What Now?! – December 10, 2020

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Chuck Schumer late Tuesday rejected a Trump-backed $916 billion coronavirus relief proposal that was offered by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin,” NBC News reports.

“In a joint statement, Schumer and Pelosi described it as progress that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed the cost of the package, but they signaled that the proposal was obstructing bipartisan negotiations already underway among lawmakers. The Democratic leaders also made clear that the reduction in unemployment benefits from what’s on the table is something they could never support.”

Playbook: There are just 9 days until Dec. 18 — when Congress wants to leave for the year. Isn’t it time to wrap up the bipartisan talks — which have not produced legislative text yet! — use what they’ve done as a menu from which the leadership can choose and put Pelosi and McConnell at the table to negotiate? Time is running out. People need help.”

“Democratic leaders are rejecting GOP offers on coronavirus relief, pointing to ongoing bipartisan talks as the best way forward. But behind the scenes, the Senate Republican majority is increasingly skeptical of those efforts,” Politico reports.

“After a flurry of momentum over the last week, the stimulus talks are back to where they’ve been for months: nowhere. Congressional leaders have retreated to their corners, blaming each other for inaction as the economy stumbles and the U.S. nears 300,000 dead from the virus. Time is running short in the lame duck, with as few as nine days for Congress to deliver much-needed relief.”

President Trump asked the Supreme Court to block millions of votes from four battleground states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden, CNN reports.

“The President is being represented by a new attorney, John Eastman, who is known for recently pushing a racist conspiracy theory that claimed Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was not eligible for the role because her parents were immigrants.”

CNBC reports that 17 states that were won by Trump also support the effort.

Daily Kos: “Seventeen American states, all run by Republicans, have decided to join Texas in its seditious and frivolous quest to have the U.S. Supreme Court throw out the votes of 81,282,896 citizens and declare Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 election. Those states: Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.

“For weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain has played an extreme version of hardball over Brexit, threatening to break international law and renege on a treaty he signed with the European Union if it fails to strike a new trade agreement with him soon,” the New York Times reports.

“On Tuesday, though, Mr. Johnson dropped that threat, raising hopes that a more diplomatic approach could yield a breakthrough in cliff-edge trade talks planned for Wednesday with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body.”

“The UK government has broken ranks with the EU by disclosing plans to suspend punitive tariffs against the US over aircraft subsidies, in an attempt to pave the way for a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington,” the Financial Times reports.

Associated Press: “Deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, matching the frightening peak reached last April, and cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record, with the crisis all but certain to get worse because of the fallout from Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.”

“Virtually every state is reporting surges just as a vaccine appears days away from getting the go-ahead in the U.S.”

“The U.S. is facing a new wave of Covid-19 outbreaks straining hospitals, workers, businesses, and schools,” NBC News reports. “In this, the country is not alone: Wealthy nations across Europe are facing a major surge in new infections too, as is Canada. But unlike their economic peers, elected leaders in the U.S. have left citizens to face the current crisis without any additional financial cushion from their government.”

Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index: “Growing dread and acceptance of the winter ahead is weighing on Americans’ physical and mental health and raising fears about debt and job security.”

Politico: “The United States could be heading for a vaccine cliff this spring, with shortages forcing hundreds of millions of Americans to wait for shots amid intense global competition for limited doses.”

“The Trump administration has bought 100 million doses each of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, but the U.S. is unlikely to get additional doses anytime soon because of strong international demand. And both vaccines require two doses per person, effectively halving the already scarce supply.”

ITV News: Two people who had Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday had allergic reactions.

New York Times: “One president all but declared victory over the pandemic, hailing new vaccines as a ‘medical miracle’ and congratulating himself for doing what ‘nobody has ever seen before.’ The next president declared the pandemic deadlier than ever, calling it a ‘mass casualty’ event that is leaving ‘a gaping hole’ in America with more misery to come.”

“Rarely has there been a single hour on a single day that saw such discordant messages emanating from Washington in a time of national crisis. In the middle of a transition of power that has already proved more unsettling than any in more than a century, the departing and incoming presidents on Tuesday offered the American people vastly divergent assessments of the state of their union.”

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who serves on Pfizer’s board, confirmed to CNBC that the White House rejected an offer to lock in additional doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

Said Gottleib: “Pfizer did offer an additional allotment coming out of that plan — basically the second-quarter allotment — to the United States government multiple times and as recently as after the interim data came out and we knew this vaccine looked to be effective.”

Here are the deadliest days in American history:

  • Galveston Hurricane – 8,000
  • Battle of Antietam – 3,675
  • Battle of Gettysburg – 3,155
  • September 11 – 2,977
  • Last Thursday – 2,861
  • Last Wednesday – 2,762
  • Last Tuesday – 2,461
  • Last Friday – 2,403
  • Pearl Harbor – 2,403

Former FDA Commission Scott Gottleib told CBS News the U.S. could reach nearly 4,000 deaths per day from the pandemic in January.

“President-elect Joe Biden is considering a high-profile ambassadorship for Pete Buttigieg, possibly sending him to China,” Axios reports. “China isn’t the only foreign post where Buttigieg, a polyglot, could end up — and his name remains under discussion for some domestic leadership positions as well.”

New York Times: “Michèle A. Flournoy, an experienced military policymaker and mentor to scores of women in national security, may now be remembered as the first female secretary of defense who wasn’t. Three times.”

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Reuters that he will not join the administration of President-elect Joe Biden.  Johnson was in the running for several Cabinet positions, including secretary of defense and attorney general.

Politico: “Chris Coons was in the final two when it came to Joe Biden’s search for a secretary of State. But the president-elect had a simple message when he broke the news that the job would instead go to Tony Blinken.”  Said Biden: “I need you in the Senate.”

