new-to-the-Hill social events. Making friends in Congress is much harder now than in years past, to say the least.
“Meet the House freshman class of the 117th Congress: nearly 60 ambitious dreamers and cynical opportunists, hard-nosed businesswomen and local potentates, establishment rising stars and complete outsiders. They’ve entered a historic body at a historical low point — at odds with itself and torn over Donald Trump.”
— Olivia provides the backstory for Playbook: “Covid is really inhibiting how these fresh-eyed members are getting to know one another. That doesn’t mean friendships aren’t forming, but it certainly isn’t happening in the typical ways of throwing back drinks at a hotel bar near the Capitol and other social meets-and-greets.
“There are lots of text chains and Zoom chats. I’m told multiple freshmen are leaning more on relationships with lawmakers from their own states or members who dabble in policy areas that they’re interested in pursuing, rather than just bonding with fellow freshmen.
“Some of the groupings are self-imposed, like the members who joined the progressive Squad or the counter GOP Force, while others have naturally been grouped together based on their actions — by establishing themselves as, say, firebrands who will push back on leadership.”
CASH DASH — “Democratic Party Enters 2021 in Power — and Flush With Cash, for a Change,” NYT: “The Democratic National Committee will report to the Federal Election Commission on Sunday that it ended 2020 with $38.8 million in the bank and $3 million in debts, according to an advance look at its financial filings. In addition, there is roughly $40 million earmarked for the party, left over from its joint operations with the Biden campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.
“This gives the Democrats a roughly $75 million war chest at the start of President Biden’s tenure. … Party data, resources and infrastructure undergird candidates up and down the ballot, and Democratic officials are already dreaming of early investments in voter registration that may accelerate the political realignment Democrats are hoping to bring about in key Sun Belt states.”
— “Trump stocks new PAC with tens of millions as he bids to retain control of GOP,” by Zach Montellaro and Elena Schneider
TRACK FIRST 100 DAYS OF THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION: The Biden administration hit the ground running with a series of executive orders his first week in office and continues to outline priorities on key issues. What's coming down the pike? Find out in Transition Playbook, our scoop-filled newsletter tracking the policies, people and emerging power centers of the first 100 days of the new administration. Subscribe today.
GOP CIVIL WAR — “Exclusive: Dozens of former Bush officials leave Republican Party, calling it ‘Trump cult,’” Reuters: “These officials, some who served in the highest echelons of the Bush administration, said they had hoped that a Trump defeat would lead party leaders to move on from the former president and denounce his baseless claims that the November presidential election was stolen. But with most Republican lawmakers sticking to Trump, these officials say they no longer recognize the party they served.”
FILLING THE GOP POWER VACUUM — “An Emboldened Extremist Wing Flexes Its Power in a Leaderless G.O.P.,” NYT
JAN. 6 FALLOUT — “Pause in Corporate PAC Spending Triggers Political Pushback,” WSJ: “Democrats friendly with business have complained to companies, including Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Citigroup Inc. and Lockheed Martin Corp. , that they are being penalized for actions taken by Republicans challenging the results of the Nov. 3 election …
“Separately, Republicans who voted with Democrats to uphold President Biden’s win have told companies that cutting off their funding could hurt their election prospects and hinder them if they are challenged in a GOP primary … Republicans who voted to challenge the election are responding as well, warning that companies are denigrating politicians whom they have come to rely on for advancing favorable legislation.”
— “After the Attack,” Slate: “Jan. 6 was a terrifying day for members of Congress. Weeks later, they are dealing with the trauma.”
2022 WATCH — “Kemp allies start ‘Stop Stacey’ group as possible 2022 rematch looms,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “It aims to build a national fundraising infrastructure, mobilize conservative supporters, air anti-Abrams ads and promote media narratives targeting the Democrat ahead of her expected campaign against Kemp.”
— TO THE LEFT, TO THE LEFT: “Schumer quietly nails down the left amid AOC primary chatter,” by Holly Otterbein: “With Schumer at the helm of the Senate, the prospect of a left-wing challenge next year stands to play a major role in shaping the legislation that comes out of Washington. That applies whether or not [Rep. Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez pulls the trigger, at least for the next few months.
