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Meet the Press Blog Archive

Catch up with Meet the Press blog posts from past years leading up to May 17, 2022
Image: Illustration of photos depicting voters on line, voting booths, the Capitol, the White House and raised hands.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

Look back at our archive of previous Meet the Press blog posts.

For the latest posts from the journalists at NBC News and the NBC News Political Unit, click here.

663d ago / 5:56 PM UTC

High profile exit boosts Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Arkansas gubernatorial bid and cements Trump’s influence on GOP

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WASHINGTON — A decade before becoming Arkansas’ lieutenant governor, Tim Griffin served as the Republican Party’s research director during George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.

After that, Griffin worked in the Bush White House under Karl Rove, was appointed by Bush as an interim U.S. attorney and then ran for Congress and won – all impressive credentials for any emerging Republican politician, particularly one looking at higher office. 

But with his announcement Monday that he was ending his gubernatorial bid in Arkansas and running for attorney general instead, it more than further cleared the field for GOP gubernatorial frontrunner (and former Trump White House Press Secretary) Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

It showed how today’s Republican Party continues to be remade in Trump’s image, even three months after the former president’s defeat and as he stands trial for an unprecedented second presidential impeachment. 

That someone with Griffin’s resume – and ties to the last GOP president before Trump – has less political currency than Trump’s former press secretary underscores how loyalty to Trump beats everything else in today’s Republican Party.

To be sure, Huckabee Sanders has a political identity outside of Trump. She’s the daughter of the state’s former governor, Mike Huckabee, who worked at high levels on her father’s past presidential campaigns.

Mike Huckabee And Sarah Huckabee Sanders Visits "The Story With Martha MacCallum"
FOX News Contributor Sarah Huckabee Sanders visits "The Story with Martha MacCallum" on Sept. 17, 2019 in New York.Steven Ferdman / Getty Images file

And the field isn't completely clear for her, either — Arkansas' current attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, is also running for governor. 

But Huckabee Sanders' most prominent, and recent, job was as Trump's White House press secretary, with Trump endorsing her last month

And in her statement welcoming Huckabee Sanders to the race last month, Rutledge in part celebrated her own support for the Trump agenda, a reminder of his standing in the party, even as she argued that the race "is about Arkansas's future and who has a proven record and not merely rhetoric." 

Loyalty to Trump trumping experience among GOP primary voters isn’t anything new.

In the 2018 cycle, then Rep. Ron DeSantis beat Adam Putnam in Florida’s GOP gubernatorial primary due in large part because DeSantis was seen as a more loyal Trump ally. Putnam had spent a decade in the House (including a stint in leadership) and two terms as the state's agriculture commissioner before his 45th birthday, a resume that had him seen as one of the state GOP's rising stars. 

In 2020, former college football coach Tommy Tuberville defeated Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the runoff for Alabama senator – because Trump had grown dissatisfied with his former Cabinet official. Tuberville had never held a job in politics, while Sessions sat in that Senate seat for two decades. 

And now in 2021, weeks after he left office, loyalty and service to Trump — like Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ work for the former president — trumps everything else.

663d ago / 5:03 PM UTC

In first interview since Senate announcement, John Fetterman promises to be 'sedition-free'

WASHINGTON — Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announced his run for Senate on Monday morning. Fetterman, a Democrat, is running for the seat of retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn. 

In his first TV interview since announcing his candidacy, Fetterman echoed language that gained him national attention in the wake of the 2020 election: attacking former President Trump's false claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania and responding to the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

"I would promise to the people of Pennsylvania, I plan to be 100 percent sedition-free if I'm elected," Fetterman said on MSNBC. "There's already too many sedition-curious members of the United States Senate and I would never be one." 

However, in a state that President Biden won by under two percentage points and which Trump carried in 2016, Fetterman's more progressive policy points could be a sticking issue for voters. 

During his Monday interview, Fetterman said he supported ending the Senate filibuster, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and legalizing marijuana.

"In order to get those kind of important things passed, whether it's climate change or things like that, you need to get rid of the filibuster," Fetterman said. "This idea that some random senator from a state with 600,000 people can holdup the democratic will and the sense of urgency that these policies are coming from — I don't think that's very democratic at its core." 

Fetterman also said that he agreed with Biden's decision to end construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline, but supported maintaining the balance between "transitioning away from fossil fuels, but also safeguarding and holding the union way of life sacred." 

"We had a president who was actively tearing up the Paris Accords and other agreements, and throwing environmental concerns away. And now you have a president who's building that back and making decisive actions like canceling the Keystone Pipeline, which some people don't support, and I think he made the right call," Fetterman said. 

 

666d ago / 7:26 PM UTC

Why Democrats and Republicans are competing to throw cash at you

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden wants to send up to $300 a month per child next year to families as part of his Covid-19 relief bill. Now Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah. wants to up the number to $350 and make it a permanent child allowance for nearly all Americans.

The proposals are the latest sign of a sweeping change in the policy conversation, one in which prominent Republicans and Democrats are increasingly competing to offer benefits to families that previous generations of politicians would have dismissed as welfare for the undeserving poor.

Romney’s specific plan is unlikely to get traction with Democrats, since he proposes offsetting its cost by eliminating or scaling back similar antipoverty programs and ending a deduction on state and local taxes that’s popular with Democrats.

Image: Senators Sworn-In As Judges And Jurors For Impeachment Trial As Summons Is Issued To Donald Trump
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, heads to the floor of the Senate on Jan. 26, 2021.Samuel Corum / Getty Images

But it received a warm reception in progressive policy circles. An accompanying analysis by the center-right Niskanen Center estimated it would cut child poverty by a third. 

