What Now?! – December 21, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced late Sunday night that lawmakers have finalized an approximately $900 billion economic relief package, the Washington Post reports.

Said McConnell: “More help is on the way. Moments ago, in consultation with our committees, the four leaders of the Senate and House finalized an agreement for another major rescue package for the American people.”

McConnell said lawmakers only have to “promptly finalize text” and “avoid any last minute obstacles.”

“Senators reached an agreement on the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending powers late Saturday, clearing the last major hurdle on a $900 billion coronavirus-relief package, according to aides from both parties,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) were finishing details on a compromise Saturday night. Under the deal, the central bank would retain its ability to set up emergency lending programs without congressional approval. But it would face a narrower constraint: The Fed wouldn’t be able to replicate programs identical to the ones it started in March at the beginning of the pandemic without the approval of Congress.”

“Mr. Schumer told reporters he thought both the House and Senate would be able to vote Sunday on the relief bill, which is expected to be combined with a spending bill needed to avoid a partial government shutdown. The government’s current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. Monday.”

The Washington Post reports on White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ efforts to keep a White House coronavirus outbreak secret from the public.

Meadows worked to hide when members of the White House team had positive coronavirus tests and attempted to hide his own diagnosis and told at least one other member of the White House team to keep quiet about testing positive.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) blasted Russia in a NBC News interview for a cyberattack he said amounted to an “invasion,” adding that the president’s unwillingness to blame Russia shows he has a “blind spot” when it comes to the country.

Said Romney: “I was disappointed with the president’s comment. But I think we’ve come to recognize that the president has a blind spot when it comes to Russia. And the reality here is that the experts, the people who really understand how our systems work and how computers work and software and so forth, the thousands upon thousands at the CIA and the NSA and the Department of Defense, have determined that this came from Russia.”

“It was among the most consequential weeks of President Trump’s tenure: Across the country, health care workers began receiving a lifesaving coronavirus vaccine. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers neared a deal on economic relief aimed at averting a deeper recession. And on Friday, federal regulators authorized a second vaccine,” the New York Times reports.

“Yet Mr. Trump was largely absent from those events. It was Vice President Mike Pence who held a call with governors on Monday to hail a ‘medical miracle,’ and who received the Pfizer vaccine at week’s end on live television. Legislative leaders were the ones working late into the nights on a stimulus deal.”

“All the while Mr. Trump was conducting a Twitter-borne assault on Republicans for not helping him overturn the election results, even warning Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, to ‘get tougher, or you won’t have a Republican Party anymore.’ By this weekend, the president was considering naming a conspiracy theorist as special counsel to investigate voting fraud, for which there’s no evidence, asking his advisers about instituting martial law and downplaying a massive hack his own secretary of state attributed to Russia.”

Wall Street Journal: Amid vaccine rollout, Trump remains focused on overturning the election.

Politico: “It’s not just his odd behavior—the testy, tiny desk session with the press, the stilted Medal of Freedom ceremony that ended with his awkward exit, the cut-short trip to the Army-Navy football game. It’s even more pointedly his conspicuous and ongoing absences.”

“The narcissistic Trump has spent the last half a century—but especially the last half a decade—making himself and keeping himself the most paid-attention-to person on the planet. But in the month and a half since Election Day, Trump has been seen and heard relatively sparingly and sporadically. No-showing unexpectedly at a Christmas party, sticking to consistently sparse public schedules and speaking mainly through his increasingly manic Twitter feed, he’s been fixated more than anything else on his baseless insistence that he won the election when he did not.”

Associated Press: “In a week when the Electoral College made official President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, Trump remained out of sight, staying late in the Oval Office and working the phones and television remote in his private dining area just steps from the Resolute Desk.”

“While he made not one public appearance, some of those who have been his most influential allies and loyal defenders gave up the fight, letting the president down as gently as possible.”

There were “raised voice levels and animated conversation” during a chaotic Friday night meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office, Axios reports.

As the New York Times first reported, the meeting included — at various times — Rudy Giuliani, Gen. Michael Flynn and conspiracy-minded election lawyer Sidney Powell.

Said a source: “It’s basically Sidney versus everybody. That is why voices were raised. There is literally not one motherfucker in the president’s entire orbit — his staunchest group of supporters and allies — who doesn’t think that Sidney Powell should be on that first rocket to Mars.”

“The pound is expected to plummet on the foreign-exchange markets if Boris Johnson abandons talks on a Brexit deal by tomorrow,” the Times of London reports.

“Last-ditch negotiations were continuing last night, with the EU calling for a trade deal to be agreed today to give time for the terms to be ratified by politicians before the end of the year.”

U.S. Surgeon-General nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy told NBC News it is more realistic to assume that it will be closer “to mid summer or early fall when the vaccine makes its way to the general population.”

“President-elect Joe Biden isn’t discussing a federal investigation of his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings with candidates to be attorney general, a decision the president-elect has not yet made,” Politico reports.

