Joe Biden signals that he’s willing to be flexible with the numbers in his pandemic relief package – but not so flexible as to go along with the paltry Republican plan. Democrats in Congress are preparing to move forward with, or more likely without, the GOP.
Meanwhile, Biden’s agenda is meeting resistance inside the Department of Homeland Security. There’s a lot of sad-sack ICE agents out there right now, folks.
And lastly, why have some states done better than others when it comes to vaccinating people against the coronavirus? A new report suggests simplicity is key.
THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Can we count on Joe? We’ll find out soon. President Biden told Democratic lawmakers yesterday he’s not married to an absolute number on his $1.9 trillion Covid rescue plan, according to the Associated Press. But he said Congress needs to act fast on relief for the pandemic and the economic crisis. Biden also said he doesn’t want to budge from his proposed $1,400 in direct payments promised to Americans. But he said he is willing to target the aid, which would mean lowering the income threshold to qualify for the money. Biden said QUOTE I’m not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people ENDQUOTE. We should hope not.
He spoke with House Democrats and followed with a meeting at the White House with top Senate Democrats, the AP reports. While Biden is trying to build bipartisan support from Republicans, he is also prepared to rely on the Democratic majority in Congress to push his top agenda item into law. Republicans proposed a $618 billion alternative with slimmer $1,000 direct payments and zero aid for states and cities. But Biden panned this as insufficient.
The goal is to have Covid-19 relief approved by March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid measures expire, the AP reports. Money for vaccine distributions, direct payments to households, school reopenings and business aid are at stake. Biden told the Democrats QUOTE We have to go big, not small ENDQUOTE. Democrats have launched a lengthy budget process for approving Biden’s bill with or without Republican support. Voting
started Tuesday in the Senate and was set for yesterday and today in the House. In the end, people won’t care about bipartisanship – they’ll care about results.
ICE Morale In 'Toilet'
Donald Trump’s most ardent loyalists are holding strong inside the federal bureaucracy. Trump often complained about what he called a deep state inside the government working to thwart his agenda. But Biden and his secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, are already encountering their own pockets of internal resistance, the New York Times reports. It’s especially bad at the agencies charged with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws.
Mayorkas was confirmed on Tuesday after a nearly two-week delay by Republicans, according to the Times. Liberal activists and former Trump officials say he will struggle to get buy-in for Biden’s agenda from the thousands of border and immigration agents in his department. Videos celebrating Trump’s big, beautiful border wall are still featured on the Customs and Border Protection website. A fictionalized video by the agency that shows Trump’s depiction of migrants as feared criminals is still on the Border Patrol’s official social media channels. And the union representing ICE agents – whose leaders were enthusiastic supporters of Trump – has signaled that it does not intend to accept all of the new administration’s reversals of his policies. The day before Biden’s inauguration, union leaders signed a labor agreement that requires ICE’s political leadership to consult with the union on policy decisions. We told you about this on Tuesday. Mayorkas now has less than thirty days to cancel this agreement. If it stands, it could undercut Biden’s directives, including guidance that took effect on Monday requiring ICE officers to focus arrests on violent offenders.
Tom Homan, who was ICE director under Trump, told the Times that morale at the agency had been QUOTE flushed down the toilet ENDQUOTE since Biden took over. But should we pity these poor, pouty ICE agents? Suck it up and fall in line, soldiers.
State Vaccination Successes Studied
SAM: States are racing to deliver potentially lifesaving coronavirus vaccines to millions of arms. But some are having far more success than others, the Washington Post reports. In the
states moving fastest, up to one in seven people had received their first injection as of Tuesday. At the other end of the rankings, it was one in eighteen.
If there’s one thing the states moving most quickly have in common, the Post says, it is that they brought order and simplicity to a process otherwise marked by chaos and complexity. In South Dakota, distribution has been limited to a small number of health-care providers who meet via phone twice a week and can make decisions on the fly. Connecticut has teamed with a well-established partnership network, while using community ambassadors to advocate for the vaccine among hesitant populations. And West Virginia has tightly coordinated its rollout, using the National Guard to speed supplies to where they are needed while streamlining the rules for who can get immunized. Officials in all three states told the Post they want to minimize confusion. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said QUOTE If you want to know how many cows are in a field, just count the egg-sucking cows. Don’t count the legs and divide by four ENDQUOTE. Makes sense, I guess.
In many states, governors delegated the process to a web of underfunded county health departments, along with hospitals, pharmacies, HMOs and doctor’s offices, the Post reports. West Virginia instead created a uniform statewide process. It is the only state to opt out of a federal program to vaccinate workers and residents at nursing homes, instead relying on local drugstores. It managed to wrap up the work before most states had even started. Kudos. Biden deputies have already been in touch about lessons learned.
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
The Canadian government designated the Proud Boys group as a terrorist entity yesterday, the AP reports. The decision was informed by the group’s role in the US Capitol insurrection on January 6th. Proud Boys leader and confirmed police informant Enrique Tarrio estimates the group has one thousand members in Canada. All terrorist hosers, eh.
Gun-toting Congresswoman Lauren Boebert paid herself more than $22,000 in mileage reimbursements from her campaign account last year, the Denver Post reports. To justify those reimbursements, Boebert would have had to drive thirty-eight thousand, seven hundred and twelve miles while campaigning, despite having no publicly advertised campaign events in March, April or July, and only one in May. Her schedule is simply incredible.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has opened an investigation into Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, NBC News reports. The investigation concerns Bannon’s role in a charity that was supposed to use private funds to build the US-Mexico border wall. Trump pardoned Bannon for his role in the fraud before leaving office, but the pardon only extends to federal cases, not to state ones. Gotcha!
The Oakland, California City Council voted Tuesday to require large grocery stores to pay their employees an additional $5 per hour. Small independent stores are exempt. The pay raise is meant to compensate grocery store workers for the increased risks they have faced during the pandemic. Local action gets the goods again.
That’s all for the AM Quickie. Join us this afternoon on the Majority Report.
FEB 4, 2021 - AM QUICKIE
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Corey Pein
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn