Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

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

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

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Gen. Lloyd Austin speaks after being formally nominated to be Defense secretary. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Democrats are trying to tuck a waiver allowing retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as President-elect Joe Biden's defense secretary into a year-end government funding bill that must pass by tonight to avoid a shutdown, three sources familiar with the push tell Axios.

Why it matters: Attaching the waiver to the omnibus would give political cover to some Democrats, including at least four on the Senate Armed Services Committee who have already gone on record opposing it.

  • Austin, a four-star Army general who retired in 2016, has not yet been out of uniform for seven years as required by law.
  • If the move succeeds, Austin still would need to win confirmed from a Senate majority, but this would clear a hurdle that has complicated his prospects.

Driving the news: During 11th-hour negotiations Thursday night, while haggling with Republicans over the final details for a coronavirus stimulus bill, Democrats made a bid to add the waiver.

  • They pointed to the 2016 year-end spending legislation, during which Congress provided for an expedited procedure for Trump's first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, also a retired four star general who required a waiver.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was minority leader at the time, slammed that effort, saying, “The American people are entitled to regular order and thoughtful scrutiny of nominees and any potential waivers." But Mattis ultimately received his waiver in 2017, passing 81-17 in the Senate and 268-151 in the House.

What we're hearing: Many Republicans support granting Austin a waiver and recognize the hypocrisy of not doing so. But the GOP rejected Democrats request, saying they want the same process that was given to Mattis: hold hearings on the waiver, committee votes, and floor votes.  

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats call on Schumer for speedy Trump impeachment trial

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats are in a dilemma of their own making, and now they want incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to wrap up President Trump's impeachment trial as fast as possible, two sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: The party wanted to hold the president accountable for helping incite last week's Capitol attack but the actual mechanism for doing so — a Senate trial — is a balky tool that will inhibit President-elect Joe Biden from launching his effort to heal the country and its economy.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.