This week, USA TODAY Politics focuses on the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, his remaining Cabinet picks and the final week of the current Congress.
Dates to watch:
- Jan. 3: New Congress is sworn in.
- Jan. 5: Senate runoff election in Georgia.
- Jan. 6: Congress will count and certify the electoral results in a joint session.
- Jan. 20: Inauguration of Biden, who will take the oath of office.
Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the transition.
McConnell introduces bill combining $2K stimulus checks with repealing Section 230, studying election fraud
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a proposal that combines increasing stimulus payments to $2,000 with contentious issues backed by the president that take on big tech companies and baseless claims of election fraud – greatly reducing the chances Congress will pass increased stimulus payments for struggling Americans.
The bill, which the Kentucky Republican introduced Tuesday afternoon, includes upping stimulus checks to $2,000 but also includes a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants certain legal protections for big tech companies, and would establish a commission to study election fraud after Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud. The commission would examine many of the baseless concerns Trump has raised since losing the election and would “make recommendations to Congress to improve the security, integrity, and administration of Federal elections,” the bill states.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer circulated copies of the bill, noting there was no way Democrats would support the legislation and it stood no chance of reaching Trump’s desk.
“If Sen. McConnell tries loading up the bipartisan House-passed CASH Act with unrelated, partisan provisions that will do absolutely nothing to help struggling families across the country, it will not pass the House and cannot become law – any move like this by Sen. McConnell would a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “Will Senate Republicans go along with Sen. McConnell’s cynical gambit or will they push him to give a vote on the standalone House-passed CASH Act?”
While McConnell introduced the proposal, it’s unclear when the measure might get a vote. It’s also unclear whether it will receive the backing of his conference, some of whom have voiced support for increasing stimulus payments to struggling Americans and had concerns about combining these issues together in one bill.
— Christal Hayes
U.S. Capitol physician says some staff will be able to get COVID vaccine
The U.S. Capitol’s chief doctor sent out a memo to members of Congress on Monday indicating some staff will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine, broadening the availability of the vaccine for continuity of government efforts.
Two staff members from each House lawmaker’s office and four from each committee – both Democratic and Republican – will be able to receive the vaccine, the memo states. The federal government has already made doses available for members of Congress, the executive branch and the Supreme Court. President-elect Joe Biden, along with his future Vice President Kamala Harris, also got the vaccine.
“The number of COVID19 vaccine doses provided to the Congress reflect a fraction of the first tranche of vaccines that have been distributed throughout the country,” Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician, wrote in the memo to members of Congress. “In addition to ongoing vaccination of Members of Congress, and consistent with the theme of helping to ensure the continuity of government and support the operations of the House, there is a limited supply of the vaccine available to House staff.”
Monahan said only staff whose job includes in-person interactions, requires them to be on-site at the U.S. Capitol and are involved with the “continuity of operations” would be eligible for the vaccine.
— Christal Hayes
Biden criticizes Trump administration’s vaccine distribution effort
President-elect Joe Biden urged Americans to “steel our spines” for surges in COVID-19 cases and deaths following the holiday season, and knocked President Donald Trump’s administration for “falling behind” on distributing the vaccine.
“The next few weeks and months are going to be very tough,” Biden said in an address from Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. “Maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic.”
Biden reiterated the key points of his plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic during his first 100 days in office, which includes the goal of administering 100 million doses of the vaccine, promoting mask-wearing and enforcing it where possible, and getting K-8 schools opened. He said he would propose a COVID package early next year that he will urge Congress to pass quickly to provide the funding required for those measures.
Biden said that the effort to vaccinate Americans will be a slower process than hoped, but he will endeavor to boost the speed of distribution and administration to 1 million doses per day to achieve his goal. He said the suggested timeline of Trump’s health officials has not been achieved.
“As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” Biden said.
The Trump administration had a target of 100 million doses produced by the year’s end back in September, and lowered that number to the 20 million estimated by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar earlier this month. So far, the numbers are far below expectations. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, acknowledged Tuesday that only a few million vaccinations have taken place thus far.
Coronavirus updates:US won’t come close to vaccinating 20M people by new year
Biden also urged Trump to unequivocally encourage Americans to wear masks and get the vaccine when it is available. Mask-wearing, Biden said, is “not a political statement, it’s a patriotic duty.”
