Feb 4, 2021

Axios AM

🧤 Happy Thursday! Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,153 words ... 4½ minutes.

1 big thing: Biden's grand plan

President Biden meets yesterday with Vice President Harris, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democratic senators. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool via Getty Images

President Biden told Republican senators he has "an open door and an open mind" on his $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan. But he already has the votes, and overwhelming support in the country.

  • Why it matters: Well, power matters. And Biden holds all of it. 

Get used to this. Democrats are gleeful as they watch the media fixate on family feuds inside the GOP, while Biden pushes out executive orders and pushes through this bill on his terms. 

  • Biden embraces the reality that the two numbers that matter most to his presidency are coronavirus cases falling and economic growth rising. 

Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president and longtime Biden confidant, was in the Oval this week for meetings with Republican and Democratic senators, and told me that the president "reaffirmed and deepened his explanation and commitment on the numbers and the substance" of the full package.

  • Ricchetti said Biden made it clear that he welcomes "fine-tuning or amendments or recommendations," but "underscored that he’s committed to his plan and to the elements he outlined" — and to moving quickly.

What we're watching: Ricchetti said the president wants to have "a bipartisan and unifying dialogue in the country," including conversations he's already had with mayors and local elected officials, "so that this isn’t just about a dialogue with senators and members of Congress. It is a dialogue with the country.”

  • Ricchetti said Biden treated a GOP counterproposal "with an open mind and with respect. He was also honest ... in underscoring why he proposed what he did — that he was committed to every one of the elements in his package."

The bottom line: Democrats will dismiss any whining about Biden's stimulus as D.C. noise or Republican hypocrisy. They'll be right on both fronts. 

President Biden and Vice President Harris had a similar meeting Monday with 10 Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Bill Cassidy. Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via Getty Images
2. Why people love to hate Robinhood

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Never has a company been so popular, and also so hated, Axios' Felix Salmon writes.

  • Why it matters: We're at a key inflection point in the Robinhood saga that's likely to determine whether having a snazzy app with name recognition is all you really need to overcome internal weaknesses.

Robinhood is loved not only by the trading newbies who are downloading the app at a record pace, but also by Wall Street investors who have recently sunk $3.4 billion into the company.

It's true: "If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer — you're the product." Robinhood makes its money by directing its customers' trades to high-frequency traders on Wall Street.

  • The overwhelming majority of Robinhood's revenue comes from options trades — ultra-risky trading where individual investors almost never make money.

The bottom line: Expect Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev to face tough questions when he appears on Capitol Hill for hearings into stock volatility later this month. But don't expect Robinhood's investors to care.

  • So far, none of Robinhood's scandals have curtailed its growth.

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3. Liz Cheney wins showdown
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney heads to the floor to vote yesterday. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy got a standing ovation last night after House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney triumphed in a 145-61 secret-ballot vote to stay in leadership, Axios' Alayna Treene reports from Capitol Hill.

  • Why it matters: House Republican leaders believe that the worm has turned and their conference is united again.

What's next: House Republicans will be forced to go on the record today in a vote on whether conspiracist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) is stripped of committee assignments.

  • An Axios-SurveyMonkey poll, which popped last night in Sneak Peek, found Greene is far more popular among Republicans than Cheney, a sign that Trumpism is thriving in the GOP, Margaret Talev reports.

Go deeper.

4. Weekly map ... Seeing green: Cases fall all over the country
Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments. Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections slowed by nearly 16% over the past week, continuing a trend of rapid improvement, Axios' Sam Baker and Andrew Witherspoon write.

  • Why it matters: The U.S. still has a ton of coronavirus, and there’s still the potential for dark days ahead. But this is progress, and the improvement is significant. If this trend keeps going, the country will be in a far better and safer position as vaccines continue to roll out.

Nationwide, the U.S. is averaging about 139,000 new cases per day — a 16% improvement over last week, which was a 16% improvement over the week before.

  • The number of new hospitalizations was also down last week, by just over 26%.
  • And deaths fell by about 6%, to an average of 3,097 deaths per day.

Between the lines: 139,000 cases and 3,000 deaths per day is still a very bad pandemic, but at least the numbers are headed in the right direction.

  • The U.S. is back at about the same caseload we were experiencing shortly before Thanksgiving.
  • The number of new daily cases fell over the past week in 42 states, and held steady in the remaining eight states. No state got worse.

What we're watching: Experts warn that a more contagious variant of the virus is quickly becoming the dominant strain within the U.S.

5. New this morning: Klobuchar introduces sweeping antitrust bill

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) will be out today with a plan for how Congress could update antitrust laws to give enforcers better odds and more ammunition for taking on Big Tech, Ashley Gold and Margaret Harding McGill write.

  • Why it matters: Klobuchar will lead the Senate Judiciary antitrust panel, putting her in position to take the lead on rewriting competition laws.

What's next: Her new bill aligns with proposals from House Democrats and some populist Republicans, upping the chances she can get it passed.

6. Time capsule: Race to vaccinate
Graphic: The Washington Post. Data as of yesterday, from state dashboards and CDC.
7. Pot stocks boom
Data: FactSet. Chart: Axios Visuals

GameStop and "meme" stocks have been getting the eyeballs. But cannabis has been the market's real standout in 2021, because of renewed expectations of U.S. legalization, Dion Rabouin writes in Axios Markets.

  • Many have doubled in less than a month.

Why it matters: Pot stocks have been volatile over the past year, but have boomed since Joe Biden was elected president, and could see a run similar to 2018 following Canada's decision to fully legalize.

8. "Long arm of the authoritarian state"

Detainees stand behind bars at an immigration detention center in Bangkok in 2019. Photo: Romeo Gacad/AFP via Getty Images

A Freedom House report catalogues 608 incidents of cross-border coercion — detentions, assaults, unlawful deportations and suspected assassinations — by authoritarian countries against dissidents and exiles since 2014.

  • Freedom House president Mike Abramowitz and director of research Nate Schenkkan write in the WashPost: "The incidents ... are only the tip of the iceberg; every assassination, every rendition, every detention creates a ripple effect in a diaspora community, silencing far more than just the individual."

Read the full report.

9. New Minneapolis police fight

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Ramsey County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images

Security plans for next month's trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, charged with second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd, are sparking a fight, Torey Van Oot and Nick Halter report in Axios Twin Cities.

  • Gov. Tim Walz (D) wants the legislature to pass a $35 million fund that local governments can use for emergency and security costs, including the trial.
  • Some Republicans don't want the rest of the state to help Minneapolis.

Keep reading.

10. 📷 Parting shot: Inauguration, sunrise to sunset, in one photo
Photo: Stephen Wilkes/National Geographic

Stephen Wilkes was in a crane for 15 hours on Inauguration Day, from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., to capture this "Day to Night" photo for National Geographic.

  • Wilkes shot 1,500 frames and used about 50 individual images for the final image.
  • As National Geographic's Sydney Combs put it: "For the past 12 years, Wilkes has perfected the art of taking the same picture over and over again — except no two images are ever the same."

Wilkes believes he caught President Trump leaving Washington on Marine One on the right-hand, cloudy side of the frame.

  • The photographer hopes people see this "as an image of HOPE."

See a side-by-side with an image Wilkes took of President Obama's 2013 inauguration.

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