USA TODAY’s coverage of the 2020 election and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition continues this week as he rolls out more of his picks for top jobs in his administration and prepares to take the oath of office Jan. 20. The Electoral College affirmed Biden’s win Monday, officially giving Biden enough electoral votes to defeat President Donald Trump. Congress will count and certify the results in a joint session Jan. 6.
Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.
Lawmakers appear to reach compromise as stimulus package deal nears
Senior lawmakers appear to have reached a key comprise on the last major hurdle for a nearly $1 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, clearing the path for a vote as early as Sunday, per a senior Democratic aide who was not authorized to speak publicly about negotiations.
Senators deadlocked over the Republicans’ insistence a provision ending certain emergency Federal Reserve powers be included in the bill.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., defended his provision on the Senate floor Saturday, saying the Federal Reserve powers in question “did their job, their function,” and were set to end at the end of the year. His provision was not an attempt to “hamstring” the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, he said, noting a new Congress could simply pass another bill on the issue.
After all-day talks with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Toomey agreed to drop the broad language in his proposal that would have prevented the Fed Chair from establishing similar facilities in the future to the ones created in March.
Compromise language is being finalized and, now that this obstacle has been cleared, a final agreement on an emergency relief package is significantly closer.“We’re getting very close, very close,” Schumer said earlier Saturday as he spent much of the day going back and forth with Toomey.
The roughly $900 billion bill, lawmakers and aides say, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefits and $600 direct stimulus payments to most Americans, along with a fresh round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and funding for schools, health care providers, and renters facing eviction.
– Nicholas Wu, Charles Ventura and The Associated Press
Effort to challenge election in battleground states dies in Missouri House
The Missouri House won’t be demanding investigations into election results in battleground states despite an effort backed by a majority of Republican members.
State Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, filed a resolution earlier this month demanding inquiries into unproven allegations of fraud in six states critical to President Trump’s defeat last month, and quickly drew GOP support.
Sixty-six of 114 House Republicans signed the letter addressed to Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, asking him to allow them to consider the resolution before adjourning a special session called to deal with budget issues.
Haahr obliged, and a committee led by Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, voted 6-3 to advance the measure Monday after tense debate and a cameo from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.
But the resolution still needed approval from the Rules Committee before it could go to a full House vote, and Rep. Rocky Miller, the committee chairman, declined to hold a hearing, citing cost concerns and the health risks of gathering for another meeting in Jefferson City amid the pandemic.
The resolution did not carry the force of law and could not make the other states do anything, but Hill said he was nevertheless disappointed in the outcome.
– Austin Huguelet, Springfield News-Leader
Deb Haaland: Personal struggles provided ‘resilience’ to lead Interior
WILMINGTON, Del. – President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Interior Department said Saturday the personal struggles she has faced have given her the “resilience” to take on the challenges of climate change and environmental injustice.
“My life has not been easy,” said New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland, who, if confirmed, will be the first Native American to lead the sprawling federal agency.
Haaland, speaking at a news conference in Delaware, said she has struggled with homelessness, relied on food stamps and raised her child as a single mom. She also described how her grandparents were taken from their families and children as a part of the Indian Boarding School Policy. The program was the federal government’s attempt to forcibly assimilate American Indians and Alaska Natives, which Haaland called “an effort to destroy their traditions and identities.”
“I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology,” Haaland said.
Haaland said those struggles give her perspective as she prepares to help Biden take on the issue of climate change.
“Climate change can only be solved with participation of every department, and of every community coming together in a common purpose,” she said. “This country can and will tackle this challenge.”
– Michael Collins
Biden: ‘No time to waste’ on tackling climate change
WILMINGTON, Del. – President-elect Joe Biden formally introduced members of his climate and energy team on Saturday, calling the group “brilliant, qualified and tested” and ready to lead a unified response to the climate change crisis on his first day in office.
Biden said his administration would be committed to fighting climate change. “It’s not going to be easy, but it’s absolutely necessary,” he said at a news conference.
“We literally have no time to waste,” he add
Biden has promised that slowing global warming and its impacts will be one of the top priorities of his administration. Yet getting Congress on board could be a challenge since Democrats will hold a slim majority in the House, and control of the Senate remains up in the air.
Biden and his team will likely have to turn to regulatory agencies to enact many of the sweeping changes they are seeking.
To head up the effort, Biden has chosen former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to serve as Energy secretary. Granholm is experienced in dealing with the auto industry, which could come in handy as he seeks to make clean energy a priority, including efforts to increase fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.
Biden’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency is Michael Regan, who is currently the top environmental regulator in North Carolina and, if confirmed, would be the first Black man to lead the federal agency.
Gina McCarthy, who served as EPA administrator under President Barack Obama, will fill a newly created position of White House climate adviser. McCarthy has been a fierce advocate for policies to combat climate change and, while at the EPA, was an architect of the sweeping Clean Power Plan that Obama proposed to limit carbon emissions from aging coal-fired power plants.
Biden also has tapped Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico to serve as Interior secretary. Haaland will be the first Native American to head the sprawling agency.