On both sides of the aisle, there’s more appetite for simply sending Americans cash rather than routing aid through more complicated programs.

“There’s a new generation of policy thinkers on both the left and the right who have a different set of experiences than those who were around during welfare reform,” Samuel Hammond, one of the co-authors of the Niskanen Center’s analysis, said. “It brings together anti-poverty values on the left and pro-family values on the right and unites them in a really nice way.”

Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. and Mike Lee, R-Utah have pushed for larger child tax credits and got a pared-down version of their proposal into the GOP tax bill, for example. And Biden’s Covid-19 relief plan is similar to a bill championed by Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and Michael Bennet, D-Colo. 

Democratic presidential candidates, including Vice President Kamala Harris, proposed an array of new cash benefits and tax credits during the 2020 campaign while Andrew Yang ran on a universal basic income of $1,000 per month.

In the last year, the pandemic turbocharged the conversation, setting the stage for the ongoing debate over $2,000 relief checks that’s produced an odd alliance of Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. on the left and former President Trump and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. on the right.

Republicans have gone through a transformation since the days when Romney himself bemoaned in 2012 that the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income tax are “dependent upon government” and “believe that they are victims."

Now conservatives may have a tougher time making that case due to political changes wrought by Trump.

While Trump’s economic team was driven by mostly conventional conservatives, his political rhetoric swung 180 degrees from the tea party’s “47 percent” talk. Instead of bemoaning Americans who don’t pay income taxes, he proposed sending them a tax return with “I WIN” printed on it.

He also dropped the tea party’s obsession with deficits, and his push for pandemic checks have gotten Americans in both parties more used to the concept. Trump's success with working class voters has made some social conservatives argue that the party's business wing is too focused on corporate tax cuts, and not enough on benefits for families. 

Democrats have gone through their own transformation. The party’s rising left wing, led by figures like Sanders, emphasized universal benefits in contrast to more limited programs designed to stave off accusations that aid would go to freeloading “welfare queens” or higher incomes who don't need it. 

For more traditional Republicans who are worried that expanded benefits might discourage recipients from working, there’s some concern that the party is losing its identity.

If conservatives want to stop it, though, they may have to re-educate their base. Millennials are now the largest share of the electorate, and many have no memory of either the 1990s-era battles over work requirements or the deficit fears that drove calls for scaling back benefits.

666d ago / 3:59 PM UTC

First on NBC: 62 progressive groups pressure Democrats to kill the filibuster

WASHINGTON — In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Friday, 62 progressive groups called for him to abolish the filibuster to give Democratic priorities a chance in Congress. It's the latest signal that the filibuster issue isn't fading despite some vocal holdouts in the caucus. 

"We urge Senate Democrats, under your leadership, to take speedy action to fix the broken Senate and make progress possible by changing the rules to end the gridlock and dysfunction," the groups wrote in the letter, first obtained by NBC News. "The best way to restore a functioning Senate is to eliminate the filibuster as a weapon the minority can use to block an agenda that a majority of Americans have just embraced at the ballot box."

Image: Congressional Democrats Hold Press Conference On Canceling Student Debt
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a press conference about student debt outside the Capitol on Feb. 4, 2021.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Signatories include March For Our Lives, MoveOn Civic Action, Communications Workers of America, Voto Latino, Greenpeace, Demos, Demand Justice, Indivisible and Our Revolution. The groups represent causes ranging from gun control, climate action, a minimum wage hike, liberalizing immigration and others that are likely to be hindered by the 60-vote rule in a split Senate.

Fix Our Senate, an umbrella group for the campaign against the filibuster run by former Senate Democratic leadership aide Eli Zupnick, led the letter effort. Zupnick praised Schumer for rejecting Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell's demand to preserve the filibuster. But he signaled that activists are expecting Schumer to persuade holdouts like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to help turn the chamber into a majority-rule body.

Schumer is up for re-election in New York next year.

"We know some Democrats are still reluctant to eliminate the filibuster, but we're going to keep making the case that the promises Democrats made to deliver results must be prioritized over an outdated and abused Senate rule that is no longer working and can easily be changed," Zupnick said.

667d ago / 9:24 PM UTC

Tweet the Press: Garrett Haake reports on the GOP's Cheney vote, Marjorie Taylor Greene decision

WASHINGTON — House Republicans voted to keep Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., in her leadership position on Wednesday night after several Republicans called for her expulsion because of her vote to impeach former President Trump.

NBC's Garrett Haake reports on what that vote means for the caucus and how Republican leadership has responded to Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's controversial comments on conspiracy theories. 

Click here to read the full conversation. 

668d ago / 6:21 PM UTC

Moderate GOP group plans to spend $25 million on midterms in fight for future of the party

WASHINGTON — The Republican Main Street Partnership, a moderate GOP group that has supported efforts to repudiate the party's fringe before, is making its pitch in the fight for the future of the party with new plans to spend $25 million on congressional races this cycle

The group is also releasing its post-election examination of the 2020 cycle to members and allies — an assessment that lays out its argument for a post-Donald Trump GOP as a party that can harness the frustration of some voters while attracting suburban and minority voters in the process.   

“The Republican Party is not dead. We have a chance to come back stronger than ever if we give the voters what they are looking for,” Sarah Chamberlain, Main Street’s executive director, told NBC News in an interview. 