“The two-term congresswoman is seriously considering campaigning for the seat but is so far undecided, according to people familiar with her thinking. Multiple sources said her decision will be contingent on how Schumer wields power with his new Democratic majority in the upcoming months: Will he be pushed around by Mitch McConnell? Or will he work to pass ambitious, progressive legislation favored by the left?”
SCOTUS WATCH — “Supreme Court Test for Biden: How Boldly to Disavow Trump’s Agenda,” NYT: “[T]he Biden administration will soon have to decide whether to disavow positions taken by its predecessor in major cases, including ones on health care and voting. In an office that prizes its reputation for credibility, consistency and independence, solicitors general of both parties have said they are wary of veering from positions staked out by their predecessors. …
“But a new law review article presents a dissenting view, concluding that the Biden administration need not fear announcing bold reversals of stances taken by the Trump administration.”
KEEP UP WITH CONGRESS IN 2021: Get the inside scoop on the Schumer/McConnell dynamic, the debate over the filibuster and increasing tensions in the House. From Schumer to McConnell, Pelosi to McCarthy and everyone in between, new Huddle author Olivia Beavers brings the latest from Capitol Hill with assists from POLITICO's deeply sourced Congress team. Subscribe to Huddle, the indispensable guide to Congress.
THE VACCINE ROLLOUT — “Covid-19 Vaccines to Stress-Test Grocery Stores and Pharmacies,” WSJ: “Some of America’s biggest retailers are preparing to take a central role in administering Covid-19 shots, hoping to avoid logjams and other complications that have slowed the vaccine rollout’s early days. … Among the biggest challenges now for retailers is dealing with customers eager to know when it’s their turn.”
HONEYMOON PHASE — “Everybody loves Tony: New secretary of State gets high marks — for now,” by Nahal Toosi
KNOWING KATHERINE TAI — “At USTR, a straight-shooter will have to navigate Biden’s old guard in Washington,” by Gavin Bade: “Tai is known throughout Washington for her calm, good-natured negotiating style. In many ways, she is the antithesis of her predecessor, the gruff, contentious Robert Lighthizer …
“But Tai will also face a challenge at home: Having her voice heard among a Biden foreign policy team, some with deep knowledge of global trade, whose members have worked with the president for years.”
BIDEN’S FAITH AS FLASHPOINT — “As Biden prays for healing, Catholics clash over president’s faith,” ABC: “Since his inauguration two weeks ago as the nation’s second Catholic president, Biden's devout Christian faith has become a new flashpoint within a church already reeling from years of moral and financial crises.”
TO INFINITY AND BEYOND — “Pentagon, NASA Knock Down Barriers Impeding Joint Space Projects,” WSJ: “U.S. government and aerospace-industry officials are removing decades-old barriers between civilian and military space projects, in response to escalating foreign threats beyond the atmosphere.
“The Pentagon and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are joining forces to tackle efforts such as exploring the region around the moon and extending the life of satellites. Many details are still developing or remain classified. Driving the changes are actions by Moscow and Beijing to challenge American space interests with antisatellite weapons, jamming capabilities and other potentially hostile technology.”
MEDIAWATCH — Elana Schor is returning to POLITICO as Congress editor. She most recently was a national reporter on religion and politics for the AP. POLITICO is also launching a twice-weekly newsletter covering “how institutions, policy and politics are shaped by race and identity.” It will be overseen by editor Teresa Wiltz, whose team will also include new roles for several reporters: Maya King covering race and politics, Nolan McCaskill covering race and policy and Sabrina Rodríguez as immigration correspondent.
TRANSITIONS — Go Big Media is adding Dave Huguenel as VP of political and Joseph Cueto as senior director. Huguenel most recently was war room director and regional director of delegates and party organization for the Trump campaign. Cueto most recently was director of state party and campaign resources at the RNC. …
… Jesse Spector is now a senior director at Glen Echo Group. She previously directed technology policy at the Software & Information Industry Association. … Rachel Bissex is now deputy COS and chief counsel for Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.). She previously was deputy COS for former A.G. Bill Barr. Monica Daniels Mika is also joining Buck’s office as district director. She previously was head of the Centennial Area Health Education Center in Colorado.