YES, WASHINGTON HAS AVOIDED A GOVERNMENT shutdown. But the late-December and early-January doldrums we’re accustomed to still aren’t happening this year.
ALL OF THE SUDDEN, we’ve been launched into a week with a flurry of legislative activity with high stakes for both parties.
MONDAY NIGHT, President DONALD TRUMP suffered two relatively stunning defeats in the House.
— THE VAST MAJORITY OF REPUBLICANS voted against his request for $2,000 direct payments — 130 Republicans voted against it, while just 44 Republicans voted in favor. The bill passed with near uniform support from Democrats.
— THE HOUSE OVERWHELMINGLY VOTED TO OVERRIDE TRUMP’S veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, the Pentagon policy bill which the president rejected because it didn’t include language on social media policy. Yes, you read that right. The vote was 322-87.
NOW, THE ACTION shifts to the Senate.
— SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) told our BURGESS EVERETT that he will block consideration of the NDAA veto override until Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL schedules a vote on the $2,000 check bill. SANDERS could delay the NDAA override until Jan. 1, and keep the chamber in session over the weekend. MCCONNELL hoped to vote on the NDAA veto override on Wednesday.
— THE SENATE GOP LEADERSHIP has thus far shown little interest in the $2,000 check bill, and it’s not entirely clear to us — or them, for that matter — whether the bill would get the requisite 60 votes it needs to get through the chamber. Twelve Republicans would need to join with all Democrats. Sen. MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.) endorsed the bill. But senior Republicans were skeptical it would garner 12 of their members with such a paltry GOP vote in the House. But make no mistake, this is a really tough vote for Republicans.
1) Ignore SANDERS and force a New Year’s Day vote. But that does screw with Sens. KELLY LOEFFLER and DAVID PERDUE’s campaigning in Georgia.
2) Put up a vote on the $2,000 bill and see what happens. Maybe some Republican slows it down. Maybe it eventually passes, maybe not.
WATCH FOR MCCONNELL when he speaks as he opens the Senate today for clues on where all of this is going.
MURDOCH-WORLD TAKES ANOTHER WHACK AT TRUMP … WSJ ED BOARD: “Trump Gives Schumer an Assist: The President writes a $2,000 check to make Democrats the majority.”: “President Trump finally signed the Covid-19 relief bill and 2021 budget on Sunday night, but not before giving a big assist to Democratic hopes of gaining control of the Senate in the two runoff elections on Jan. 5. Current GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is left this week trying to undo the significant political damage. …
“Senate Republicans oppose the $2,000 for these sound reasons, but Mr. Trump has put them in a political spot. … Mr. Trump’s narcissism isn’t news. But if Republicans lose the two Georgia seats and their majority, Republicans across the country should know to thank Mr. Trump for their 2021 tax increase.”
UP NEXT — ON SUNDAY, Speaker NANCY PELOSI has to win a floor vote to regain the speakership for next Congress. Lawmakers must be present in Washington and on the House floor to vote for speaker — proxy votes are not accepted. Several Democrats have Covid, and several have been ill and unable to get to Washington. HEATHER CAYGLE scooped Monday that PELOSI told Democrats that her “opponent is Covid” in the speaker race. But she told reporters Monday that “I’m fine” — meaning she believes she’ll win.
Good Tuesday morning.
MARKETWATCH — “U.S. Stocks Finish at Records After Stimulus Bill Passage,” by WSJ’s Caitlin Ostroff and Akane Otani: “U.S. stocks climbed to records Monday after President Trump signed a Covid-19 aid bill, averting a government shutdown and ending uncertainty about the rollout of the spending package.
“The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 204.10 points, or 0.7%, to 30403.97. The S&P 500 advanced 32.30 points, or 0.9%, to 3735.36 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 94.69 points, or 0.7%, to 12899.42. All three indexes set new closing highs.” WSJ
NYT AND WAPO, ON TRUMP’S LAST FEW DAYS…
— NYT: “Trump’s Veto Threat Did Little to Alter Stimulus Package,” by Mike Shear and Catie Edmondson: “As an exercise in raw presidential power, it was a flop. As a political tactic, it backfired. And as a coda to his final weeks in office, President Trump’s threat to veto a $900 billion Covid relief and government funding bill merely underscored his tumultuous tenure in the Oval Office.”
— WAPO: “A day on the golf course helped change Trump’s mind on the stimulus bill,” by Mike DeBonis and Phil Rucker: “With other key Republicans waylaid, it fell to Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) to talk the president down. So Graham raced to Trump’s Florida golf club and worked the problem: What possible solution could assuage Trump without forcing Congress to reopen negotiations? ‘We’d hit a shot, take a phone call. Hit a shot, take a phone call. Hit a shot, talk about what’s a good deal,’ Graham said in an interview Monday. ‘It was a very intense Christmas Day.’ …
“Graham was far from alone. Republicans across Washington had blanched at Trump’s shocking threat to kill the coronavirus relief package — especially with the Georgia runoffs and the Senate majority hanging in the balance.