Chamberlain pointed to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, as well as the controversy surrounding Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., as two serious issues threatening to derail the party.

“We had the Jan. 6 situation, now we have the congresswoman from Georgia, we have [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy flying down to see Trump. I get a lot of questions from voters around the country about: ‘What’s happening? Where is my party?’” 

A central theme of the group’s autopsy is a focus on traditional GOP bread-and-butter issues like the economy, foreign policy and national security. The group also wants to rebuild the party’s “ethics and moral standing” in a way that looks nothing “like the family values, Moral Majority” politics of the past, while offering solutions on issues like Covid-19 and mental health, according to the report. 

To keep Trump voters on board, which the plan makes clear constitutes an “important wing of the party,” the group argues that the way forward is connecting to them through a populist pitch that skips the “vulgar and disrespectful” rhetoric that could alienate more voters than it brings in.   

"We have to make a decision: Do we want to be a party of 180 bright red congressmen and women? Or do we want to have 240 and 250 where there are purple districts that we hold," Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a Main Street member, asked on Wednesday's "MTP Daily" on MSNBC. 

Even though Trump lost his re-election bid, many Republicans saw a silver lining in November’s election results as the party narrowed the Democratic House majority with swing-seat wins, leading to hope voters were open to distinguishing between Trump and other Republicans.

But then Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to try to halt the Electoral College certification in an attack where five lost their lives. Virtually all Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans blamed the attack on the president himself, and the House voted to impeach Trump over it. Shortly after, 147 Congressional Republicans voted to object to the Electoral College certification. 

And now Republicans are facing pressure to punish freshman Rep. Green for espousing conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric.

Democrats have quickly moved to marry the two controversies to define the GOP. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began running TV and digital ads Tuesday accusing Republicans of refusing to stand up to extremists by not voting to impeach Trump. 

“Trump may have been malignant, but now it's metastasized,” DCCC chairman and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said Tuesday on “Morning Joe.” 

“If they want to deny the pandemic or throw out the election, they certainly cannot be trusted with power.” 

The Republican Main Street Partnership operates as an outside group that has a membership of lawmakers who align with its goals. 

Nine out of the 60 Main Street members voted against the Electoral College certification, Chamberlain told NBC, quick to note that she had 51 members vote to certify the presidential election. Weeks later, eight of the 10 GOP votes for Trump’s impeachment came from Main Street members. 

While Main Street helped to knock off disgraced Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King last cycle, Chamberlain said that the group has no current plans to try to unseat another incumbent Republican. 

Instead, the group’s priorities are protecting its incumbent members, as well as recruiting like-minded candidates to help win control of the House for Republicans, while growing Main Street’s political and policy clout.

The internal fight within the GOP is still in the early stages, and Trump is still looking to wield significant influence in the party. But pointing to trends in states like Arizona, which has seen both Senate seats flip to Democrats in the past two election cycles, Chamberlain is throwing down the gauntlet.

“We can’t lose a generation of 18-to-21-year-olds right now who register as Democrats because they’re watching what’s going on and say they can’t relate to that. We can’t afford to lose these suburban areas because they can swing House seats and Senate seats, she said.

“If they leave, we may not get them back.”

669d ago / 6:09 PM UTC

Progressive group takes on Manchin, Sinema

WASHINGTON — A new progressive group co-founded by former aides to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday that it was recruiting primary challengers against Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., over their opposition to eliminate the Senate’s legislative filibuster. 

Neither Manchin nor Sinema are up for re-election until 2024.

The campaign by this group, No Excuses PAC, against these two moderate Democratic senators was first reported by POLITICO.

“Democrats have a couple years, max, to improve the lives of the American people. If they blow it, Republicans take back over, and then we’ll get another Trumper back in the White House — maybe Trump himself,” said Corbin Trent, the president of No Excuses PAC, who worked for Ocasio-Cortez, as well as for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.  

“Senators like Sinema and Manchin seem to think we need more talk and less action in the Senate. If they are dictating the agenda, it’ll be hard to hold on to the majority,” Trent added. 

No Excuses PAC has already aired radio ads against both Manchin and Sinema.

 

It’s unclear, however, how effective this progressive campaign will be against these two senators in these two states.

In addition to both not being up for re-election for another three years, Manchin easily bested a liberal primary challenger in 2018 on his way to a narrow re-election victory — in a state Donald Trump won by nearly 40 percentage points two years later. 

Sinema, meanwhile, faced no primary opposition in her 2018 Senate bid, and won the general election with 50 percent of the vote.

But one political observer believes the campaign will be beneficial — for both the progressive group’s coffers, and for Manchin’s and Sinema’s moderate credentials in these two states.

670d ago / 6:57 PM UTC

Republican campaign groups ask for campaign funds to be used for personal security

WASHINGTON — The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee asked the Federal Election Commission to amend campaign finance rules to allow senators and House members to use campaign funds to pay for personal security for themselves and family members.

In a letter submitted on Jan. 27, the NRSC and NRCC listed "current events involving concrete threats of physical violence" as the reason for the FEC to allow members to pay for bodyguards from campaign contributions. The FEC currently doesn't allow members to use campaign funds for personal uses that aren't connected with the duties of holding office. The NRSC and NRCC argue in their request that the use wouldn't be personal because the threats are being made based on the members' status as a federal lawmaker.

"The responsibilities associated with being elected representatives constantly require Members (and their families) to appear in public settings, and in such settings, the most practical and effective solution for protecting the safety of members and their families is the employment of personal security personnel," the letter says. 

