Biden focuses on health care

46 min ago

Senator reads Capitol Police injuries from Jan. 6 attack into the record ahead of Trump’s impeachment trial

From CNN’s Ali Zaslav

In a floor speech Thursday, Sen. Majority Whip Dick Durbin read the horrific injuries of United States Capitol Police officers sustained during the Jan. 6 attack into the record ahead of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial next month. 

“Some of my colleagues and many people on their side are saying we shouldn’t spend time talking about what happened January 6… it’s hard to get over it when you consider the facts that I just read into the record,” he said. 

The Illinois Democrat read a piece by Heather Cox Richardson, a historian, who quoted testimony from the Acting US Capitol Police Chief discussing the reports of injuries from the attack into the record. He said:

“She reminded us in her column this morning about what happened here in this capitol building just three weeks ago on January 6. Let me read what she said: ‘In testimony yesterday, the Acting Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington told the house Appropriations Committee that at least 65 officers filed reports of injury after the January 6 attack. The Chair of the Capitol Police Officers Union put the number closer to 140. I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack and have sustained brain injuries. One officer had two cracked ribs, two had smashed spinal disks. One officer is going to lose his eye, another was stabbed with a metal fence stake. He said one officer died of injuries sustained on January the 6 and two officers have since taken their own lives.”

He continued, “I hope it’s part of the record of this impeachment hearing so that this generation and future generations will have no doubt what happened that day. Already we have those who are in denial, who are arguing that this was really some far-left group that was taking over the demonstration. A ludicrous argument on its face. And we have many who are in complete denial that it happened or that it had anything to do with right-wing politics. They are wrong. We saw it. We recorded it. We’re going to put it in as part of the record so that America knows what happened on that day.”

Durbin said he doesn’t know what the outcome of the trial will be, but he believes “it’s an important milestone in America’s history for us to stop and recount what actually happened in this building on January 6.” 

48 min ago

Pelosi on Biden’s stimulus plan: “We will pass a reconciliation bill, if we need it”

From CNN’s Clare Foran, Kristin Wilson and Manu Raju

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said House Democrats are getting ready for the potential use of reconciliation if they cannot get bipartisan support on Biden’s Covid-19 economic rescue package. “We will pass a reconciliation bill, if we need it,” she said at her weekly news conference, adding “we’re not taking any tools off the table.” 

“I’m very proud of our committees who have been diligently working on coronavirus relief legislation as a basis for reconciliation should that be needed. We will pass a reconciliation bill … we will pass a reconciliation bill, if we need it. We would hope that we would have bipartisan cooperation to meet the needs of the American people,” Pelosi said. “We would hope that but we’re not taking any tools off the table should they not.”

Pelosi’s comments come as Democrats are signaling they don’t plan to wait very long to get buy-in on the plan from Republicans and as a number of Republicans have balked at Biden’s proposal. 

About reconciliation: This is a process that requires the House and Senate Budget committees to first pass a budget with specific instructions to House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees to write a Covid relief bill. The Senate would then have to pass that budget with 51 votes, but when they do that it will unlock a lengthy budget vote-a-rama in the Senate that will keep us up through the night as members offer hundreds of political amendments.

Once the budget passes the House and Senate, each committee writes their Covid relief bill. And that bill will have to meet a very specific set of criteria that will be tested by the Senate parliamentarian in a process we affectionately refer to as a “Byrd bath.” It’s named after former Sen. Robert Byrd, who established a set of rules reconciliation bills have to comply with in order to make sure the budget process wasn’t taken advantage of by the majority party. There

You can read more about the process here.


1 hr 11 min ago

50 House progressives send letter to Biden asking for reoccurring Covid relief cash payments

From CNN’s Annie Grayer and Daniella Diaz

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, led a group of 50 House progressives in sending a letter to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris asking them to prioritize reoccurring direct checks in the next Covid-19 relief package, instead of just a one-time payment.

“We kindly request that your incoming administration consider including support for recurring cash payments in your future economic relief plans. Recurring payments would provide a long- term lifeline to struggling Americans for the duration of this deadly pandemic,” the letter reads.

