Politics & Policy

Why it matters: President Biden has made the COVID-19 crisis and a post-Trump return to national unity and traditional democratic ideals his top priorities. From vaccinations to stimulus to schools, Biden is seeking bipartisan compromise while showing a willingness to use executive authority and bare Democratic majorities in the U.S. House and Senate to implement his policies. Republican leaders are navigating deep party divisions over if and how to move beyond former President Trump.

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Tim Kaine demands briefing on legal justification for Biden's Syria strike

Tim Kaine. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) on Friday criticized the Biden administration for Thursday night's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group, demanding that Congress immediately be briefed on the matter.

Why it matters: Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, is the first Democrat to condemn the strikes — which constitute the Biden administration's first military action — and will likely not be the last.

Updated 12 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Jennifer Granholm's big energy challenges

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson-Pool/Getty Images

New Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm hasn't been especially controversial, but her easy confirmation may not be a prologue of what's to come.

Driving the news: The Senate voted 64–35 Thursday to approve the former Michigan governor for the post after a nomination process devoid of drama.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
44 mins ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.

Biden condemns Russian aggression on 7th anniversary of Crimea annexation

Putin giving a speech in Sevastapol, Crimea, in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Friday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.

John Frank, author of Denver
2 hours ago - Axios Denver

Scoop: Neguse, McBath press Biden to appoint national gun violence czar

McBath and Neguse at an impeachment markup hearing in December. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) will ask President Biden to appoint a national director of gun violence prevention, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The issue — which resonates in Colorado with its dark legacy of mass shootings — comes days after the White House began to push forward on an issue activists wanted to see prioritized in his first month.  

Early-voting bill goes to Reynolds' desk

Gov. Kim Reynolds during the 2020 RNC. Photo: Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images

All eyes are on Gov. Kim Reynolds' desk, where a bill scaling back early voting in Iowa awaits her signature after it passed the state Legislature late Wednesday.

Why it matters: Iowans cast a record-breaking 1 million early votes in 2020. But under the bill, they would have less time to send out their absentee ballots if they want to vote by mail in future elections.

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

First look: Business puts muscle behind Biden

Business Roundtable, the voice of America's top CEOs, today launched "Move the Needle," a campaign to support President Biden in rolling out COVID vaccines, increasing vaccine uptake and encouraging masks.

What they're saying: "Masks and vaccines are working. Now is the time to keep at it, overcome pandemic fatigue, and double down on the measures that will end this public health and economic crisis, said Business Roundtable president and CEO Josh Bolten.

Democrats drubbing Trumpless GOP on social media

Data: Twitter/CrowdTangle (Feb 24, 2021); Chart: Will Chase/Axios

In a swift reversal from 90 days ago, Democrats are now the ones with overpowering social media muscle and the ability to drive news.

The big picture: Former President Donald Trump’s digital exile and the reversal of national power has turned the tables on which party can keep a stranglehold on online conversation.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Rail's big moment is arriving

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Passenger rail could be the big winner if Congress moves ahead with President Biden's ambitious infrastructure plan.

Why it matters: There's long been bipartisan support for rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure, but under Biden, the focus has shifted to sustainable projects that fulfill both his climate and equity goals, such as rail transit.

Scoop: Schumer wants to freeze stimulus changes

Sen. Chuck Schumer. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is privately saying he can pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus package but wants to avoid any last-minute changes jeopardizing its trajectory, three sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: While the president hoped to enlist Republican support for the measure, Schumer has worked to ensure he has a solid 50 votes to muscle it through if necessary. A parliamentary ruling Thursday improved his chances.

Biden's confirmation traffic jam

President Biden has submitted more nominees to the Senate — but received fewer confirmations — than recent presidents, data from the The Partnership for Public Service's Center for Presidential Transition shows.

Why it matters: The new president is facing a pandemic without a surgeon general or head of the Department of Health and Human Services, he confronts an economic crisis without his leaders at Labor or Commerce and domestic terrorism is on the rise with no attorney general, said Max Stier, the partnership's president and CEO.

Boehner goes off script, tells Cruz to "go f**k yourself"

John Boehner in 2010. Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call Photos

John Boehner has been going off script while recording the audio version of his new memoir, using expletives and asides not in the book — such as the former Republican House speaker saying, “Oh, and Ted Cruz, go f**k yourself."

Why it matters: The book is appropriately titled, “On the House: A Washington Memoir." It promises to share “colorful tales from the halls of power, the smoke-filled rooms around the halls of power and his fabled tour bus.” Two sources familiar with the tapings told Axios about the asides.

Scoop: Border officials project 13,000 child migrants in May

The "El Chaparral" border crossing at Tijuana. Photo: Stringer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios.

Why it matters: That projection would exceed the height of the 2019 crisis, which led to the infamous "kids-in-cages" disaster. It also underscores a rapidly escalating crisis for the Biden administration.

Senate parliamentarian rules $15 minimum wage cannot be included in relief package

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: It's now very likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, as the provision cannot be passed with the simple Senate majority that Democrats are aiming to use for President Biden's rescue bill.

16 hours ago - Politics & Policy

McConnell says he'll "absolutely" support Trump if he's 2024 GOP presidential nominee

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Fox News on Thursday that he would "absolutely" support Donald Trump if the former president is the 2024 Republican presidential nominee.

The big picture: Trump has not officially said whether he will run in 2024, but as Axios' Mike Allen reports, the former president "plans to send the message [during his CPAC speech on Sunday] that he is the Republicans' 'presumptive 2024 nominee' with a vise grip on the party's base."

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