“The next president is telling that to lots of Democrats these days as he tries to staff his Cabinet. But in the Biden era, Coons may actually be the most critical individual Democrat on Capitol Hill — Biden truly needs his help to have any chance at accomplishment in a narrowly divided Congress.”

“As the Taliban and the United States were finalizing their February deal, Taliban leaders were in frequent communication with al-Qaeda, consulting with their counterparts on the terms of the agreement and assuring them that they would not be betrayed,” the Washington Post reports.

“The active coordination between the two groups has continued to this day, despite the Taliban’s commitment to sever ties as a condition of the peace deal.”

President-elect Joe Biden will likely start with a “skeleton staff” in the West Wing to keep him healthy after the Trump administration’s cavalier approach to the coronavirus, Axios reports.

“The incoming president, at 78, is in a high-risk group and already careful to mask up. President Trump and numerous staffers have flouted safety protocols and caught COVID-19, meaning there will have to be some sort of deep cleaning for the White House residence and offices before the new team moves in.”

“It’s not just the White House flouting pandemic rules to mark this town’s schmooziest season. Some corners of the GOP, including members of Congress, are refusing to let the coronavirus intrude on their holiday gatherings and in-person fundraisers — whether it’s on the slopes of Utah or in the steakhouses of Washington,” Politico reports.

“Meanwhile, discussions are underway about holding the Conservative Political Action Conference — a massive, yearly affair — in person early next year, according to multiple sources. The event planning comes as the nation is battered by another brutal surge in coronavirus cases, prompting a fresh round of warnings from public health experts to hunker down and avoid group settings, particularly indoors. And it underscores the resistance by many in the GOP, led by President Donald Trump, to adjust to the new normal of the pandemic.”

After years of dominance in cable ratings by Fox News, CNN in the past few weeks has pulled ahead consistently for the first time since 9/11, the AP reports.

Axios: “President Trump’s election loss has upended America’s news landscape, cementing a parallel universe on the right where even Fox News isn’t Trumpy enough for millions of his diehards.”

“The coming diffusion of news across many easily-accessible streaming channels will likely cause Americans to become even further entrenched in their own, partisan filter bubbles. This could lead to the most profound change in news consumption that America has seen in decades.”

Newsmax TV has notched a ratings win over Fox News Channel for the very first time, CNN reports.

“The win, fueled by conservative viewers who are disappointed by the election results, happened Monday evening. In the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic prized by advertisers, ‘Greg Kelly Reports’ on Newsmax out-rated ‘The Story with Martha MacCallum’ on Fox.”

“China is increasingly flouting international sanctions on North Korea and is no longer trying to hide some of its smuggling activity as it seeks to help Pyongyang endure the Trump administration’s pressure campaign,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The illicit trade between China and North Korea presents a particular challenge for the incoming Biden administration.”

“The House on Tuesday passed a bipartisan $741 billion defense authorization bill by a sizeable veto-proof majority, throwing down the first of two expected gauntlets before President Trump, who has escalated his threat to scuttle the legislation,” the Washington Post reports.

“The 335 to 78 vote represents a bigger margin of victory for the bill than the House mustered for an earlier version of the legislation this summer. House leaders credit the increased support to changes that were made during a months-long negotiation process between the Senate and House, despite Trump’s exhortations to House Republicans to vote against the bill.”

New York Times: “It also amounted to a remarkable break from the president by Republicans, who refused to defer to Mr. Trump’s desire to derail the critical bill as his time in the White House comes to a close.”

Politico: “Trump’s grip over his party has never been seriously challenged in the Congress, despite four years of hand-wringing over his erratic foreign policy, hard-line tariff regime and scattershot approach to legislation. Trump hasn’t had a single veto overridden, with Republicans loath to directly confront such a wildly popular figure among the GOP base, though they have tanked some of his nominees and tried to influence him behind the scenes.”

“But now at the ebb of his power and in the waning days of his presidency, Trump has met his match in defense hawks and the annual defense bill. It has passed 59 years in a row, and even loyal Trump supporters are looking past his Twitter attacks and plotting a rebellion against a president who often seeks vengeance against those who break with him. And they’re acting like it’s no big deal.”

“The Trump administration is working to rally support in the Senate for its controversial high-dollar arms sale to the United Arab Emirates ahead of a vote to block that transfer,” CNN reports.

“Senators of both parties have voiced various concerns about the sale — including the speed at which it is being pursued and its potential impact on human rights and broader regional security — and whether Congress was properly involved in the process.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) — who is currently pursuing a civil investigation against President Trump, while Manhattan’s district attorney has a criminal investigation ongoing — told The View that she believes Trump will take a preemptive measure to try to cut off future federal charges.

Said James: “The vast majority of legal scholars have indicated that he cannot pardon himself. What he could do is step down and allow Vice President Pence, to pardon him. I suspect that he will pardon his family members, his children, his son-in-law, and individuals in his administration as well as some of his close associates. And then I suspect, at some point in time, he will step down and allow the vice president to pardon him.”

James Fallows: “As he prepares to occupy the White House, President-elect Joe Biden faces a decision rare in American history: what to do about the man who has just left office, whose personal corruption, disdain for the Constitution, and destructive mismanagement of the federal government are without precedent.”

“Human beings crave reckoning, even the saintliest among us. Institutions based on rules and laws need systems of accountability. People inside and outside politics have argued forcefully that Biden should take, or at least condone, a maximalist approach to exposing and prosecuting the many transgressions by Donald Trump and his circle—that Biden can’t talk about where America is going without clearly addressing where it has been.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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