Image: ***BESTPIX*** Acting Capitol Police Chief Recommends Permanent Fencing Around US Capitol
An eight-foot tall steel fence topped with concertina razor wire circles the U.S. Capitol Jan. 29, 2021.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

There's some precedent for campaign funds being used for security payments. After Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise was shot, the FEC issued an opinion that allowed members of Congress to use campaign funds for "costs associated with installing (or upgrading) and monitoring a security system at the members' residences." 

The ask comes in the wake of the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Since then, members have asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for more flexibility in their congressional allowances to hire security for their district offices. And members of Congress said they wore body armor to President Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20. 

Some lawmakers have even reported being concerned for their safety in the presence of other members of Congress. 

The NRSC and NRCC aren't the only groups asking for increased security measures to be made. Last week, the acting chief of the U.S. Capitol Police called for permanent fencing around the Capitol. The barriers originally went up to respond to the Jan. 6 attack and stayed up through inauguration. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee didn't respond to a request to comment.

The FEC usually responds to written requests within 60 days, but the NRSC and NRCC asked for "expedited consideration" given the "threat environment facing members." 

670d ago / 4:29 PM UTC

Trump filled political war chest with tens of millions to close 2020

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump raised tens of millions of dollars to support his political ambitions on the back of his unfounded push to discredit the presidential election results, money that positions him to be a financial force as he looks to wield power over the GOP from Florida instead of the White House. 

Trump's political action committee, Save America, raised more than $31 million in the final five weeks of 2020, new filings with the Federal Election Commission show. The group's only spending was on administrative fees, leaving it with with $31.2 million left in the bank at the end of the year. 

As Trump spent the weeks after Election Day trying to overturn the presidential election and make unfounded claims of sweeping fraud, his campaign directed supporters to help fund the effort. But the fine print of those fundraising solicitations showed that most of the money would be directed to Save America.

Save America is a Leadership PAC, which is largely restricted from paying a candidate's personal campaign expenses — those expenses need to be paid by the candidate's official campaign account. Instead, Leadership PACs can cover other politically-adjacent expenses like donating to other campaign accounts, or paying for the travel and staff of a politician who doesn't hold office and isn't currently running. 

So despite that big fundraising push to Save America, the group didn't spend a dime on anything related to the campaign's election fraud push.

Image:
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in support of Senate candidates Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Dalton, Ga., on Jan. 4, 2021.Brynn Anderson / AP file

Trump's official campaign committee also filed its report on Sunday, showing that it raised $27 million from Nov. 24 through Dec. 31. It spent about $34.7 million over that time, ending the year with $10.75 million left in the bank and $2.7 million in debt. 

That's the primary vehicle the campaign appears to have used for its election fraud push. But while previous reports showed the campaign had spent about $8.8 million on recount related fees, the Trump campaign's largest expenditures in the latest reports are about influencing the court of public opinion instead of a court that would have say on voter fraud complaints. 

Between Nov. 24 and Dec. 31, Trump's campaign spent $6.5 million on online and text-message advertising, all through American Made Media Consultants LLC, a media firm with ties to the Trump orbit.

The campaign also paid out about $1.1 million in legal fees, the lion's share ($1 million) to the law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres. One of the firm's named partners, Marc Kasowitz, represented Trump during the Russia investigation and had also previously represented him before he took office.

Even out of office, Trump has not drifted far away from the political arena. His impeachment trial in the Senate will begin next week, and he spent his first days out of office trying to use carrots and sticks to keep his influence up in the Republican Party. And last week, he met with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as House Republicans look to chart a path forward in a Washington controlled narrowly by Democrats. 

671d ago / 2:17 PM UTC

Republican senators propose slimmed-down Covid relief plan

WASHINGTON — Ten Republican senators wrote a letter Sunday requesting a meeting with President Joe Biden to discuss a slimmed-down coronavirus relief plan they say can win bipartisan support.

The Republicans propose a relief package that is much smaller than Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal. Their offer includes $160 billion for vaccines, $4 billion for health and substance abuse services, the continuation of current unemployment aid and unspecified "targeted" economic assistance and help for schools.

"We recognize your calls for unity and want to work in good faith with your Administration to meet the health, economic, and societal challenges of the COVID crisis," read the letter, which includes Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and others.

It is a Republican-only proposal at a time when Democrats control the White House and Congress. But it will test Biden’s calls for unity and bipartisanship while promising lofty policy goals.

Republican lawmakers have largely rejected Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan, balking at the price tag. But the new GOP offer is likely to face progressive pushback as Democrats like Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., have described Biden’s offer as only a "promising start."

The new letter comes as Democrats are eying a special budget process known as reconciliation to bypass the Senate’s 60-vote threshold and approve a larger relief bill without GOP support.

673d ago / 6:54 PM UTC

Thousands of Republicans changed voter registration after Capitol attack

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WASHINGTON — Since the violent attack at the Capitol on Jan. 6, thousands of Republicans changed their party registration in key swing states. 

As of this week, 9,891 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their party registration. In North Carolina, that number was just above 7,400 and more than 9,000 Republicans in Arizona did the same. While Florida statewide numbers aren't available yet, Orange County, Fla. saw over 1,200 Republicans change their party. Just about 100 Democrats did the same in Orange County since Jan. 6. 

674d ago / 9:46 PM UTC

Jim Jordan announces he will not run for Senate in 2022

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Washington — Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, will not run for Ohio's open Senate seat in 2022, a spokesperson for his congressional campaign said on Thursday. 

