Politico “Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters yesterday the House will vote next week on a budget resolution, the first step in setting up a fast-track process to allow passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill without Republican support.
WaPo “President Biden on Thursday announced several steps intended to expand access to health care, signing an executive order Thursday to allow people to sign up for insurance from Feb. 15 through May 15. The order applies only to the federal HealthCare.gov website, and not the 15 states that run their own sites. Biden’s order to reopen the federal Obamacare market is putting pressure on states with their own exchanges to follow suit, opening the door for more consumer choice as people who are uninsured move to get coverage amid the pandemic. The executive action could also lead to a surge in state Medicaid enrollment as people who now turn to the exchanges find out they qualify for the low-income health program.
Decades of “Global Gag Rule” Whiplash Continues
WaPo “Soon after he took office as president, Donald Trump reinstated and expanded a policy known by its critics as the “global gag rule,” which bars U.S. funding for organizations abroad that perform abortions or offer information about them. On Thursday, a week into his term, President Biden signed a memorandum rescinding the policy. He also directed the Department of Health and Human Services to review a rule instated by Trump that cut off federal funding for domestic family planning programs involved with abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, and ordered the restoration of funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which Trump had cut in a dispute over abortion provisions.
SOME HISTORY The Reagan administration first enacted its version of the global gag rule, often called the Mexico City policy after the place where it was drafted, in 1985. Since then, two Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have rescinded it, arguing that it put millions of women and girls at risk by cutting off access to critical health services. Two Republican presidents, George W. Bush and Trump, have put it back in place, arguing that U.S. funds should not go to organizations that promote abortion.”
Impact Of U.S. Funding Restrictions On Abortion Rates? Worldwide, around 48 percent of pregnancies are unintended, and of those about 60 percent end in abortions, leading to about 73 million abortions every year, said Zara Ahmed, associate director of federal issues at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, during a call with reporters in December. About 35 million of those women undergo an unsafe abortion, according to Ipas. Studies have shown repeatedly that U.S. restrictions do not lower abortion rates. A recent report published in British medical journal the Lancet found that they often led to cuts in health and reproductive services that in turn led to increases in unsafe abortions.
“There is no evidence that abortion rates are lower where it’s restricted,” Ahmed said. “In fact, abortion rates are lowest in high-income countries where abortion is broadly believed to be legal, but almost four times higher in low-income countries where it is heavily restricted.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lashed out at Republican leadership for putting Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on the House Education and Labor Committee in light of her past endorsements of baseless conspiracy theories that deadly school shootings in Connecticut and Florida were “false-flag” operations staged by gun-control advocates.
More Marjorie Taylor Greene,” Axios “John Cowan, Greene’s opponent in August’s primary runoff for Georgia’s 14th District seat, recalls separate conversations he had with McCarthy and Scalise, the House GOP whip, in which both men acknowledged Greene was a serious problem for the party. … It wasn’t enough to overcome the vocal support for Greene from Trump’s then-chief of staff Mark Meadows.”
Biden Repeals Trump-era ban on transgender military service.
The full Senate took a procedural vote that advanced the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of homeland security. A final vote is scheduled Monday. The Banking Committee held a hearing on the nominations of Marcia Fudge as housing secretary and Cecilia Rouse to chair the Council of Economic Advisers.
Bracing for the prospect of a likely acquittal, Senate Democrats are eyeing a rapid-fire impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump while also contemplating alternatives such as censure that could attract more support from Republicans.” (WaPo)
SKY IS FALLING. NOT. BGov “A stockpile of federal oil and gas leases across an Ohio-sized swath of land in the West shows the fossil fuel industry was preparing for a leasing moratorium for years, former Interior Department officials say. President Joe Biden imposed what he described as a “pause” on federal oil and gas leasing on Wednesday as part of his climate policy—while allowing millions of acres of existing leases to remain unaffected. Nevertheless, industry representatives and elected officials in the West lambasted the move, saying it’ll deprive Western states of much-needed income for basic state services.
But the industry’s “huge inventory” of undeveloped existing leases and drilling permits are evidence that the oil and gas industry anticipated a “pause” in leasing long ago, said John Leshy, a law professor at the University of California. That “makes the ‘sky is falling’ rhetoric from the industry and its allies a bit over the top,” Leshy said Thursday. “Especially since many of the Trump-era lease offerings attracted no bids, or only minimum bids.”
