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.

All politics & policy stories

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

14 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.
15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

"Be careful": Biden says U.S. airstrike in Syria sent warning to Iran

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that Thursday night's airstrikes against facilities tied to an Iranian-backed militia group in Syria were meant to warn Iran that it "can't act with impunity."

Driving the news: The Pentagon said the strikes, which were authorized by Biden, were carried out "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq" and were intended to "de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq."

Exclusive: Law enforcement organizations back Biden pick for associate AG

Vanita Gupta Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Local and federal law enforcement officials are backing Vanita Gupta, President Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, according to letters sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The Major County Sheriffs of America noted Gupta “emphasized that she does not support efforts to ‘defund the police'” and highlighted her desire to improve criminal justice through methods that include increased training for law enforcement officials.

DOJ: More than 300 people charged so far over deadly Capitol siege

Pro-Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

More than 300 people have been charged so far in connection to the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol siege, acting Deputy Attorney General John Carlin said Friday, according to Reuters.

The big picture: Carlin added that at least 280 people have been arrested over their alleged involvement in the riots, which left five people dead, including one Capitol Police officer.

McCarthy won't say if he'll get involved in a primary race against Cheney

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Friday declined to say whether he would get involved in a primary race against Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) when asked by reporters during a weekly press conference.

Why it matters: Tensions between the two House leaders highlight fractures in the Republican Party that will be on full display as the party struggles to define itself in the post-Trump era.

19 hours ago - Technology

U.S. takes step toward international digital tax deal

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Friday that regulators have agreed to eliminate a controversial part of the U.S. government plan to reform global digital tax rules, clearing the way toward a quicker deal.

What's happening: Yellen told G20 finance ministers the U.S. would be dropping a "safe harbor" provision the Trump administration had been fighting for, which would have essentially allowed tech companies to opt out of any new tax regime, the FT reports.

Updated 19 hours ago - World

U.S. releases report finding Saudi prince approved Khashoggi operation

Photo: Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released an unclassified report assessing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the operation to "capture or kill" Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Driving the news: The White House also announced sanctions on entities implicated in the murder, though not on MBS directly. Officials also announced a new "Khashoggi ban" under which individuals accused of harassing journalists or dissidents outside their borders can be barred from entering the U.S.

20 hours ago - Health

About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says

Joe Biden speaks during an event commemorating the 50 million COVID-19 vaccine shots. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Nearly 1 in 5 adults and nearly half of Americans 65 and older have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said on Friday.

The big picture: The Biden administration has previously said it has secured enough doses to vaccinate most of the American population by the end of July.

Updated 21 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats call for briefing on legal justification for Biden's Syria strike

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

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) are among the Democrats criticizing 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: The strikes, which the Pentagon and National Security Council say were a response to threats against U.S. forces in the region, constitute the Biden administration's first overt military action.

Updated 22 hours 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
23 hours 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
23 hours 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
Feb 26, 2021 - 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
Feb 26, 2021 - 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.

Feb 26, 2021 - 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.

Feb 26, 2021 - 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."

More politics & policy stories