On Monday, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, announced he would not run for re-election on Monday, leaving the seat without an incumbent for the mid-term elections.

Ohio's Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted on Wednesday said the he also would not run for the seat

Jordan, a leading member of the House's Freedom Caucus, has been a staunch ally to former President Trump and led the House Republican floor speeches against the vote to impeach Trump on Jan. 13. President Trump won Ohio by about 8 points in the 2020 election. 

Image: Jim Jordan
Rep.Jim Jordan speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Nov. 6, 2019.Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

When asked whether Jordan would run for Ohio governor, his spokesperson said, "He's going to run for Congress." 

The open Ohio Senate seat could be key for Republicans hoping to retake control of the Senate majority. Republicans will have to defend 20 seats in the 2022 cycle including three open seats: Portman's Ohio seat as well as one in North Carolina stemming from Sen. Richard Burr's decision to not seek re-election and Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey who announced he will also retire from Congress. 

674d ago / 6:59 PM UTC

In first week since leaving office, Trump and his PAC stick to carrot-and-stick politics

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump and his super PAC have sent two clear public messages to fellow Republicans since he left office on Jan. 20 — one to reward a Trump ally and another to pressure a foe within the party. 

The first move was the endorsement of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former Trump press secretary who is running for governor in Arkansas. Hours after her official announcement Monday, Trump issued his "complete and total endorsement" of his former aide through his Save America super PAC.

The second came Wednesday night, when the PAC released results from a poll it commissioned from former Trump campaign pollster John McLaughlin purporting to show that Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney is losing support because she backed Trump's impeachment. (The campaign released a polling memo with top-line info but not the wording or order of questions.) 

It's far from common practice for a former president's political operation to commission a poll about a congresswoman and release it more than 600 days before Election Day (and more than a year before a primary election). But quickly after the poll's release, many of the president's allies pointed to it as fodder to fan the flames of the president's feud against Cheney. 

Image: Liz Cheney
Liz Cheney arrives for a press conference at the Capitol on Dec. 17, 2019.Samuel Corum / Getty Images file

The poll's release, along with the Sanders endorsement earlier this week, shows that the carrot-and-stick politics of rewarding Trump's allies and punishing his perceived enemies is alive and well. 

Cheney and Trump had long been at odds well before the attack on the Capitol — Trump specifically name-checked her derisively during his speech hours before his supporters stormed the Capitol, telling the audience “we got to get rid of the weak Congresspeople, the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world.” 

Cheney directly blamed Trump for the Capitol riot, saying in a statement announcing her decision to support impeachment that “the president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his own doing.” 

With Trump kicked off social media and his bully pulpit limited, his allies have sought to pressure her still. Allies like Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz have been calling on Cheney to step down from leadership and rallying supporters to back a primary to Cheney — he’s criticized her for being disloyal to Trump and is holding a rally today in Wyoming to prosecute the case.

674d ago / 5:00 PM UTC

Poll: Most Americans want Biden, Congress to focus on the economy and Covid-19

WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden starts his second full week in office, Americans are united in saying they want him and Congress to focus on the economy and addressing the coronavirus. 

Beyond those goals, it gets a little more complicated.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, eight in ten (80 percent) Americans list strengthening the economy as a “top priority for the president and Congress to address this year,” while 78 percent say the same of dealing with the virus. 

Image: US-HEALTH-VIRUS
A registered nurse administers the COVID-19 vaccine into the arm of a woman at the Corona High School gymnasium in the Riverside County city of Corona, Calif. on Jan. 15, 2021.Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images

Other top issues include improving jobs (67 percent) and defending the country against terrorism (63 percent). 

But the survey also lays out some stark divides by party, gender and race when it comes to issue priorities. 

While majorities of both Republicans and Democrats say that the economy, terrorism and coronavirus should be top priorities, there are major partisan splits over policy moves — which Biden has already begun to address through executive orders — like addressing climate change (a priority of 59 percent of Democrats and just 14 percent of Republicans) and addressing racial issues (a priority of 72 percent of Democrats and just 24 percent of Republicans). 

And as concerns about the cost of programs are raised by Republicans who oppose some of Biden’s key campaign promises, more than half — 54 percent — of Republicans prioritize reducing the budget deficit, while just 29 percent of Democrats agree. 

Additionally, Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to prioritize dealing with the coronavirus, education, race relations and the issues of the poor than their white counterparts. 

Just 40 percent of white adults say issues of race should be a top priority for the president and Congress this year, while 68 percent of Hispanics and 83 percent of Black Americans say the same. 

675d ago / 7:19 PM UTC

Biden thanks firefighters union for support, pitches Covid-19 package

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden thanked a key group of early supporters on Wednesday. During the International Association of Firefighters' annual legislative conference, Biden told the union, "I owe you." 

“The nation owes you." Biden said in a recorded message, "especially as we keep asking more of you, to deal with raging fires made more dangerous by the climate crisis. And now, today, to see you on the frontlines of a deadly pandemic and deepening economic crisis.”

Biden also pitched his $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” to the union. The president said a key component of the package was ensuring first responders like them are able to get protective equipment, and Biden noted that direct relief to state and local governments would ensure sufficient funding for fire departments. 

“I'll always fight for your right to be treated with dignity and respect you deserve,” he said. 

The IAFF was the first major labor union to endorse Biden’s candidacy. The union’s 2019 legislative conference was something of an early kick-off for the Biden campaign. Weeks before Biden officially launched his 2020 campaign, he was greeted at the event to chants of, “Run Joe Run.”

