The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta




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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 837,664; Tuesday, 839,500. 

The White House is staring down a two-pronged attack in the coming days as President BidenJoe BidenBiden coronavirus vaccine-or-test mandate goes into effect On the Money — Democrats grow less confident in Manchin Fed Vice Chair Clarida to resign over pandemic stock trades MORE prepares to address voting rights in Atlanta today and deliver a speech on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday. 


Biden and Vice President Harris are set to visit the epicenter of the political South this afternoon as part of the Democratic pressure campaign to alter Senate rules in order to pass two wide-ranging election reform and voting rights bills. The president, a longtime defender of the filibuster, is expected to throw his weight behind a proposed exception from the 60-vote threshold specifically for voting rights legislation. It’s a change for Biden and is opposed by Republicans (The New York Times).


“Tomorrow is an opportunity to speak about what the path forward looks like,” said White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiUS looks to ward off Ukraine conflict in talks with Russia Overnight Health Care — Insurance will soon cover COVID-19 tests Democrats face moment of truth in filibuster fight   MORE before confirming Biden’s pending call to change the rules in the upper chamber (Reuters).


The Hill: Biden to call expected Senate action on voting bills a “turning point.”


However, whether the chance of the concerted effort paying off in the form of legislative action remains slim to none. As The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo, that circumstance also raises the question of whether Democrats are setting themselves up for failure by playing the expectations game. While the Democratic base clamors for action on the topic, the inability to win over Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOn the Money — Democrats grow less confident in Manchin McConnell blocks simple majority votes on Dems’ voting rights bills Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaMcConnell blocks simple majority votes on Dems’ voting rights bills Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  Democrats face moment of truth in filibuster fight   MORE (D-Ariz.) — both of whom support the pair of proposals — to alter the 60-vote filibuster threshold could prove fateful in the long run. 


On Monday, Manchin indicated that he hasn’t seen anything to change his stance.


“Maybe someone is hiding something. They haven’t shown it to me,” the West Virginia centrist told CNN.


Compounding their issues, Sinema reiterated her unwillingness to change the filibuster at the Senate Democratic conference’s virtual lunch last week (The Washington Post). 


Politico: Dems filibuster conundrum: It’s not just Manchin and Sinema.


The speeches also come days as Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerClyburn on updating election law: ‘What is true today was not true then’ Biden eulogizes Reid as a fighter ‘for the America we all love’ Like it or not, all roads forward for Democrats go through Joe Manchin MORE (D-N.Y.) plans to hold a vote on the issue ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.


In response, Republicans are using Schumer’s push to scrap the 60-vote prerequisite to launch a counteroffensive. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell blocks simple majority votes on Dems’ voting rights bills Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster  Biden to ‘forcefully advocate’ for voting rights in Tuesday speech MORE (R-Ky.) laid out to The Wall Street Journal a list of legislative priorities Republicans would move on. Among them are proposals to block the IRS from implementing the Biden administration’s push for banks to collect information about customer accounts to the tax collecting service and to bar schools from using the available $164 billion in COVID-19 relief funds if they are not operating in person. 


Jordain Carney, The Hill: Democrats face moment of truth in filibuster fight.


The New York Times: Voting rights groups skipping Biden’s speech in Georgia over inaction. Stacey Abrams is also not expected to show up, citing a scheduling conflict. 


On the COVID-19 front, Biden is set to deliver another address on the topic on Thursday as cases explode across the nation from the omicron variant and laid out his plan for insurance to cover COVID-19 kits. 


The administration issued new rules requiring private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests starting on Saturday after weeks of test shortages that have plagued the administration. Insurers will be required to cover the cost of eight at-home COVID-19 tests per person each month. 





The announcement comes on the heels of mounting criticism from health experts to increase availability as testing locales across the country have been hit by long lines and pharmacies have quickly sold out of the rapid at-home tests (The Hill).


The variant has also wreaked havoc at the school level, with Chicago serving as ground zero. However, the Chicago Teachers Union reached a deal on Monday night to resume in-person instruction after a standoff between its leaders and city officials led to five days of canceled classes.


The deal still needs to be approved by the union of roughly 25,000 teachers and would put students back in the classroom starting on Wednesday. 


“We know this has been very difficult for students and families,” Chicago Mayor Lori LightfootLori LightfootOvernight Health Care — Insurance will soon cover COVID-19 tests Psaki: White House wants to see Chicago Public Schools open Chicago schools closed for fourth consecutive day MORE (D) said at a Monday press conference after days of criticizing the union. “No one wins when students are out of a place where they can learn the best and where they’re safest” (The Associated Press).