“Moments before Trump posted the Dec. 22 video threatening to torpedo the bill, he was on the phone with McCarthy — who was in a clinic in Bakersfield, Calif., minutes away from going under general anesthesia for surgery on an injured elbow. McCarthy spent the rest of the week at home with his arm in a cast, reminding Trump of the political wins he’d secured in the bill and searching for a way to address the president’s remaining concerns.”
MEANWHILE … THE CORONAVIRUS CONTINUES TO RAGE: 19.3 MILLION Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus … 334,963
BIG NEWS ON THE HILL … KYLE CHENEY: “Congressional staffers eligible to receive coronavirus vaccine”: “Congress’ attending physician informed lawmakers Monday night that two staffers in every House member and senator’s personal offices are now eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine. In addition, the Office of the Attending Physician is offering the vaccine to four staffers of every committee chair and every ranking committee member.
“The announcement, a memo from Brian Monahan to all congressional offices, emphasized that the first wave of staff vaccines is meant for ‘critical’ employees, those whose jobs are deemed essential for ‘continuity of operations,’ require physical presence or are likely to involve in-person interactions.
“‘Employees who occupy positions determined to make them eligible for the vaccine under these standards will be and/or have been notified of their status separately and provided with logistical information regarding the process for scheduling an appointment for the vaccination,’ Monahan said in the memo to lawmakers. He added, ‘We will continue to keep the House community informed of further supply of COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available on a wider scale.’”
— AP: “More COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline as US effort ramps up,” by Lauran Neergaard: “A huge U.S. study of another COVID-19 vaccine candidate got underway Monday as states continue to roll out scarce supplies of the first shots to a nation anxiously awaiting relief from the catastrophic outbreak.
“Public health experts say more options in addition to the two vaccines now being dispensed — one made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, the other by Moderna — are critical to amassing enough shots for the country and the world.
“The candidate made by Novavax Inc. is the fifth to reach final-stage testing in the United States. Some 30,000 volunteers are needed to prove if the shot — a different kind than its Pfizer and Moderna competitors — really works and is safe.”
THE TRANSITION — “Biden accuses Trump appointees of obstructing transition on national security issues,” by WaPo’s Amy Wang, Jenna Johnson and Dan Lamothe: “President-elect Joe Biden on Monday accused President Trump and his political appointees of obstructing the transition of power to his incoming administration, particularly in the national security sphere, an escalation in tone after reports of isolated difficulties in the transition process last week.
“Biden specifically called out the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department as agencies where his transition team had encountered ‘roadblocks’ from political leadership.
“‘Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,’ Biden said of the resistance his team was facing. He warned that such delays could allow enemies of the United States to take advantage of vulnerabilities, citing a recent massive cybersecurity breach that compromised several U.S. agencies.”
— “Biden builds out White House digital operation,” by CNN’S Dan Merica: “Rob Flaherty, who worked as the digital director of the Biden campaign, will assume the role of director of digital strategy in the White House, Jamie Lopez will work as director of platforms and Brendan Cohen, who previously served as the deputy director of editorial on the Biden campaign, will serve as the platform manager of the digital operation. They will be joined by Jonathan Hebert as video director and Carahna Magwood as creative director, both of whom held similar roles on the Biden campaign.”
IN GEORGIA … KYLE CHENEY and JOSH GERSTEIN: “Judge blocks voter purge in 2 Georgia counties”: “A federal judge in Georgia on Monday ordered two counties to reverse a decision removing more than 4,000 voters from the rolls ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff elections that will decide control of the U.S. Senate.
“The judge, Leslie Abrams Gardner — the sister of former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a prominent ally of President-elect Joe Biden who has led voter registration efforts across the state — concluded that the counties appeared to have improperly relied on unverified change-of-address data to invalidate registrations in the two counties.
“The bulk of the registrations that the counties sought to rescind, more than 4,000, were in Muscogee County, which Biden won handily in November. An additional 150 were from Ben Hill County, which Trump won by a wide margin.
“The suit, brought by national Democratic Party attorney Marc Elias’ group Democracy Forward, followed an effort to challenge the lengthy roster of voters simply because their registrations appeared to match U.S. Postal Service change-of address records. Voting officials in the two counties agreed to remove the voters, despite warnings from Democrats that such postal data is not a reliable or conclusive indicator that a voter has given up their local residence.”
TRUMP’S TUESDAY — The president has no public events on his schedule.
PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN will receive the President’s Daily Brief. He will also deliver remarks on the ongoing Covid-19 crisis in Wilmington, Del.
VICTORIA GUIDA: “Yellen’s looming headache: Treasury’s vanishing ranks”: “Janet Yellen, poised to become U.S. Treasury secretary, will be focused on preventing the collapse of the fragile economic recovery. Her first order of business will be making sure there are enough people at the department to help.
