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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Joe Manchin, the moderate West Virginia Democrat, became the first Senate Dem to announce he'll vote in favor of Neil Gorsuch on Thursday. Shortly thereafter, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota followed suit.

The context: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to launch a filibuster, meaning Republicans need eight Dems to break ranks to avoid having to "go nuclear" and force Gorsuch through with a simple majority. Other Dems are skeptical of the filibuster plan, but Manchin and Heitkamp have gone a step further in saying they'll vote to confirm Gorsuch.

Why it matters: We said earlier that Manchin's move could provide an opening for other Dems who don't want to battle the GOP over Gorsuch. With two now having jumped ship, this is turning into a major test of the Dems' resolve.

Go deeper

18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

A new Washington

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Image

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the city should expect a "new normal" for security — even after President-elect Biden's inauguration.

The state of play: Inaugurations are usually a point of celebration in D.C., but over 20,000 troops are now patrolling Washington streets in an unprecedented preparation for Biden's swearing-in on Jan. 20.

Mike Pence calls Kamala Harris to offer congratulations and help

Mike Pence. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty

Vice President Mike Pence called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Thursday to congratulate her and offer assistance in the transition, the New York Times first reported.

Why it matters: The belated conversation came six days before the inauguration after a contentious post-election stretch. President Trump has neither spoken with President-elect Joe Biden, nor explicitly conceded the 2020 election.