The Washington Post: The U.S. today is poised to break a 2021 record with more than 142,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.


Nathaniel Weixel, The Hill: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyCDC leader faces precarious political moment The Hill’s 12:30 Report: World braces for high-stakes US-Russia talks Sunday shows – Voting rights in the spotlight after Jan. 6 anniversary MORE, a physician and scientist, faces a precarious political moment. 


The Washington Post: CDC weighs recommending better masks against omicron variant. 


The Hill: Moderna CEO says omicron-specific booster trials will begin soon.





On Capitol Hill, three more lawmakers on Monday tested positive for the virus (The Hill). Reps. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoMace tests positive for COVID-19 a second time Two more House lawmakers test positive for COVID-19 West Virginia lawmaker slams GOP colleague over support for infrastructure law MORE (R-N.Y.), Nancy MaceNancy MaceMace tests positive for COVID-19 a second time 2021’s top political celebrity moments West Virginia lawmaker slams GOP colleague over support for infrastructure law MORE (R-S.C.) and Ben ClineBenjamin (Ben) Lee ClineMace tests positive for COVID-19 a second time Two more House lawmakers test positive for COVID-19 Proposed Virginia maps put rising-star House Democrats at risk MORE (R-Va.) all announced positive test results, with Mace doing so for the second time. All three members were vaccinated (The Hill). 


The Hill: Congress restores strict health protocols during omicron-fueled surge.


The Washington Post: Virginia declares a limited state of emergency aimed at helping hospitals in crisis.


The Associated Press: India starts booster shots for vulnerable amid omicron surge.  


ADMINISTRATION: After eight hours of talks in Geneva on Monday, the U.S. and Russia gained a better understanding of each nation’s respective worries when it comes to Moscow’s stance toward Ukraine, which prompted U.S. intelligence last year to warn of a potential Russian invasion this month (The Hill).


The United States came to today’s extraordinary meeting prepared to hear Russia’s security concerns and to share our own,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told reporters gathered in Switzerland. “Today was a discussion, a better understanding of each other and each other’s priorities and concerns.” 


The Associated Press: Lowered expectations, no signs of progress.


Russia repeated its pledge that despite a huge troop buildup along Ukraine’s border, there were no plans to attack. Russian officials said Monday’s talks had been professional, while both sides acknowledge they remain far apart (Bloomberg News).  


Moscow wants guarantees to halt NATO’s eastward expansion and even roll back the military alliance’s deployments in Eastern Europe, while Washington firmly rejects such demands.





> Health and Human Services: Secretary Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Health Care — Insurance will soon cover COVID-19 tests CDC leader faces precarious political moment Biden officials require insurers to cover eight at-home tests per month MORE instructed Medicare to reassess a premium increase contemplated this year to cover high costs of Biogen’s much-debated Alzheimer’s drug (The Associated Press).


> IRS: Tax filers should expect service delays during tax filing season, which begins on Jan. 24, the government advised on Monday (The Wall Street Journal).


> Immigration: The administration has expelled more than 12,000 Haitians from the United States since September while avoiding any major policy announcements regarding the disaster-wracked Caribbean nation. The U.S. policy of expulsions led to the resignation of former special envoy for Haiti Daniel Foote (The Hill).  


> Coined: The late poet and novelist Maya Angelou is the first Black woman to be featured by the Treasury Department on the quarter — commemoration through coinage — unveiled on Monday (The Hill). The U.S. Mint launched an American Women Quarters Program with the likeness of Angelou, who died in 2014. Her 1969 autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” was nominated for the National Book Award and made her a literary celebrity. In 1993, she read “On the Pulse of Morning,” a poem she wrote to mark the inauguration of former President Clinton. Former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHillicon Valley — Dems press privacy groups over kids’ safety Equilibrium/Sustainability — Fire calls infrastructural integrity into question Treasury rolls out quarters featuring Maya Angelou, first Black woman on the coin MORE awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.




CONGRESS: It’s no secret that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyMcCarthy says he’ll strip Dems of committee slots if GOP wins House Republicans’ true failure since the last election Sunday shows preview: Congress marks Jan. 6 anniversary; US, Russia to hold talks amid rising tensions MORE (Calif.), who covets the speakership in 2023, is intent on gathering support among colleagues, GOP donors and other powerful influencers, most prominently the former 45th president. In a video conversation reported on Monday, McCarthy delighted conservatives by promising to punish a trio of progressive lawmakers, should he get the chance next year. If given the authority, he said, he would strip Reps. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMcCarthy says he’ll strip Dems of committee slots if GOP wins House Should we expand the House of Representatives? The Founders thought so The Memo: Threats to democracy are stark one year after Jan. 6 MORE (D-Minn.), Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Health Care — Insurance will soon cover COVID-19 tests McCarthy says he’ll strip Dems of committee slots if GOP wins House Congressional Democrats press Biden to expand rapid COVID-19 testing MORE (D-Calif.) and Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellJudge questions Trump’s claim of ‘absolute immunity’ in Jan. 6 lawsuits McCarthy says he’ll strip Dems of committee slots if GOP wins House The Memo: Threats to democracy are stark one year after Jan. 6 MORE (D-Calif.) of key committee assignments (Breitbart). 


