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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Rep. Jamaal Bowman. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

President Biden is under pressure to use a key appointment to push for policies to narrow the racial wealth gap, as Congressional Black Caucus members weigh in on the appointment of a powerful bank regulator.

Driving the news: Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and 33 other members of the caucus penned a letter to Biden Thursday urging him to pick Mehrsa Baradaran, an expert on the wealth gap, to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Why it matters: The OCC is the primary regulator of all national banks. Members of the CBC see the person leading the agency as someone who could level the playing field for those who have faced discrimination from banking institutions.

  • Progressives helped sink the prospects of Michael Barr to run the agency, citing his ties to the financial technology industry and a lack of a track record of fighting against predatory lending and other issues that have harmed communities of color.
  • The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has backed their own candidate for the position: Manuel Alvarez, the commissioner of the California Department of Business Oversight.
  • But the CBC letter suggests the caucus has similar objections to Alvarez.

What they're saying: "We are in a moment of national crisis during which existing economic and racial injustices have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and we need an OCC leader whose values are fully aligned with the needs of working people," the letter states.

  • "Other proposed candidates for the OCC do not have the same track record as Mehrsa on these issues, and in fact, they have ties to internet-savvy lenders which have exploited vulnerable consumers."
  • Baradaran, a banking law professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, has written extensively about the racial wealth gap and discriminatory banking policies.
  • She is also a high-profile advocate of postal banking — allowing the post office to provide banking services.

Between the lines: While the letter does not explicitly mention Alvarez, Democratic aides say part of the resistance toward him stems from his ties with the fintech industry.

  • He also served as a deputy attorney general under then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Go deeper: 10 myths about the racial wealth gap

Go deeper

1 dead as severe storms pummel the South

A tree that fell on a home carport damaged a vehicle during a storm in Central, Louisiana. No injuries were reported, according to Central Fire Department. Photo: Central Fire Department/Twitter

Strong storms lashed the South early Saturday, spawning at least one tornado and unleashing powerful winds and hail. And forecasters warned more severe weather was expected to hit parts of the region in the coming hours.

Details: Thousands of customers lost power in Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana, according to tracking site poweroutage.us. An F3 tornado that hit St Landry Parish, Louisiana, killed one person and wounded seven others.

Scoop: Biden eyes Russia adviser criticized as soft on Kremlin

Photo: Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images

President Biden is considering appointing Matthew Rojansky, head of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, as Russia director on the National Security Council, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Why it matters: Rojansky has been praised for his scholarship on Russia and is frequently cited in U.S. media for his expert commentary. But his work has drawn criticism — including in a 2018 open letter from Ukrainian alumni of Kennan that blasted the think tank he runs as an "unwitting tool of Russia’s political interference."

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hold steady at 65,000 per day — CDC declares racism "a serious public health threat" — WHO official: Brazil is dealing with "raging inferno" of a COVID outbreak.
  2. Vaccines: America may be close to hitting a vaccine wall — Pfizer asks FDA to expand COVID vaccine authorization to adolescents — CDC says Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply will drop 80% next week.
  3. Economy: Treasury says over 156 million stimulus payments sent out since March — More government spending expected as IMF projects 6% global GDP growth.
  4. Politics: Supreme Court ends California's coronavirus restrictions on home religious meetings.
  5. World: Iran tightens COVID restrictions amid fourth wave of pandemic.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

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