Biden began his video message, taped from the White House, with a warm sendoff to Harold Schaitberger, the retiring IAFF general president.

“I don't believe you're really going to retire, but, you know, don't kid yourself. I'm still going to be calling you,” Biden said.

676d ago / 9:58 PM UTC

Health care group lobbies Biden to keep hospital transparency regulations in place

WASHINGTON — With President Biden undoing a series of his predecessor’s executive actions, one advocacy group is trying to get ahead of any attempt to reverse a health care policy that went into effect a few weeks before he took office.

The group, Patient Rights Advocate, sent a letter to the White House on Tuesday making the case that Biden leave in place a regulation that requires hospitals to disclose to patients the details of costs for medical procedures and devices.

“The need for real price transparency in healthcare has never been greater,” the letter states. “As we continue to fight a major health crisis and financial hardships, the ability to see prices in healthcare will give power to American patients to control both their physical health and financial savings.”

Image: Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America
Medical worker and hospital beds.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

Hospital groups have challenged the rule, unsuccessfully, arguing it could actually raise costs. They’ve also urged the Biden team not to enforce the rule, citing difficulty in complying with the rule while medical personnel are overwhelmed with the coronavirus pandemic.

In the letter, PRA, which describes itself as a nonpartisan organization, cites new polling it commissioned on the measure, called Healthcare Price Transparency, that shows overwhelming support for the issue among Republicans and Democrats.

The letter was sent to Biden, via his chief of staff, and a copy was forwarded to Susan Rice, head of the Domestic Policy Council.

A White House spokesperson said they had no update on the topic when asked whether the Biden administration plans to reverse this rule or leave it in place. The spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday’s letter.

The rule on healthcare price transparency went into effect on Jan.1.

PRA argues the rule should remain in place to “protect Americans and their right to know upfront” and give patients “the power to prevent overcharging, price-gouging, and erroneous or fraudulent billing.”

676d ago / 6:05 PM UTC

Trump rewards Sarah Huckabee Sanders with early endorsement for Arkansas gov

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump didn't wait long to throw his support behind his former White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in her bid to be Arkansas' governor. 

Sanders announced her gubernatorial bid Monday morning in a Twitter video where she played up her work in the Trump administration and framed her bid as a fight to be the "last line of defense" for the state against a Democratic-controlled Washington.

 

And by the end of the day, Trump endorsed her through his political action committee in a statement that closely mimicked his typical endorsement script, calling her someone who "is strong on Borders, tough on Crime, and fully supports the Second Amendment and our great law enforcement officers" and offering his "Complete and Total Endorsement!"

Her profile, along with the former president's backing in a state where he's enjoyed significant support (especially in the state GOP), helps add rocket fuel to her bid to replace GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is term-limited. 

But she's not the only candidate in the race, which includes current Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and current state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. 

Griffin welcomed Sanders into the race with a statement that chided her for supposedly not paying enough attention to the issues facing the state: "It sounds like she needs to catch up on what's been going on in Arkansas," he said, in response to some of the policy points Sanders emphasized in her video. 

And Rutledge, who vocally supported the Texas Attorney General's lawsuit that challenged the 2020 presidential election results, noted her friendship with Sanders and the Huckabee family in a statement where she continued to tout her support for Trump's agenda as well as that "Arkansas must have a leader with a proven record of accomplishments against the liberal left." 

677d ago / 5:35 PM UTC

What Rob Portman's 2022 decision means for the Senate map

WASHINGTON — Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, became the third GOP senator to announce he’s not running in the 2022 cycle on Monday. Portman joined North Carolina’s Richard Burr and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey. All three hail from important past and present battleground states that could hold the key to the Senate majority.

While Portman's decision may free him to consider convicting former President Trump in a Senate impeachment trial, Portman’s decision also has ramifications for the 2022 Senate map with the Senate now divided 50-50. Democrats hold the Senate majority with Vice President Kamala Harris available to cast tie-breaking votes.

Image:
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, questions Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas during his confirmation hearing on Jan. 19, 2021.Joshua Roberts / AP

Republicans will have to defend 20 seats in the 2022 cycle, including the three now-open seats, as well as Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson's and Marco Rubio's Florida seat. 

Democrats, meanwhile, have to defend 14 seats, including Mark Kelly’s in Arizona and Raphael Warnock’s in Georgia who are serving out the remainder of terms. Democrats will also defend seats in battleground states like Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada. 

While midterms have traditionally been more difficult for the party holding the White House, open seats like Portman's are tougher to defend than if a senator were running for re-election. 

 

681d ago / 11:23 PM UTC

Jaime Harrison elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee

WASHINGTON — Former South Carolina Senate candidate Jaime Harrison was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee at a virtual meeting Thursday afternoon. 

President Joe Biden tapped Harrison to lead the party, and the committee overwhelmingly voted to affirm the pick a day after Biden's inauguration. 

It also voted to elect Biden's choices for vice chairs: Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Rep. Filemon Vela Jr. of Texas. 

Harrison, who ran the South Carolina Democratic Party and was associate chairman of the DNC, broke candidate fundraising records last year when he ran against Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., even though he lost. He also ran against the party's outgoing chairman, Tom Perez, in the 2017 DNC chairman's race. 

Image: Jaime Harrison
Jaime Harrison in February.Mark Makela / for NBC News

At the virtual meeting, Perez, who did not seek a second term, took a victory lap after overseeing the party when it reclaimed the House, Senate, White House and several governors' mansions, with a video featuring praise from former President Barack Obama and others.