“The Democrats have created a new thing where they’re picking and choosing who can be on committees,” McCarthy said. “Never in the history [of Congress] have you had the majority tell the minority who can be on committee.” 


McCarthy detailed his criticisms of the three lawmakers during a long-form video special, taped in December in Washington. The GOP leader also hinted he might create a new committee to investigate China policies and the Chinese Communist Party if Republicans win a majority and he becomes Speaker.


Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRep. Perlmutter says he won’t seek reelection in November New York man charged with threatening to kill Trump Congressional action shows OSHA vaccine mandate is a bald-faced power grab MORE (D-Calif.) is not offering clues about whether this will be her final year in Congress, as many expect. The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis report that while a new generation of Democratic lawmakers is restless to send the old guard packing, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerBoebert, Clyde fined for defying House floor mask mandate Ex-McCarthy staffer: GOP leader’s strategy dictated by ‘most extreme’ wings of party Pelosi: It was ‘inexplicable’ why it took so long for National Guard to be activated on Jan. 6  MORE (Md.), who will be 83 in June, and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.), who will be 82 in July, have been reaching out to colleagues to gauge their support about hanging on, even if Pelosi retires.  


On Monday, Democratic Rep. Ed PerlmutterEdwin (Ed) George PerlmutterRep. Perlmutter says he won’t seek reelection in November Members of Congress not running for reelection in 2022 Congress to take up marijuana reform this spring MORE, 68, a Blue Dog representing Colorado in the House since his election in 2006, became the 26th incumbent in his caucus to announce he won’t seek reelection. “There comes a time when you pass the torch to the next generation of leaders. … Fortunately we have a strong group of leaders who are ready and able to take up that torch,” he said (The Hill).


Thirteen House Republicans to date have announced they will retire this cycle. Perlmutter’s decision follows Colorado’s new congressional maps, which cut the 7th District from a 15-point Democratic lean to just 6 points, according to FiveThirtyEight. Perlmutter, not seen as a break-glass sort of Democrat, has nevertheless publicly argued since 2016 that the House Democratic leadership needed fresh blood and new perspectives.





POLITICS: Former President TrumpDonald TrumpGeorgia prosecutor says decision on Trump election interference case likely coming soon Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Russia have face-to-face sit down Hillicon Valley — Dems press privacy groups over kids’ safety MORE stirred discord with another GOP lawmaker on Monday, directing his ire at Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsRounds doesn’t back down from Trump, who ‘lost the 2020 election’ Romney defends Rounds following Trump rebuke Trump rips GOP senator who called 2020 election ‘fair’ MORE (R-S.D.) after the conservative member said that Biden’s 2020 victory was fair and legitimate. 


In a Monday statement, Trump took aim at Rounds, calling him a “jerk” and vowing never to endorse him again after the remarks. Rounds, who previously served as South Dakota governor, is not up for reelection until 2026. 


Rounds did not take the criticism lying down and issued a statement reiterating his Sunday remarks, adding he was “disappointed but not surprised” by Trump’s reaction.


“However, the facts remain the same. I stand by my statement. The former president lost the 2020 election,” Rounds said. “If we’re being honest, there was no evidence of widespread fraud that would have altered the results of the election.” 


“As a Republican Party, our focus should be on what lies ahead, not what’s in the past. Elections are about growing support for your party, not further dividing it,” Rounds said. “Attacking Republicans certainly isn’t going to result in a winning formula. Neither is telling citizens not to vote. If we are going to win in 2022 and 2024, we have to move forward together.”





Trump’s battles on Monday were not limited to his barbs with Rounds, as a federal judge questioned his claims of “absolute immunity” in the face of three civil lawsuits accusing him of having a hand in the Capitol riot last year. 


U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta appeared skeptical of Trump’s argument during Monday’s hearing that the suits from Democratic lawmakers and U.S. Capitol Police officers should be tossed because presidential speech and actions while in office are wholly protected from civil action. 