Other members of Biden’s climate and energy team will include environmental lawyer Brenda Mallory, who will chair the Council on Environmental Quality, and Ali Zaidi, who currently serves as the top climate adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and will serve as Biden’s deputy national climate adviser.
– Michael Collins
Schumer becomes latest congressional leader to get coronavirus vaccine
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Saturday became the third top congressional leader to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Saturday. Schumer received the vaccine one day after Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi all got their first doses of the vaccine.
“At the advice of the attending physician in the Capitol, I received the first of two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine today,” Schumer tweeted. “The vaccine is safe and effective, and I encourage everyone to take it as it becomes available.”
– Sarah Elbeshbishi
Trump downplays cyberattack, contradicts Pompeo on Russia’s role
Although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly blamed Russia for the massive cyberattack that affected multiple U.S. government agencies, private firms and think tanks, President Donald Trump bucked the general consensus and cast doubt on the Kremlin’s role.
In a tweet Saturday, the president said, “Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens.”
And despite the dire warnings from the Department of Homeland Security that the breach constitutes a “grave risk” for the U.S., as well as numerous experts’ concerns about the severity of the threat, Trump accused the news media of exaggerating the seriousness of the cyberattack.
“The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control,” Trump said.
– Sarah Elbeshbishi
Senate gavels in for rare weekend session as stimulus negotiations drag on
The Senate convened for a rare weekend session Saturday as negotiators struggled to close the gap on outstanding issues in a COVID-19 relief package.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor that lawmakers held “productive discussions this week,” but had still failed to close a deal.
Lawmakers “need to conclude our talks, draft our legislation, and land this plane,” he said, warning of a potential “unending catalog of disagreements” if negotiations dragged on.
McConnell told reporters he hoped to have a deal today.
A debate over restrictions on Federal Reserve lending authority had threatened to derail negotiations Friday. Democrats said Republicans were trying to introduce provisions in stimulus legislation to handicap the incoming Biden administration.
Lawmakers are trying to reach a deal by the end of Sunday when a stopgap measure to keep the government running expires. Negotiators are hoping to tie a COVID stimulus deal to legislation that provides funding for the rest of the fiscal year (through Sept. 30), and pass both together by the end of the weekend.
– Nicholas Wu
Pompeo says Russia ‘pretty clearly’ behind cyberattack on US
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told conservative talk radio host Mark Levin that while U.S. officials are “still unpacking” the massive cyberattack that compromised multiple government agencies, the Kremlin likely orchestrated the breach.
“This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity,” Pompeo said.
The Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity unit has acknowledged that the full scope of the attack is not yet known, with an untold number of local government and private sector systems at “grave risk.”
Pompeo also defended President Donald Trump’s public silence on the cyberattack, agreeing with Levin’s suggestion that the White House was working “behind the scenes” on a response. But he did not elaborate on what, if anything, the president might be doing to confront Moscow.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
COVID stimulus deal remains elusive as Congress avoids shutdown
Lawmakers avoided a government shutdown on Friday by passing a short-term government funding bill hours before funding was set to lapse, buying themselves a few more days of negotiations as talks in Congress over a COVID-19 stimulus bill stretched into the weekend.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on the House floor following the vote he was hopeful a deal was possible, though there were “significant issues outstanding” as stimulus negotiations continued. He told lawmakers the earliest the House could vote on any stimulus legislation if a deal were to emerge would be 1:00 p.m. EST on Sunday.
– Jeanine Santucci
Fellow Republican Johnson blocks Hawley on $1,200 stimulus checks
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley’s push to pass another round of stimulus checks with the same amount of money as last time hit a roadblock Friday with a fellow Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who said Hawley’s proposal was too expensive.
Johnson blocked Hawley’s motion to pass $1,200 checks by unanimous consent.
Congressional leaders are working on a separate plan to send checks of $600-700 per person as part of a larger stimulus package that will likely also include a new round of loans to businesses as well as extra money for people on unemployment.
Hawley did not object to that idea in a floor speech Friday, but he argued his standalone proposal to simply repeat the first round of checks passed in March would be the best approach for working families.
– Austin Huguelet, Springfield News-Leader
Lawmakers get first doses of COVID-19 vaccine
As states received their first rounds of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, lawmakers were among the first to to receive their first of two shots, including Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Pence, the head of the White House’s coronavirus task force, was vaccinated Friday morning at an on-camera event intended to build public confidence in the vaccine. He received the recently-approved vaccine developed by Pfizer that is being distributed throughout the country.
President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden will get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Monday in Delaware, Jen Psaki said Friday. Meanwhile, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will stagger getting her vaccination, to avoid getting it at the same time as Biden, by receiving hers the week after Christmas.
Pelosi, 80, received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Friday in the office of the Attending Physician in the Capitol, her office said. McConnell, 86, received the COVID-19 vaccine later Friday.
“Vaccines are how we beat this virus,” McConnell said in a statement posted on Twitter.
– Jeanine Santucci