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Biden faces the first big test of his bipartisan pitch

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Capitol Hill Coverage
Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, listen as Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine speaks a Covid-19 relief bill on Capitol Hill on Dec. 14, 2020.Al Drago / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden’s presidency is just 13 days old, but he’s already facing his biggest legislative decision yet.

Do Democrats go alone to pass the White House’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill?

Or — to achieve a bipartisan deal with 10 GOP senators — does he set his eyes on a smaller-sized package?

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That’s the backdrop for Biden’s White House meeting today at 5:00 p.m. ET with these 10 GOP senators: Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Bill Cassidy, R-La., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V, Todd Young, R-Ind., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Thom Tillis, R-N.C. and Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

As we wrote last week, it sure seems like Biden and Democrats are leaning toward going alone and passing the $1.9 trillion package via reconciliation (which requires just 51 votes).

One lesson Democrats learned from the Obama years is that policy trumps process.

“Regular people don’t care whether we pass something with 51 or 60 votes,” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, tweeted.

And what has to concern Democrats who are even tempted to jump on this GOP offer is that there are only 10 Republican senators — and none from GOP leadership — who are part of this bipartisan overture.

It means that any one of these 10 GOP senators could deny Biden and the Democrats the 60th vote needed to overcome a filibuster. And it also means that even if all 10 support it, a majority of the Republican Party will still be in opposition.

Now the White House could split the baby — agree with these 10 GOP senators on a scaled-back bill, and then pass the rest via reconciliation.

But White House economic adviser Brian Deese seemed to oppose that on “Meet the Press” yesterday.

“One thing we've learned over the past 11 months is a piecemeal approach, where we try to tackle one element of this and wait and see on the rest, is not a recipe for success,” Deese said.

So the question for Biden is pretty straightforward.

Go big and go alone?

Or go smaller but with others?

Trump’s 11-week campaign to overturn the election results

Here are some of the major findings in the New York Times’ exhaustive 9,000-word report on Donald Trump’s 77-day effort to overturn the 2020 election results:

  • Trump’s election lawyers had concluded by Thursday, Nov. 12 that there wasn’t substantial evidence of voter fraud or irregularities to reverse the election outcome in the courts. (News organizations had declared Biden the winner on Saturday, Nov. 7.)
  • “Thursday the 12th was the day Mr. Trump’s flimsy, long-shot legal effort to reverse his loss turned into something else entirely — an extralegal campaign to subvert the election, rooted in a lie so convincing to some of his most devoted followers that it made the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol almost inevitable,” the Times writes.
  • Trump allies were behind the Texas lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
  • Trump himself worked to solicit the GOP members of Congress to join the amicus brief in support of the Texas lawsuit.
  • Trump allies, including the group Women for America First (founded by Tea Party organizer Amy Kremer and run by her daughter), organized bus rallies across the country in support of overturning the election results.
  • And the Jan. 6 rally in D.C. on the day of Congress’ Electoral College count had turned into a Trump White House production. “The president discussed the speaking lineup, as well as the music to be played, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversations.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

10: The number of Republican senators who have signed on to a slimmed-down counterproposal to Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan

26,282,814: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 420,019 more than Friday morning.)

442,824: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 8,204 more than Friday morning.)

95,013: The number of people currently hospitalized from Covid-19 in the United States.

307.66 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

At least 30.4 million: The number of Americans who have received one or both vaccine shots so far.

1,235,329: The average number of individual shots per day since January 20

90: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goals.

Let ’em work it out

After a group of Republican senators requested a meeting with President Biden to propose a slimmed-down version of his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill, the White House is maintaining they want to work with Republicans without sacrificing the tenants of the Biden proposal.

Per NBC’s White House Unit, two White House officials say they will continue to engage with Republicans and Democrats over Covid relief legislation and the administration remains “open to ways to make the package better.” One official noted that the GOP senators’ letter did not lay out specific figures in terms of the size of this Republican proposal or specifics on where they would call for cuts compared to the Biden plan.

Brian Deese, Biden’s top economic adviser, said on “Meet the Press” yesterday: “The president has said repeatedly he is open to ideas, wherever they may come, that we could improve upon the approach to actually tackling this crisis. What he's uncompromising about is the need to move with speed on a comprehensive approach here.”

While Biden and congressional Democrats work to move legislation to the floor this week, the Senate will be working through confirmation hearings for Biden’s Cabinet. DHS nominee Alejandro Mayorkas and Transportation pick Pete Buttigieg are set to receive their confirmation votes on Tuesday.

Biden Cabinet Watch

State: Tony Blinken (confirmed)

Treasury: Janet Yellen (confirmed)

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (confirmed)

Attorney General: Merrick Garland

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas

HHS: Xavier Becerra

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack

Transportation: Pete Buttigieg

Energy: Jennifer Granholm

Interior: Deb Haaland

Education: Miguel Cardona

Commerce: Gina Raimondo

Labor: Marty Walsh

HUD: Marcia Fudge

Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (confirmed)

EPA: Michael Regan

SBA: Isabel Guzman

OMB Director: Neera Tanden

U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s what you need to know about what’s happening in Myanmar.

The U.S. is condemning Russia’s “harsh tactics” against protestors who are calling for the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Biden is taking a tougher line with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Lincoln Project is disavowing cofounder John Weaver over allegations that he sent unsolicited sexual messages to young men.

At least three of Trump’s impeachment trial lawyers are quitting.

Mike Pence is trying to figure out his next political steps.

A Parkland mom spoke to Marjorie Taylor Greene. Here’s what she said about school shootings.

The Washington Post writes about how a 1995 case could shape Lloyd Austin’s response to extremism.

Here’s how Chuck Schumer is trying to inoculate himself against a challenge from AOC.