Politico was first to report the letter.

Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion Covid-relief plan, billed as the American Rescue Plan. It includes bigger stimulus checks, more aid for the unemployed, the hungry and those facing eviction and additional support for small businesses, states and local governments.

You can read more about the plan here.

1 hr 16 min ago

Here’s how the Biden administration plans to reopen Affordable Care Act enrollment

From CNN’s DJ Judd and Betsy Klein

Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

In a call Thursday, a Biden White House official touted today’s executive actions on health care, telling reporters, “In basic teams, what that means is that starting in just two weeks, will be open for consumers to come in submit an application and select a health insurance plan.”

Biden is slated to reopen enrollment on the federal Affordable Care Act exchanges today as part of a series of executive actions related to health care that he will sign at a 1:30 p.m. ET.

“We’re in the middle of a global pandemic,” the official told reporters, “and we want to make sure that people who want health insurance can get it.” 

On outreach, the administration told reporters that while “we do not have a specific enrollment projection at this time…there are millions of uninsured people who can benefit from coverage through the ACA.” 

Criticizing the former administration, which tried and failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act before slashing funding for outreach efforts, the official told reporters, “it’s certainly the case that enrollment over the last four years has not been backed by the same sort of outreach efforts that would help people become informed about their options, so we are really looking to reach people who, who have been eligible all along, but may not have been aware of the opportunity to sign up for coverage.”

On efforts to reduce premiums, the official pointed to “actions by the Trump administration, in the in the last four years that had the effect of increasing premiums for folks who are who are buying coverage,” noting that while some actions would require legislation, reversing Trump’s actions could be “part of the agency’s review of policies and practices that undermine the Affordable Care Act… which could result in premium savings for families.”

The official also dismissed concerns that any action on health care would be delayed until the confirmation of Xavier Becerra as Health and Human Services Secretary, telling reporters, “the President expects the Senate to act quickly on his nominees but there is, there’s a lot of work that the agency is going to get started on right away.”

2 hr ago

Senate holds confirmation hearings for two more Biden nominees

From CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Kate Sullivan and Dan Merica 

Getty Images
Getty Images

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee is holding a hearing now to examine the nominations of Marcia Fudge to be secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Cecilia Rouse to be chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Fudge has represented Ohio’s 11th Congressional District since 2008. The congresswoman served on a number of committees, including the House Administration, Agriculture, and Education and Labor committees. She previously chaired the Congressional Black Caucus. In 2018, Fudge publicly weighed a bid against Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House, but ultimately threw her support behind Pelosi, who won reelection.

Fudge made history as the first woman and first African American to be elected mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio. She served as mayor from 2000 to 2008. She began her career in the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

Rouse, meanwhile, would be the first woman of color to chair the Council of Economic Advisers if confirmed by the Senate. She served on the council during the Obama administration.

Here’s a look at Biden’s Cabinet nominees confirmed so far.

1 hr 59 min ago

The White House focused on climate change yesterday. Here’s a recap of the orders Biden signed. 

From CNN’s Paul LeBlanc

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Joe Biden on Wednesday continued his executive action blitz with a package of orders aimed at addressing the climate crisis along with a new memorandum on scientific integrity.

“Today is climate day at the White House, which means that today is jobs day at the White House,” Biden told reporters as he sought to tie his environmental push to American job creation.

Here’s the executive action Biden took Wednesday and what each item does:

“Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad:” This order seeks to cement the climate crisis at the center of US foreign policy and national security. Most notably, it directs the secretary of the interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters.

The order also:

  • Instructs Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to prepare a national intelligence estimate on the security implications of the climate crisis and directs all agencies to develop strategies for integrating climate considerations into their international work.
  • Establishes the National Climate Task Force, assembling leaders from across 21 federal agencies and departments.
  • Commits to environmental justice and new, clean infrastructure projects.
  • Kicks off development of emissions reduction target.
  • Establishes the special presidential envoy for climate on the National Security Council.

“Executive Order on Establishing President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology”: This order reestablishes the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Moving forward, the council will advise Biden on policy that affects science, technology, and innovation.

Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity: This memorandum charges the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy with the responsibility of ensuring scientific integrity across federal agencies Agencies that oversee, direct or fund research are tasked with designating a senior agency employee as chief science officer to ensure agency research programs are scientifically and technologically well founded.

Read more about the actions here.

2 hr 55 min ago

Top House Republican will visit Trump today as Senate prepares for impeachment trial 

From CNN’s Ryan Nobles, Daniella Diaz, Lauren Fox and Jamie Gangel

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Susan Walsh/AP

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had an important decision to make — stick with former President Trump and his loyalists in the Freedom Caucus, or side with more establishment House Republicans who want to take the party back.

The answer became clear when instead of calling Trump, as he often did when Trump was president, he is now set to visit with Trump in Florida on Thursday. The meeting was initiated by McCarthy, a person familiar with the meeting said, and is part of an effort to get back into the good graces of the former president.

McCarthy was in Florida on Wednesday, where he was fundraising, as the House is out this week. The news of the meeting was first reported by Punchbowl News.

Some context: Despite political pressure from some in the GOP that the party must move on from Trump, McCarthy is eyeing what will win him back the House and possibly catapult him to the speakership. Sources told CNN he is eager to realign himself with Trump after corporate donors — including American Express, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Commerce Bank, Dow and Marriott — have suspended PAC donations to members of Congress who objected to certifying the election for Joe Biden.

Politically, sources have told CNN that McCarthy is caught between Trump’s fervent supporters in the party and the GOP conference members who think the attack on the Capitol was sedition, including the 10 House Republicans — such as GOP conference chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming — who voted to support Trump’s second impeachment.

2 hr 57 min ago

Another 847,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits in Biden’s first week as President 

From CNN’s David Goldman and Tami Luhby

America’s unemployment crisis is now President Biden’s problem, and jobless claims in his (partial) first week as president show how far the economy has to go to get back to normal.

Another 847,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Department of Labor. It was the only decrease from the 914,000 claims in the week before.

On top of that, 426,856 workers filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a program designed to provide aid to those not eligible for regular state benefits, such as gig workers. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims are not adjusted for seasonal swings.

Together, first-time claims stood at 1.3 million without seasonal adjustments.

Continued jobless claims, which count workers who have applied for benefits at least two weeks in a row, fell slightly to 4.8 million.

Biden signed executive orders last week that will further augment food benefits, ensure more eligible Americans get their stimulus payments, provide protections for federal workers, and extend housing and student loan payment relief.

But Biden is pushing Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion package with even more funding for those measures — including $1,400 in additional stimulus cash — as well as other provisions to help needy Americans. Some Democrats want his package to be even more generous, while Republicans are balking at the increased spending. It’s not clear when a deal might get done or what a final version will look like.

3 hr 39 min ago

Biden likely to take executive actions on immigration next week instead of tomorrow

From CNN’s Kaitlan Collins

President Joe Biden signing executives orders in the State Dining Room of the White House on January 26, 2021 in Washington, DC. 
President Joe Biden signing executives orders in the State Dining Room of the White House on January 26, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

Though White House officials discussed having President Biden sign a round of immigration-related executive orders tomorrow, it now appears likely those will be pushed until next week, two officials told CNN.

Biden has signed executive orders related to his agenda nearly every day since taking office and will do so again Thursday on health care.

According to a calendar draft that was circulating this week, Biden was expected to take executive actions on immigration as soon as Friday, including signing executive orders that would address root causes of migration from Central America and rescind Trump-era policies. Biden is also expected to create a task force reuniting families that were separated at the US-Mexico border.

While it was never officially announced, those actions are now expected to happen next week, an official told CNN.

This comes as Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took the procedural steps necessary to overcome a GOP filibuster Wednesday after Senate Republicans had stalled confirmation for Biden’s pick to run the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas.

The department has been without a confirmed secretary for almost two years now after Trump pushed out Kirstjen Nielsen in 2019.

Democrats pushed to have Mayorkas confirmed quickly, but Sen. John Cornyn and other Senate Republicans argued he had not been properly vetted on immigration issues.