“Is there anything the president could say while president of the United States that could subject him to civil suits?” said Mehta, an Obama appointee.


Jesse Binnall, a Trump attorney, said he could not think of an example that would fall outside of that immunity (The Hill). 


The New York Times: Former Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceJan. 6 panel fires back at Jordan over refusal to cooperate Jan. 6 chair says panel will move this month to ask Pence to testify Meadows asks Supreme Court for ‘prompt’ answer on Trump Jan. 6 lawsuit MORE and Jan. 6 committee engage in high-stakes dance over testimony.


The Hill: Search for 2024 convention sites ramps up in both parties.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 


How do we know Trump’s election fraud claims are bogus? Take a look at Pennsylvania, by Henry Olsen, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3Gen6vV 


The Federal Reserve needs to get a lot more hawkish, by Bill Dudley, contributor, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3HKpXg 


The House meets at 10 a.m.


The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Alan Davidson to be assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and information. … Schumer is the featured newsmaker for a livestream event at 7 p.m. EDT about voting rights hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Information and registration is HERE


The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will travel to Atlanta, where he and the vice president will lay a wreath at the crypt of MLK Jr., the late civil rights leader, and his wife, Coretta Scott King at 2:40 p.m. at the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Biden and Harris will visit Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was baptized, at 3 p.m. The president will speak at 3:50 p.m. about protecting voting rights while visiting the Atlanta University Center Consortium on the grounds of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College. Biden will return to the White House at 8:05 p.m.


The vice president while in Atlanta with Biden will deliver a speech this afternoon about protecting elections and the right to vote.


Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome PowellJerome PowellOn the Money — Democrats grow less confident in Manchin Fed Vice Chair Clarida to resign over pandemic stock trades As emerging markets’ economic prospects darken, US policymakers should pay attention MORE appears at 10 a.m. before the Senate Banking Committee for a confirmation hearing to serve a second term. Because of economists’ outspoken criticisms of Fed policy, Powell faces questions about rate and accommodation changes anticipated this year. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn the Money — Democrats grow less confident in Manchin Warren: Powell’s actions raise suspicions Fed may be hiding full scope of trading scandal Hillicon Valley — Progressives put pressure on Google MORE (D-Mass.), who opposes Powell’s nomination, said on Monday the Fed must disclose information about an ethics controversy (Reuters).


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.


INTERNATIONAL: North Korea fired what was believed on Tuesday to a ballistic missile, South Korea‘s military and the Japanese coast guard said. It’s the second apparent missile launch in less than a week. The United States and its allies condemned the latest launch by Pyongyang as a significant threat (Reuters). … European Union Parliament President David Sassoli, 65, died early today at an Italian hospital (The Associated Press). Sassoli contracted pneumonia in September caused by the legionella bacteria and was hospitalized on Dec. 26 with immune system problems. 


STATE WATCH: States are preparing for a revolution in the auto industry by setting aside billions of dollars in spending on infrastructure for electric vehicles — that is, when they’re not taxing those vehicles with additional fees to make up for lost gas tax revenue (The Hill). 


SPORTS: After a 42-year drought, the University of Georgia is once again national champions of college football after defeating the University of Alabama, 33-18, in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs cemented the victory with an interception return for a touchdown by Kelee Ringo with less than a minute left to play, handing them the elusive championship (ESPN). … The New York Yankees on Monday tapped Rachel Balkovec (pictured below) to become the manager of its Low A-affiliate Tampa Tarpons, making her the first female manager in affiliated professional baseball. Balkovec, 34, previously served as a hitting coach in the franchise’s rookie-level club and has held coaching positions across professional baseball for a decade (MLB.com).





And finally …  David Bennett, 57, was dying. He was ineligible for a human heart transplant. He had run out of life-saving options until doctors offered him a scientific longshot. They could transplant a pig heart into their patient with no guarantee the experiment would work.


Bennett seized the chance for the surgery Friday at the University of Maryland Medical Center, his son said, according to The Associated Press, and on Monday, his cardiac and transplant team said Bennett was doing well. The experimental surgery was approved by the Food and Drug Administration under emergency compassionate criteria.


The transplant of a genetically modified animal heart into an adult without immediate rejection represents tentative progress. In 1984, newborn Stephanie Fae Beauclair, known as Baby Fae, lived 21 days with a walnut-sized baboon heart after surgery in California. Prior attempts at such transplants — or xenotransplantation — failed largely because patients’ bodies rapidly rejected the animal organs.


“If this works, there will be an endless supply of these organs for patients who are suffering,” Muhammad Mohiuddin, surgeon and scientific director of the university’s animal-to-human transplant program, predicted. 




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