“Key divisions at Treasury have been hollowed out by attrition during the Trump administration under Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has sought to cut ‘wasteful spending,’ including on personnel he sees as superfluous. Between fiscal years 2016 and 2019, the department’s main offices — Domestic Finance, Economic Policy and International Affairs, among them — saw their staffing levels plunge by nearly a quarter as budgets were slashed.
“Yellen, if confirmed, would have a special urgency to replenish the Domestic Finance division, which functions as the nerve center for the department’s response to economic crises, overseeing grant programs, housing policy and financial markets. Its budget has been drained the most severely.
“‘The entire team that is going to be focused on a national recovery is the one that is hurt the most right out of the gate,’ said Kody Kinsley, who served as assistant Treasury secretary for management from 2016 to 2018. And hiring new career staff can take several months at least. ‘They’re not going to be able to hire up fast enough to consider the task ahead of them,’ Kinsley added. ‘They’re going to have to leverage the talent they have.’”
ON CHINA — “Biden’s nominees will face a China gauntlet,” by Nahal Toosi: “If you’re Antony Blinken, you know you’ll have to answer questions about America’s relationship with China during your Senate confirmation hearing to serve as secretary of State. But what if you’re President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of Education? Or his pick for assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity? Or the person he wants as general counsel at the Transportation department?
“Top lawmakers, Capitol Hill staffers and analysts expect Biden’s would-be team to face an unprecedented barrage of questions about how they plan to handle the Chinese government’s yawning ambitions — to the point where one expert called it a ‘China litmus test.’
“And because Beijing’s growing global clout touches so many different areas — from agricultural tariffs to the coronavirus pandemic to alleged Chinese spies on college campuses — senators are likely to raise the topic during hearings for positions that in the past may have seemed irrelevant.
“Among those who want China to get wide attention throughout the confirmation hearings is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a leading China skeptic who’s expected to chair the Senate Intelligence Committee in the next Congress.” POLITICO
— “Pushback on Xi’s Vision for China Spreads Beyond U.S.,” by WSJ’s Drew Hinshaw, Sha Hua and Laurence Norman
MEDIAWATCH — Today is David Greene’s last day as co-host of NPR’s “Morning Edition.”
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].
TRANSITIONS — Catherine Edmonson will be VP of government affairs at the consulting firm American Defense International. She most recently was an associate at Teneo and is a Henry Cuellar alum. … Cristina Alesci is joining Chobani as chief corporate affairs officer. She previously was a business and political correspondent at CNN. …
… Rep.-elect Scott Franklin (R-Fla.) is adding Michael Richards as deputy COS and legislative director and Patrice Smith as comms director. Richards previously was deputy COS for Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas). Smith previously was deputy press secretary for Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). …
… Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) is adding to the House Homeland Security Committee Daniel Kroese as staff director and Kyle Klein as deputy staff director. Kroese previously was acting deputy assistant director for the National Risk Management Center. Klein previously was staff director for the House Homeland Security Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee.
ENGAGED — Greg Stohr, Supreme Court reporter for Bloomberg News, and Kimberly Atkins, a senior opinion writer at the Boston Globe and MSNBC contributor, got engaged Wednesday at his house in D.C. They met in 2007 in the Supreme Court pressroom, but didn’t start dating until 2018. Pic … Another pic
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Reihan Salam, president of the Manhattan Institute. What he’s been reading: “William Voegeli’s ‘The Truth About White Flight’ offers a powerful corrective to some of the myths surrounding the suburban migration of the 1960s and 1970s — and a warning for cities that are now facing rising crime and disorder.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Del. Aumua Amata Radewagen (R-American Samoa) is 73 … Kate Sherman … NYT’s Katie Glueck and Katie Rogers … Jeremy Waldstreicher is 35 … Andrew Malcolm, chief of staff at Exelon … POLITICO’s Holly Otterbein and Grace Goodman … Edelman’s Alexander Romano … DHS’ Kyle Egan … Tom Dickens is 32 … Washington Examiner’s Grant Addison … Maria Randazzo, senior associate at Dewey Square Group, is 27 … Laura Friedel, staff director/GOP clerk on the Senate Approps Labor-HHS subcommittee … Jordan Langdon and Katie Pudwill, directors at Purple Strategies … Erica Ryan … Tom Jarriel is 86 … Eric Engleman …
… Blair Lyman Watters, senior director at InterDigital Communications … Leah Malone … Maddison Meeks, Republican Attorneys General Association finance coordinator, is 23 (h/t Kelly Laco) … Mike Siegel … Renée (Revetta) Rouse … Scott Keyes … Leo Wallach, principal at Rally … Kevin Griffis (h/t Ben Chang) … Kaiser Health News’ Rachel Bluth … Ashleigh Banfield is 53 … NBC News PR’s Claudia Meyer-Samargia … Boris Medzhibovsky … Rob Burgess … Kai Stinchcombe … David Koeppel … Caroline Ey … Gracie Brandsgard … Laura Clawson … George Caudill … Marie-Therese Dominguez … Mike Woicekowski (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … IOC President Thomas Bach … Kara Kostanich