Dan Pfeiffer, a former Obama senior adviser wrote that … “A majority of Americans voted to rejoin the Paris Accords, repeal the Muslim ban, implement more comprehensive pandemic measures and so on. Pushing forward on agenda items supported by the majority of Americans is not divisive just because [Republican Sens.] Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson find it irksome,” per Pfeiffer.
Politico “Before President Joe Biden can tackle the pandemic, address the economic crisis or fulfill promises on infrastructure and climate change, he must first rebuild the federal agency at the center of it all. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is the nerve center of the White House, the department through which Biden’s fiscal and regulatory agenda must pass. But after Donald Trump, the workforce is demoralized, particularly after political leaders pushed to test boundaries at Trump’s behest.
… Biden will need to restore trust, reset norms and bolster the ranks at the budget office after Trump stripped civil servants of authority and worker protections while pushing a legally dubious agenda that many at the agency do not support, according to interviews with half a dozen current and former OMB officials. …“In the new president’s first three days in office, the Biden administration has given career staff back their power in overseeing federal spending and released more than $27 billion for critical services temporarily frozen by Trump’s recent request for spending cuts.”
Punchbowl ‘It was inevitable … New security recommendations from the U.S. Capitol Police following the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are already becoming fodder from pols in both parties. It’s likely to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Acting USCP Chief Yogananda Pittman … said in a statement released Thursday that the security around the Capitol needs to be dramatically beefed up — including “permanent fencing” – and that “back-up forces” should be quickly available to help respond to security threats. Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who ordered a security review by U.S. Army Lt. General Russel Honore — said the full review will be done by March 5.
STEPPED UP TRAVEL SECURITY The House Sergeant at Arms sent out new guidance about security for members of Congress traveling back and forth to D.C.
REPUBLICANS ARE UNDER INTENSE PRESSURE to acquit Donald Trump — whether they think he committed an impeachable offense or not. At this point, it’s all about self-preservation. When Mitch McConnel signaled the trial vote would be one of conscience for members — and that he wouldn’t be whipping the issue — he was, some would argue, giving Republicans room to break with the ex-president. But Senate sources tell us activists and typical Republican primary voters are pushing them in the opposite direction. Some donors fear if more than a handful of Republicans vote to convict, there is a real threat of a third-party MAGA uprising.
All but five Republican senators backed former president Donald Trump on Tuesday in a key test vote ahead of his impeachment trial, signaling that the proceedings are likely to end with Trump’s acquittal on the charge that he incited the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The vote also demonstrated the continued sway Trump holds over GOP officeholders, even after his exit from the White House under a historic cloud caused by his refusal to concede the November election and his unprecedented efforts to challenge the result.” (WaPo)
Trump’s trial is not scheduled to begin until Feb. 9, but senators were sworn in for the proceedings Tuesday, and they immediately voted on an objection raised by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) questioning the constitutional basis for the impeachment and removal of a former president.”
The U.S. economy shrank by 3.5% last year, the Commerce Department reported, with the country seeing both its largest quarterly GDP decline and its largest quarterly GDP increase in the second and third quarters, respectively.
Where it stands: The 3.5% decline is the worst year for the U.S. since at least the end of World War II, and the economy is more than $473 billion smaller than it was before the pandemic hit.”
Axios “The Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine prevented 100% of hospitalizations and deaths in clinical trials, the company said today. Why it matters: The single-dose vaccine could speed up the vaccinations of America’s vulnerable populations, as new variants spread. By the numbers: Overall: 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe COVID in nearly 44,000 participants in Phase 3 trials across eight countries. In the U.S.: 72% effective. In South Africa, home of a more aggressive variant: 57% effective.
What they’re saying: For mer CDC director Tom Frieden, “It has a lot of advantages, easier to store, easier to make.” Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb: “The J&J vaccine turns in a fantastic result. We now have three highly effective vaccines. This vaccine showed sustained (and increasing!) immune protection over time, perhaps from a robust early induction of memory immune cells (CD4 and CD8).”
SEND IN THE CAVLARY Politico “The Pentagon is considering sending active-duty troops to large, federally run coronavirus vaccine centers, a major departure for the department and the first significant sign that the Biden administration is moving to take more control of a program that states are struggling to manage. “The Federal Emergency Management Agency is hoping to set up roughly 100 vaccine sites nationwide as early as next month, and on Wednesday night requested that the Pentagon send help to support the effort. The sites, and the use of the military within them, would require the approval of state governments.” DISPARITY NPR: “Slightly more than 6% of American adults have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — but a disproportionately small number of them are Black and Hispanic people.”