Harrison, who hails from a red state, pledged to make sure Democrats compete in all 50 states and seven U.S. territories. "I have no intention of turning victory into complacency. Because we've seen what happens when we don't invest everywhere," he said. 

Biden sent a congratulatory video message that was played during the virtual meeting, and Vice President Kamala Harris called into the meeting to say she was excited to work with Harrison and thank Perez and DNC members. 

"Joe and I, the president and I, would not be here without you. You all did the work," she said to the DNC. 

History suggests he'll face an uphill battle in defending narrow Democratic majorities in Congress, since backlash to new presidents typically leads to the opposition party gaining seats in the midterms.

681d ago / 9:11 PM UTC

Tweet the Press: Mike Memoli reports on Biden's first week plans

WASHINGTON — NBC's Mike Memoli has covered President Joe Biden since Biden's second run for president in 2007 and through his tenure as Barack Obama's vice president.

On this week's Tweet the Press, Memoli reflects on memorable moments from Biden's Inauguration Day — including the importance of the amount of "ever"s in his speech — and the actions Biden is taking in his first week of office.

Click here to read the full conversation.

681d ago / 2:03 PM UTC

Pro-immigration reform group calls for pathway to citizenship in new ad buy

WASHINGTON — FWD.us, the immigration advocacy group co-founded by Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg, is dropping a new ad campaign on President Joe Biden's first full day in office that calls for the government to build a "humane, modern immigration system" that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

The new spot, which will run on national cable as well as digital for what the group said is a "mid-six-figure buy," begins by fading out of a picture of former President Donald Trump and posing the question: "What if we had a fresh start, a new opportunity to build the country all of our families need?"

It goes onto evoke the role immigrants play across the country, including in the health care, education, manufacturing, delivery and other sectors hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The group's analysis finds that more than 5 million essential workers in America are undocumented. 

"Immigrants work on the front-lines of our recovery, but many are trapped as undocumented by our long-failed immigration system," the ad's narrator says. 

"We have a chance to rebuild together, stronger than we've ever been."

The Obama administration shaped immigration policy in a significant part through through executive order after Congress failed to come to a compromise on an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.

But the Trump administration repeatedly sought to end the Obama-era DACA program, which provided a respite from deportation for many immigrants brought to America as children illegally. After the Supreme Court blocked the administration's attempt to nix the program, the administration rejected new applicants this past summer. In December, a federal judge reinstated the program and ordered the administration to accept new applicants.

Now, Biden is proposing a new immigration bill of his own, legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, provide them with legal status, fund border security measures (but not Trump's signature border wall) and a slew of other proposals, including more aid to countries from which people are emigrating to America. 

On Wednesday, he issued a proclamation calling for the protection of the DACA program and the administration announced it would temporarily halt some deportations in its first 100 days. 

In a statement announcing the new ad buys, FWD.us President Todd Schulte said the group is "heartened" by the administration's immigration reform proposal. 

"The time is now to build a humane, commonsense approach to immigration that keeps families safe and together — beyond merely undoing the terrible harms visited on immigrant families and communities that were relentlessly targeted by the Trump Administration using our all-too-easily weaponized immigration system," he added. 

683d ago / 7:14 PM UTC

Georgia certifies Senate victories for Ossoff, Warnock

and

WASHINGTON — The Georgia Secretary of State certified the state's two Senate runoffs, won by Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, officially bringing to end the tumultuous 2020 Election Cycle that saw Democrats flip the White House and the Senate majority. 

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has repeatedly pushed back on President Donald Trump's accusations of election fraud, announced the certified results on Tuesday. Warnock defeated GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler by about 93,000 votes while Ossoff defeated GOP Sen. David Perdue by about 55,000 votes. The 4.48 million votes cast was short of the approximately 4.9 million votes cast in November, but even so, January's special election broke the state's record for runoff turnout.

While Loeffler faced the voters for the first time in 2020 (she was appointed to the seat, making this her first election), Perdue was first elected in 2014 by a margin of about 200,000 votes. 

A spokesperson for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's office confirmed the governor certified the results and that the certification has been hand-delivered to the U.S. Senate. 

Image: US-VOTE-BIDEN
Democratic candidates for Senate Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and President-elect Joe Biden stand on stage during a rally outside Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta on Jan. 4, 2021.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

That means both Warnock and Ossoff will be sworn in soon — two sources familiar with the schedule told NBC that three new Democratic senators (the two Georgians and former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who is replacing Vice President-elect Kamala Harris) will be sworn in on Wednesday afternoon after the President-elect Joe Biden and Harris are inaugurated. 

Once Biden and Harris are sworn in, along with the new Democratic senators, the Democratic party will hold the majority in the Senate (although the Senate is split 50/50, the vice president breaks ties). 

683d ago / 3:01 PM UTC

GOP fundraising apparatus faces new uncertainty amid backlash from pro-Trump riot

WASHINGTON — The brewing storm of a GOP reckoning with President Trump for the soul of the party turned into a Category Five hurricane after rioters, stoked by Trump’s rhetoric, stormed the Capitol. The violent scene left five dead, including a police officer and a woman trying to break into the inner depths of the Capitol. 

But as the party confronts the fallout from the attack and the serious questions about how it moves forward, some are concerned that the new reality is putting the party's fundraising operation in a precarious place, both with grassroots and corporate donors.  