Said incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki: “He will not be discussing an investigation of his son with any attorney general candidates. He will not be discussing it with anyone he is considering for the role. And he will not be discussing it with a future attorney general.”

Peter Wehner: “None of this should come as a surprise. Some of us said, even before he became president, that Donald Trump’s Rosetta Stone, the key to deciphering him, was his psychology—his disordered personality, his emotional and mental instability, and his sociopathic tendencies. It was the main reason, though hardly the only reason, I refused to vote for him in 2016 or in 2020, despite having worked in the three previous Republican administrations. Nothing that Trump has done over the past four years has caused me to rethink my assessment, and a great deal has happened to confirm it.”

“Given Trump’s psychological profile, it was inevitable that when he felt the walls of reality close in on him—in 2020, it was the pandemic, the cratering economy, and his election defeat—he would detach himself even further from reality. It was predictable that the president would assert even more bizarre conspiracy theories. That he would become more enraged and embittered, more desperate and despondent, more consumed by his grievances. That he would go against past supplicants, like Attorney General Bill Barr and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, and become more aggressive toward his perceived enemies. That his wits would begin to turn, in the words of King Lear. That he would begin to lose his mind.”

“So he has. And, as a result, President Trump has become even more destabilizing and dangerous.”

Washington Post: “From the outside, advocates, groups, and members of Congress can find his process cryptic and unpredictable as they attempt to discern which directions Biden and his small core of advisers are leaning, only to find out he’s abruptly switched course. Some nominations have been rushed much quicker than expected, while other decisions have lingered, creating some frustration even among allies. Proponents of demographic and ideological diversity have complained that he has rested too much power in more moderate White officials like himself.”

“But Biden, in what was a defining feature of his campaign, has largely shrugged off the criticism, confident in his own approach to what he sees as a gut-check decision-making process. Lately he has become more animated in defending some of the choices that his internal deliberations have yielded, urging those on the outside to take his full Cabinet into consideration.”

CNN: “Harris has told people close to her that she wants to shape her vice presidency after the way Biden worked with President Barack Obama over eight years: testing and pushing the administration in private, while in public remaining a dedicated and loyal lieutenant. Harris, in effect, wants to be Biden’s Biden.”

“If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell keeps control of the Senate, a bill to finance all sorts of public construction projects may be one of the few big pieces of legislation President-elect Joe Biden can realistically achieve within a divided government, given its broad, bipartisan support,” Axios reports.

“The president-elect’s transition team has privately started laying the groundwork to strike a bipartisan infrastructure deal during the first year of his term.”

Gallup: “As poor as global ratings of U.S. leadership were during President Donald Trump’s first year in office, they are potentially shaping up to be worse during his last. In 20 of the 29 countries and areas that Gallup has results for so far in 2020, approval ratings of U.S. leadership are at new lows or they tie the previous lows.”

“Median approval across the 29 countries and areas stood at 18% in 2020, down from 22% for this same group in 2017. On its face, this decline is not good news for the next U.S. administration, but even worse news is the number of allies on the list of countries where approval dropped to historic lows: Ireland (20%), the United Kingdom (15%), Denmark (14%), Switzerland (10%), Germany (6%) and Iceland (5%).”

Derek Thompson: “People ask me if I’m optimistic about 2021, and the answer is that, in a way, I’m ecstatically optimistic. The economy will reopen, and life will reopen. People will come out of their homes; they will send their kids to school; they will hug and kiss and live. But underneath the high tide of economic growth and social normalization, I think we’ll feel something else, an eerie undertow of isolation and anxiety.”

“The definition of community is ‘where you keep showing up,’” said someone I met, whose name I’ve forgotten, back in the days when it was normal to meet new people whose names you could forget. I haven’t forgotten that line, though: Community is where you keep showing up. What a lovely idea. But where do people keep showing up, these days? Nowhere. Not the office, not the COVID-aerosolized bars and gyms. A lot of people have spent a year finding community via a glowing screen in a room they never leave.”

“The empty bowling alleys and movie theaters; the infinity buffet of entertainment and partisan media; the dissolution of a shared American reality—these are distinct yet connected phenomena. Digital technology has spawned a choose-your-own-adventure mediascape, which has flooded the electorate with alternate realities, at the same time that its community ties wither. America is coming apart, and these pieces will not be easily reassembled.”

“As COVID-19 cases skyrocketed before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, warned Americans to ‘be vigilant’ and limit celebrations to ‘your immediate household,’” the AP reports.

“For many Americans that guidance has been difficult to abide, including for Birx herself.”

“The day after Thanksgiving, she traveled to one of her vacation properties on Fenwick Island in Delaware. She was accompanied by three generations of her family from two households. Birx, her husband Paige Reffe, a daughter, son-in-law and two young grandchildren were present.”

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

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