President Biden speaks at a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan on Friday. The House could pass a version of its $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief laws this week. Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images Hide caption
Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images
Joe Biden has been president for a month now.
To date, he has signed a record number of executive orders, reintroduced the United States into the Paris Climate Agreement, introduced a comprehensive immigration law, and laid the groundwork for its key COVID-19 relief laws. He’s also taken his lump when it comes to school reopening news.
The impeachment process against Trump has consumed much of the political oxygen in Washington, DC, but with that in the rearview mirror this week could mark a real turning point on the Biden agenda – despite Donald Trump’s first speech after the presidency on Sunday will appear.
Biden’s cabinet is also still being filled as the great Texas thaw begins outside Washington after a dangerous – and instructive – multi-day, rare freezing condition.
Here are six things we’re watching this week:
1. COVID-19 Relief Bill Movement
The country tops 500,000 deaths from COVID-19.
“It’s breathtaking,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, a medical advisor from Biden and director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. He called it “terrible”, “devastating” and “historic”. “People are going to talk about this in decades and decades and decades,” he observed gloomily.
Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion relief plan, which would send out another round of direct payments to skilled Americans and pay billions of dollars to state and local governments, could see a vote in the House of Representatives by the end of the week. Also, remember: the bill still has some hurdles to overcome in the Senate to see if its provisions are eligible for a budget vote as Republicans are not on board and consider it too costly.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., swears the bill is “on track” by March 14, the date that extended unemployment benefits expire on Biden’s desk. “We will meet this deadline,” he said in a letter to colleagues on Friday.
2. Schools – reopening or not reopening is not really the question
Americans have very different views about reopening schools. About two-thirds of U.S. students are already given some personal options, but the Biden administration has made an effort to be clear and consistent about when and how all schools should open.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Policy is that schools can reopen without all teachers being vaccinated. Biden’s White House has said teachers should be a vaccine priority as it seeks to walk a tightrope between science and teacher unions, a key democratic constituency. But that’s a wrong debate.
The leaders of the largest teacher unions claim to adhere to CDC guidelines. And while vaccinations are important for teachers, they rate access to personal protective equipment, limited class sizes, and regular cleanings as more necessary.
But these things cost money. The same Republicans who criticize Biden for not advocating full-time schools reopening are not on board his COVID-19 relief plan, which is providing $ 130 billion to schools because it’s too expensive and because there is still money left over from past relief efforts.
3. Texas is thawing as the political spotlight warms up
Thousands line up Sunday to get food and water at a mass distribution location at NRG Stadium for Houston residents who still have no running water or electricity after last week’s winter storm. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images Hide caption
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Aside from the coronavirus pandemic and the school reopening, the biggest story outside of Washington was the freezing in Texas. Texans will finally have more seasonal weather this week, but the impact is far from over in the short and long term.
People are still waiting in long lines for water; Pipes are broken and need to be repaired. and the loss of electricity and heat for millions resulted in the deaths of more than two dozen in the state. There are heartbreaking stories including those of an 11-year-old boy who died of hypothermia in a motor home, a 75-year-old man who died taking oxygen from his truck, and another who is believed to have frozen to death in his trailer Lie next to his wife.
The Texan energy company’s nearly 100-year-old decision not to be part of the US electricity grid to avoid federal regulation is now under scrutiny, as is the latest decision by Republican officials not to regulate and mandate the wintering of energy plants. Congressional Democrats say it might be time to plug Texas into national electricity, but Republicans think that’s the wrong move.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott described the lack of preparation as “outrageous,” but some point at Abbott and his predecessor Rick Perry for allegedly putting profit before willingness. Abbott also went back to initial comments that renewable energy sources were to blame – when natural gas was the main problem.
Abbott stands for re-election in 2022, and while he’s still the favorite to win, the way he deals with this crisis is likely to affect his fate. And Senator Ted Cruz, back from Mexico, is lucky that he cannot be re-elected until 2024.
Cruz was absolutely toasted by late night comedians for his overnight outing.
It is noteworthy, however, that the governors of the country’s four most populous states – led by Republicans and Democrats alike – have struggled to cope with natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.
4. Merrick Garland is finally getting a hearing
Nearly five years after former President Barack Obama appointed Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Garland will receive a confirmation hearing as Attorney General von Biden on Monday and Tuesday.
Republican Senate Chairman Mitch McConnell declined to hold a hearing for Garland, a judge on the US Court of Appeals in DC, back in 2016 when he was Obama’s choice to replace the late Judge Antonin Scalia. McConnell said he blocked Garland’s nomination because Scalia’s death happened during a presidential election year.
However, four years later, McConnell made a U-turn, beating Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to replace liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death – on a shorter schedule and in a different election year.
5. What about the rest of the cabinet?
Filling out Biden’s cabinet was a slow step. Only seven of his cabinet-level posts, which require Senate confirmation, have been created.
Xavier Becerra, Biden’s election as health minister, testified Tuesday but his nomination is controversial. Republicans don’t like that. As California’s attorney general, he filed more than 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration. He also has no medical background and Republicans consider him too liberal.
Home Secretary Deb Haaland’s confirmation hearing will also take place on Tuesday. She would be the first Native American to head the department, but is expected to be questioned harshly by Republicans. That’s because she is against new state oil and gas well leases, which is in line with Biden’s views.
We’re also watching what happens to Neera Tanden, Biden’s election as budget director. Conservative Democrat Joe Manchin said he would oppose her nomination for making “openly partisan” statements and tweets. And while the Biden administration says it will stick with it in the hopes that at least one Republican will vote for it, there are reportedly behind the scenes preparations to replace it.
The Democrats hope to fill more of Biden’s cabinet in a short time. Schumer expects Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be confirmed as UN ambassador this week, for example. Several other candidates have since been reported from their respective committees and are standing for a full Senate vote, the majority leader added.
6. Trump returns
Just when you thought he was out, Trump immediately steps in again. The former president will make his first major speech since leaving the White House at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday.
These events are usually an opportunity to see who the rising stars of a party will be – and who the party will turn to to lead them in the next cycle of presidential elections. But all eyes will be on Trump. He has questioned the possibility that he will run again, which freezes the rest of the potential Republican field very much.
Will Trump try to settle the numbers of the Republican establishment and those who voted for his impeachment, or will his speech be about how to beat Democrats and make distinctions with Biden? In particular, consider immigration as a potential focus. It’s always been an invigorating topic for Trump and his grassroots, and Biden’s new legislative plan is fresh food for Trump.