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Seema Verma, administrator for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services hired about 40 former Trump White House and campaign employees for a $2.25 million annual contract to do work traditionally handled by CMS' own communications department.

Why it matters: "The arrangement allowed the Trump allies to cycle through the federal government's opaque contracting system, charging hefty fees with little public oversight or accountability," Politico reports.

Details: Multiple sources confirmed the authenticity of 200 pages of billing documents that Politico obtained from Health and Human Services in a congressional oversight request.

  • At least eight former officials from the White House, presidential transition and campaign for President Trump were hired.
  • CMS agreed to allow at least four consultants to bill up to $204,000 over the length of the contract, a much larger amount than senior career officials in the CMS communications department earned and a little more than HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s annual salary.

What they're saying: Politico reported that CMS insisted in a statement "that it followed standard government contracting procedures and that CMS routinely relies on thousands of contractors for 'critical day-to-day operations.'"

Go deeper: Medicare will now cover a costly cell therapy for cancer patients

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: New coronavirus cases down, but more bad news ahead — Fighting COVID-19's effects on gender equality.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: NYC postpones vaccine appointments following shipment delays — Private companies step in to fill vaccine logistics vacuum.
  4. World: Biden will order U.S. to rejoin World Health OrganizationBiden to bring U.S. into global COVAX initiative for equitable vaccine access.
Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Congress grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Both chambers of Congress on Thursday voted to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the path to confirmation for President Biden's nominee for defense secretary.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.

McConnell proposes February impeachment trial

Sen. Mitch McConnell Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is proposing that the impeachment trial of former President Trump begin in mid-February to allow for due process.

Why it matters: The impeachment trial is likely to grind other Senate business to a halt, including the confirmation process for President Biden's Cabinet nominees.

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