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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Biden confronts mounting humanitarian crisis at the border

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Images     

Just over a month into his presidency, President Biden is staring down a mounting crisis at the border that could be just as bad as the ones faced by Barack Obama and Donald Trump, if not worse.

Why it matters: Immigration is an issue that can consume a presidency. It's intensely and poisonously partisan. It's complicated. And the lives and welfare of vulnerable children hang in the balance.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Hours-long reading of 628-page COVID relief bill delays Senate debate

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) forced Senate clerks to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, which took nearly 11 hours and lasted until 2:04 a.m. on Friday. The Senate is set to return at 9 a.m. to debate the bill before considering amendments, which could drag into the weekend.

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.

Democrats eye reconciliation for immigration

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Comprehensive immigration reform is a pipe dream, but some Senate Democrats are hoping to tie key immigration provisions to the next big reconciliation push.

Why it matters: Immigration is one of the most controversial and partisan issues in U.S. politics, which is why the budget reconciliation process — which allows for bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes — is so attractive.

9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden meeting Quad amid own pivot toward Asia

Artists paint portraits of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Mumbai, India. Photo: Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

President Biden plans to meet this month with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India in a virtual summit of the so-called Quad, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: By putting a Quad meeting on the president’s schedule, the White House is signaling the importance of partnerships and alliances to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

AOC challenges Puerto Rico governor over statehood

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at New York's Puerto Rican Day Parade in 2019. Photo: Erin Lefevre/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velázquez are pushing ahead with a bill in Congress that would let Puerto Rico decide its future — a proposal threatening Gov. Pedro Pierluisi's determination to pursue statehood for the island.

Why it matters: There's an urgency among supporters of statehood to get it done while Democrats control both chambers of Congress, and President Biden has been publicly supportive. But there's a growing divide within the party about whether statehood is actually the best solution for the U.S. territory.

"Cat in the Hat" puts cash in the bank for GOP

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The House Republicans’ campaign arm is offering donors copies of the Dr. Seuss classic “The Cat in the Hat," seeking to capitalize on a new front in the culture war.

Why it matters: The offer, while gimmicky, shows how potent appeals to “cancel culture” can be for grassroots Republicans, even amid debates about more weighty policy matters like coronavirus relief and voting rights.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: U.S. ahead of pace on vaccines.
  2. Health: Lessons for trapping the next pandemic.
  3. Tech: "Fludemic" model accurately maps COVID hotspotsVirtual doctor's visits and digital health tools take off.
  4. Politics: Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill — Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate.
  5. World: Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between doses — In AstraZeneca spat, EU fights hard for a vaccine its hardly using.
12 hours ago - World

U.S. imposes fresh export controls on Myanmar over military coup

Photo: Hkun Lat via Getty Images

The United States on Thursday announced new export restrictions for Myanmar, and blocked the country's defense and home affairs ministries and other entities from some types of trade.

The big picture: The new rules come in response to the escalating military crackdown on anti-coup protesters in Myanmar.

DHS IG finds holes in U.S. bioterrorism detection system

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The U.S. program responsible for detecting and responding to threats of bioterrorism lacks detection equipment in more than half the country and was unable to spot multiple biological agents known as possible threats, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general said in a report released Thursday.

Why it matters: If the country does not improve the program, called BioWatch, the "United States’ ability to prepare, detect, and respond to a potential bioterrorism attack is impeded, which could result in significant loss of human life," the IG said.

Man pictured with feet on Pelosi's desk yells at judge: "It's not fair"

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Arkansas man who was pictured with his feet on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's desk during the Jan. 6 insurrection had an outburst in court Thursday, yelling at the judge and his own lawyers that it isn't "fair" he is still in jail, KNWA reports.

Background: Richard Barnett, 60, has been asking to be freed on bond since he was arrested days after the attack at the Capitol, per the New York Times. Barnett lost his patience after D.C. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper continued his trial until May 4.

Updated 16 hours ago - Health

Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate

West Virginia has no plans to lift its mask mandate, Gov. Jim Justice (R) told CNN on Thursday, adding, "I don't know what the rush is, and if we don't watch out, we can make some mistakes."

Why it matters: Texas and Mississippi, both led by Republican governors, are ending coronavirus restrictions as vaccinations ramp up across the country. Ditching the public safety measures could hasten another surge in coronavirus cases.

Capitol Police asks for National Guard to stay on-site for two more months

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

U.S. Capitol Police on Thursday asked that the National Guard remain on-site for an additional 60 days due to ongoing security concerns and potential violence at the Capitol, AP reports.

Why it matters: While many lawmakers are eager for security measures surrounding the Capitol — including fencing and an increased law enforcement presence — to be lightened, the request by Capitol Police reflects concerns about ongoing threats.