“It’s not small what we’re asking of you,” he said, “but we’re in this together, and the actions we take now are going to help us contain the pandemic and get us back to our lives and to our loved ones.”
— Jeanine Santucci
McConnell blocks immediate action on $2K stimulus checks
All eyes are the U.S. Senate after the House passed two contentious measures that force Republicans into a difficult position, including whether to back President Donald Trump’s call to increase stimulus checks for Americans to $2,000 despite long-held objections to increased government spending.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blocked immediate approval of increasing the one-time payments from $600 to $2,000 Tuesday after a unanimous consent request by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Instead, the GOP leader outlined three priorities the president demanded Congress examine, linking the increased stimulus payments with Trump’s calls to repeal Section 230 that allows big tech companies legal immunity and an examination of election integrity after Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud after his defeat.
McConnell did not outline any timeline for when or if the chamber might take up increased stimulus payments or Trump’s other demands. The House on Monday passed a measure that raised the payments to $2,000 with bipartisan support. Forty-four House Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the measure as 130 rejected it.
Read the full story.
— Christal Hayes
Kamala Harris receives COVID-19 vaccine
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at United Medical Center in southeast Washington, D.C., Tuesday morning.
The couple received their first doses of the vaccine a little over a week after President-elect Joe Biden was vaccinated.
“That was easy! I barely felt it,” Harris exclaimed after being injected. The vice president-elect thanked the staff of United Medical Center for serving “a community that is often overlooked.” Harris later said she chose to be vaccinated in Southeast D.C., a majority-Black area of the city, to encourage “trust in the vaccine, in the people who work in your community every day.”
The vaccine was administered by nurse Patricia Cummings, the daughter of two Guyanese immigrants to the U.S.
“I want to encourage everyone to get the vaccine,” Harris said. “It is relatively painless and effective.”
Harris received the vaccine as the Trump administration’s rollout of vaccines across the country has lagged projections. Biden has pledged to make 100 million vaccines available in his first 100 days in office.
The incoming executives also received the vaccine amid a debate over whether public officials who were vaccinated were modeling good behavior or “cutting the line” ahead of groups who more needed the vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci had urged Biden and Harris to receive the vaccine for “security reasons.”
“This is about saving lives. I trust the science, and it is the scientists who created and approved this vaccine,” Harris emphasized. “This is about saving your life, the life of your family members and of your community.”
— Matthew Brown
Donald Trump lashes out at Senate Republicans: ‘They only know how to lose!’
President Donald Trump spent Tuesday morning attacking fellow Republicans as the GOP-run Senate prepares to rebuke him over COVID-19 relief checks to Americans, the defense authorization bill, and his repeated pleas to overturn his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden.
“Our leaders (not me, of course!) are pathetic,” Trump said during an angry tweetstorm. “They only know how to lose!”
Trump, who is spending the end of the year at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida, appeared to be responding to news reports that the GOP Senate will reject his calls for $2,000 stimulus checks and instead stick with already approved $600 checks.
Trump had threatened to veto a COVID stimulus bill over the the issue but signed it Sunday night while demanding that Congress pass new legislation for $2,000 checks. The Democratic-run House did, but the Republican Senate is not expected to follow suit.
“$2000 for our great people, not $600!” Trump tweeted.
Trump also referred to reports that the GOP Senate will join the House in overriding his veto of the National Defense Authorization Act. Trump had insisted that the bill include ending lawsuit protections for social media companies, but many Senate Republicans do not agree.
“A disgraceful act of cowardice and total submission by weak people to Big Tech,” Trump tweeted at one point. “Negotiate a better Bill, or get better leaders, NOW!”
Trump also protested the fact that the defense bill requires the Pentagon to change the names of military facilities named for Confederate generals.
Perhaps above all, Trump is angry with Senate Republican leaders because they will not support his call to overturn the election by refusing to count Biden electors in certain states.
Biden defeated Trump in the Electoral College, 306 to 232, and carried the popular vote by more than 7 million.
Election 2020:How Trump, Republicans have tried to overturn Joe Biden’s win
Congress is scheduled to count Electoral College votes – and certify Biden’s win – on Jan. 6.
During his Tuesday tirade, Trump tweeted: “Republican leadership only wants the path of least resistance.”
— David Jackson