School Reopening In 100 Days ‘May Not Happen’
– Dr. Anthony Fauci
AP: “Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit on Monday against Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani … The lawsuit seeks more than $1.3 billion in damages for the voting machine company … The suit is based on statements Giuliani made on Twitter, in conservative media and during legislative hearings … Dominion’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, is among the first major signs of fallout for the former president’s allies and the failed effort to subvert the 2020 election.
WaPo: “The Justice Department’s inspector general announced Monday that its office is opening an investigation into whether any current or former department official tried to improperly ‘alter the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election’ — a broad review that comes on the heels of a revelation that then-President Donald Trump considered replacing his acting attorney general with an official more amenable to his unfounded claims of voter fraud.”
I bet you thought I wouldn’t hit you with campaign news so soon. Well, joke’s on you (and us).
Center-right Sen. ROB PORTMAN (R-Ohio) announced Monday that he won’t run for reelection in 2022, citing Washington dysfunction as the reason. It’s expected to remain a safe seat for Republicans, who’ve been tightening their grip on Ohio for the past decade. Rep.JIM JORDAN TAKES A PASS Jordan…will not be running to fill the seat of retiring Senator Rob Portman,” a spokesman told Cleveland.com.
House Republicans And Trump
Remember when everyone thought Republicans were ready to ditch Donald Trump and move on as a party? Au contraire. They’re putting him center stage as they try to win back the House. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy met with Trump Thursday in Palm Beach — see the photo above with the museum-like ambience. Both sides issued statements touting Trump’s involvement in the GOP’s midterm campaign efforts.” The thinking in Trump world is that the GOP is likely to win back the House in 2022, and the president can help with fundraising. The House GOP is somewhat split over this, but the vast majority welcome his efforts.”
Trump Loyalists Want To Punish Liz. So?
Politico “What’s notable… is that Liz Cheney has shed her old reputation for living off her father’s name and ideas, and vaulted into her new status — brave truth-teller in a party dominated by craven Trump enablers — mainly by drawing on a family legacy: indifference to dissenting opinion. Liz Cheney surely knew there would be fierce backlash from within the House Republican caucus, where she is third-ranking leader, over her criticism of Trump and vote to impeach him. Her response, in essence, was: So? The House GOP leadership is beginning to brace for next Wednesday when the party will meet behind closed doors. There’s expected to be a very lively discussion over whether Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) should be ousted as the No. 3 ranking Republican. …This could shape up to be ugly. Really, really ugly.” (Punchbowl)
Congress is about to get in on probing what happened with trading platform Robinhood and the retail investor rush on GameStop. The House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee have both announced hearings on the trading mess of the last few days.
This is going to attract a ton of attention.
How Reddit*** Fueled Revolt
Small-fry investors’ battle against short sellers, who had bet against GameStop and AMC, shows what happens when Reddit culture spills into the real world. Reddit is a microcosm of mainstream internet culture — a massive clearinghouse populated mostly by young men with a vaguely anti-establishment bent. They’ve propelled a populist-progressive unity movement that’s rattling Wall Street.
Catch up quick: The run on troubled stocks with vintage appeal — first GameStop, then other 2000s mall staples like AMC, Nokia and BlackBerry — began with one man. Roaring Kitty, as he’s known on YouTube and Twitter, has been talking up GameStop stock since taking a long position in it a year ago, when he noticed it was among the most heavily shorted stocks on the market. The roughly $754,000 he ultimately put into GameStop is now worth tens of millions of dollars.
*** What is Reddit? Essentially, it’s a massive collection of forums where people can share news and content or comment on other people’s posts.
Axios Markets “Yesterday was one of the crazier days in the history of financial news. Robinhood, which has become synonymous with retail trading and the parabolic rise of stocks like GameStop and Tesla, shut down the ability of its users to buy (but not to sell) some of the platform’s most popular names. Where it stands: Robinhood became the top storyline throughout financial media and even a trending topic on Twitter. Disgruntled users, politicians, washed-up rappers and others accused the company of bowing to hedge fund pressure, turning against its retail clients and conspiring with regulators to stick it to the little guy.
At day’s end, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev told Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC: “It pains us to have had to impose these restrictions … I know how Clorox and Lysol felt [at the start of] the pandemic.” (REMINDER: Lysol … said its disinfectants should not be administered to humans, after President Trump said researchers should try putting disinfectant into coronavirus patients’ bodies.”)