Axios Sneak Peek

The back of a propped up cardboard cut-out of the U.S. Capitol.
December 10, 2020

Welcome to Sneak Peek, our nightly lookahead from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus our best scoops.

Today's newsletter — edited by Axios contributor Glen Johnson — is 672 words, a 2.5-minute read.

1 big thing — GOP may stall Biden confirmations

Illustration of a hand reaching out for a hand shake with another hand making a stop gesture.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Some Senate Republicans are refusing to commit to confirmation hearings or votes for Joe Biden's Cabinet picks while election challenges from President Trump and others continue to play out.

Why it matters: The foot-dragging could prevent the president-elect from having key team members in place on Day One — just six weeks from today.

"As long as there's litigation ongoing, and the election result is disputed, I do not think you will see the Senate act to confirm any nominee," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Axios.

  • Sen. Ron Johnson, who holds sway as chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said, "There's still some pretty troubling irregularities that haven't been explained."

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2. Progressives' patience with Biden wears thin

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a public event.
Sen. Bernie Sanders. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Progressives like Bernie Sanders say they "have not" seen Joe Biden respect their election-winning power so far and deserve more Cabinet and top-level picks in his burgeoning administration.

Why it matters: Many from the Democratic left actively campaigned for — or bit their tongues — while Biden worked to finish off Donald Trump in the general election. Now, they expect their payoff but have been confused and disappointed so far, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.

"The progressive movement deserves a number of seats — important seats — in the Biden administration. Have I seen that at this point? I have not," Sanders told me.

  • "I've told the Biden people: The progressive movement is 35-40% of the Democratic coalition. Without a lot of other enormously hard work on the part of grassroots activists and progressives, Joe would not have won the election," Sanders added.

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3. Newsmax tries to poach Fox bookers

Illustration of people trying to pull down a large newspaper
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Newsmax is working to pull ahead of conservative rival Fox News, trying to lure away its vital booking agents with promises of higher salaries, two people who have been contacted by Newsmax tell me.

Why it matters: The battle to serve as the venue of choice for conservative viewers has intensified as President Trump has chastised Fox for declaring Joe Biden the election winner and Newsmax has pandered to his believers.

Newsmax is owned by Trump friend Chris Ruddy. The bookers — who try to land guests at a moment's notice — said they believe his network courted them because it wants to gain their contacts.

  • They said several other colleagues — mostly younger Fox employees with lower salaries — also have been approached.
  • A spokesperson for Newsmax did not respond to a request for comment. Fox News did not provide a comment.

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4. Native Americans push House member for Interior

Rep. Deb Haaland is seen during a news conference on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Deb Haaland. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Native Americans are pushing Biden to select Rep. Deb Haaland as Interior secretary, arguing the New Mexican would add unique and necessary perspective to the Cabinet agency as a woman from their community, McCammond reports.

Why it matters: The Biden transition team is fielding incoming from every constituency on every Cabinet pick, and as the number of remaining seats is fewer, the lobbying is becoming more intense.

Members from the transition are scheduled to meet Thursday with tribal leaders and organizers. Those leaders are increasingly bent on adding pressure to ensure Haaland, a Native American, gets picked.

  • A source familiar with the meeting told McCammond some in Bidenworld want to reassure these advocates they're being taken seriously, particularly after some anonymous criticism of Haaland in a recent New York Times story.

Why it matters: It's not just about identity politics. The Department of the Interior oversees millions of acres of land, including Native reservations, and would be responsible, in large part, for the country's nearly 2 million Indigenous people.

5. Congressional majorities narrow

Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals 
Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals 

Republicans and Democrats have held Congress by much slimmer majorities in recent decades than in the '60s and '70s, according to an analysis by Pew Research Center of House and Senate historical records, Axios' Stef Kight reports.

Why it matters: The narrowing splits — combined with inter-party division and increasing partisanship — don’t bode well for getting things done. They also have allowed party control of each chamber to flip more frequently.

  • If Democrats win both Georgia runoffs in January, it would be only the second time in 60 years both parties held an equal number of Senate seats at the start of the term, according to Pew.
  • It also could force Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to follow Vice President Mike Pence by casting more tie-breaking votes.

6. Pic of the day 🎶

Sen. Lamar Alexander plays piano in the Russell rotunda
Courtesy: Sneak reader

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who retires in January, played Christmas tunes on the piano this evening in the rotunda of the Senate's Russell office building.

Watch his rendition of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) look on.

👏 Thanks for reading, and have a good Thursday. Please remind your friends to sign up for Sneak!