Ultra-rich Florida community got COVID vaccinations in January

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaks during during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando last month. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Thousands of residents over 65 in a wealthy gated enclave in the Florida Keys had received COVID vaccines by mid-January, while most of the rest of Florida's elderly waited for their shots, report the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald.

Why it matters: The uber-rich Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo, with more than 2,100 full- or part-time members, was dubbed by the papers as "one of the highest-security private communities in the nation."

Scoop: Leaked HHS docs spotlight Biden's child migrant dilemma

A group of undocumented immigrants walk toward a Customs and Border Patrol station after being apprehended. Photo: Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fresh internal documents from the Department of Health and Human Services show how quickly the number of child migrants crossing the border is overwhelming the administration's stretched resources.

Driving the news: In the week ending March 1, the Border Patrol referred to HHS custody an average of 321 children per day, according to documents obtained by Axios. That's up from a weekly average of 203 in late January and early February — and just 47 per day during the first week of January.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Mar 4, 2021 - Economy & Business

The biggest obstacle to a wealth tax

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Taxing the rich is an idea that's back. An "ultra-millionaire tax" introduced by Elizabeth Warren and other left-wing Democrats this week would raise more than $3 trillion over 10 years, they say, while making the tax system as a whole more fair.

Why it matters: New taxes would be a necessary part of any Democratic plan to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality. But President Biden has more urgent priorities — and Warren's wealth tax in particular faces constitutional obstacles that make it a hard sell.

Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between coronavirus doses

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a February news conference in Ottawa, Canada. Photo: David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) on Wednesday recommended extending the interval between first and second doses of COVID-19 to up to four months to boost inoculation numbers.

Why it matters: The panel said taking such action would allow about 80% of Canadians over 16 to receive a single dose by the end of June.

House passes sweeping election and anti-corruption bill

Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

The House voted 220-210 Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

U.S. 7-day COVID-19 vaccine average tops 2M per day for first time

Healthcare worker Karen Crawford (L) as nurse Yolanda Javier administers a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to her at St. John's Well Child & Family Center in Los Angeles in January. Photo: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The U.S. has administered 80,540,474 COVID-19 doses as of Wednesday, CDC data shows.

Why it matters: That's 75% of the 107,028,890 doses delivered. It means some 1.9 million more doses have been reported administered since Tuesday, taking the seven-day average to over 2 million a day for the first time, CNN notes. Nearly 53 million people, or 16% of the U.S. population, have had at least one COVID shot and almost 27 million have had two, per the CDC.

Go deeper... Biden: U.S. will have enough vaccines for 300M by end of May

Updated Mar 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images

The House voted 220 to 212 on Wednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd "absolutely" support Trump as 2024 nominee

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp at the Delta Flight Museum in Hapeville Feb. 25. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) told Fox News Wednesday he'd "absolutely" support former President Trump if he becomes the Republican Party's 2024 presidential nominee.

Why it matters: Trump has repeatedly lambasted Kemp since the governor resisted his pressure to overturn President Biden's 2020 election win in Georgia — notably in an hourlong phone call that is now being investigated in the state.

Mar 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate Republicans plan to exact pain before COVID relief vote

Sen. Ron Johnson. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

The new grifters: outrage profiteers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Republicans lost the Senate and narrowly missed retaking the House, millions of dollars in grassroots donations were diverted to a handful of 2020 congressional campaigns challenging high-profile Democrats that, realistically, were never going to succeed.

Why it matters: Call it the outrage-industrial complex. Slick fundraising consultants market candidates contesting some of their party’s most reviled opponents. Well-meaning donors pour money into dead-end campaigns instead of competitive contests. The only winner is the consultants.

Republican governors loom over precarious Senate

Note: Bernie Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Data: Axios Research/ProPublica/NCSL; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Nineteen seats in the U.S. Senate could potentially flip parties if there's an unexpected vacancy, according to Axios' analysis of state vacancy rules, which most often allow the governor to appoint a replacement.

Why it matters: Depending on the senator, a single resignation, retirement or death — by accident or old age — could flip control of the 50-50 Senate, or give Democrats a two-vote cushion.

Mar 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

White House primes "pipeline" of federal judges

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The White House is quietly working with Senate Democrats to ensure President Biden has a steady stream of nominees for the federal courts, according to people familiar with the matter and an administration official.

Why it matters: Biden wants the federal judiciary to better reflect the country’s demographics, and to try to shield his unfolding legislative agenda from a judiciary currently dominated by Trump appointees.

Inspector general: Ethics questions prompted criminal referral involving Elaine Chao

Photo: Melissa Lyttle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Transportation Department's deputy inspector general said a "formal investigation into potential misuses of [former Secretary Elaine Chao's] position was warranted," after finding evidence of possible ethics violations, according to a report made public on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The report reveals that the IG last December asked the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to consider a criminal investigation into Chao's actions, citing possible ethical or administrative concerns. Both declined to investigate.

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