It’s an evolving situation, particularly as the Senate weighs whether to conduct an impeachment trial that could end up barring Trump from holding federal office again. But the fundraising fallout, and the political ramifications from it, could be significant. 

“This is a real serious, potential problem,” said one top GOP strategist who requested anonymity to share their candid perspective.  

“This can all be done tomorrow, this might be a blip on the radar, it might have nothing to do with anything. But it certainly feels different.” 

The Republican Party has spent years reorienting itself in Trump’s image, despite him being a repeated magnet for controversy, looking to him as the key to supercharging their grassroots and catching up to the Democratic small-dollar juggernaut.  

The president commands a loyal legion of small-dollar donors that helped him set grassroots fundraising records during his campaigns. National committees and politicians adopted his harsh and combative tone in fundraising pitches, and tempted donors by giving away books by top Trump allies, building out their own small-dollar networks on the back of Trump’s fundraising strength. 

But it was a double-edged sword, as Democrats rallied around their opposition to Trump to raise tons of money too

Congressional Republicans spent the entire Trump presidency virtually in lockstep with the president, with even his critics hesitating to speak out considering the command he held on the party.  

But now, a significant number of Republicans blame Trump’s rhetoric for feeding the flames of the Capitol attack, a reality that will test the durability of the GOP’s Trump-centric fundraising approach.  

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., a loyal Trump ally, declared during the impeachment debate that Trump was partly to blame for the rioting. Ten Republican lawmakers ultimately voted for Trump’s impeachment last week — none did so during his first impeachment in 2020.  

And Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, Ky., has kept the door open to convicting Trump during the Senate trial, a stunning development considering the lack of widespread GOP support during Trump’s first impeachment. And the AP reports he’s been sounding out donors too.  

So now, after priming the small-donor pump with Trump for years, it appears more likely that Republicans could go into the Biden presidency in an open war with their top fundraiser. 

Then there are the big-money problems, too.  

More and more corporations — like Dow Chemical, Marriott International and American Express — have announced that they are re-evaluating their political donation policies in the wake of the attack. Some plan to stop donating to lawmakers who objected to Biden’s victory, a list that includes top Republicans and those with future presidential ambitions, but others are pausing or suspending donations all together.  

“Last week’s attempts by some congressional members to subvert the presidential election results and disrupt the peaceful transition of power do not align with our American Express Blue Box values; therefore, the AXP PAC will not support them,” American Express Chairman and CEO Stephen Squeri wrote in a public memo.  

It remains to be seen how any retribution for those votes could hurt the objectors with larger ambitions, or the more than 100 House members who joined their calls. Republicans received $26 million in the 2020 cycle from PACs that are halting donations, according to an analysis by Punchbowl News.  

There are other revenue streams for Republicans to tap, and it’s possible corporations will quietly restart their political giving soon. But right now, the GOP is threatening to leave a significant amount of money on the table, and it’s possible the sentiment prompts others to reevaluate their giving too.  

On top of all this, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, arguably the party’s most influential donor, passed away. Adelson gave more than $200 million to GOP groups this past election cycle alone, mostly to outside groups that helped keep the GOP in the hunt.  

The story is far from written — it’s unclear whether party leaders will attempt to make a clean break with Trump, or if they do, how he and his supporters both in Washington and across America will respond. 

Trump allies are openly musing about primary challenges to House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, or in the case of Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, a push to remove her from House leadership. And Trump has also repeatedly floated a bid in 2024, with his children and top allies are being discussed as potential candidates in the next few cycles too.  

"The president and his family and close supporters, as we saw last week, are not going to go quietly into the night unless drastic action is taken,” the top GOP strategist said in the days after the attack.  

“It’s not going to be neat and clean." 

683d ago / 1:00 PM UTC

Democrats need a better messaging strategy in Florida, a new report says

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden did not need Florida’s 29 electoral votes to capture the White House in 2020. But a new report out Tuesday has advice for future Democratic candidates: aggressively and consistently invest in courting the state's diverse Hispanic vote or risk losing ground in future elections.

The report from the polling and research firm LD Insights, obtained exclusively by NBC News, asserts that Democrats must commit millions of dollars in Florida in an effort to expand outreach, test paid media messages and increase their presence in order to compete in future elections. The report also suggests a "stick to the basics" policy platform on goals like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and touting legislative achievements like improving health care. 

The new study comes about two months after Biden won the Latino vote, but with less support than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. After working with Democratic state party leaders, elected officials, activists and consultants, the study's authors concluded this happened because the Democratic Party failed to communicate consistently with Latino voters in off-year elections. That lack of communication allowed Republicans to define Democratic candidates as socialists. 

Hispanics in Florida wanted candidates to focus on bolstering the economy and ending the Covid-19 pandemic. But the report suggested that Democratic candidates running for local office in the state were "caught up on pushing or responding to national messages like Black Lives Matter protests and ‘defund the police’ that didn’t actually lineup with where the Hispanic electorate is, which tends to be more culturally conservative," Kevin Munoz, the Biden campaign's Florida press secretary, said. 

Matt Barreto, co-founder of LD Insights and an adviser to the Biden campaign, said Biden would have done better with Florida's Hispanic voters if the campaign understood how Biden’s Covid-19 and economic message wasn't direct enough for many Latinos.  

Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden waves to supporters during a drive-in voter mobilization event at Miramar Regional Park, on Oct. 13, 2020 in Miramar, Fla.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Barreto said that Floridian Hispanics told researchers and pollster that they agreed with Biden's call for wearing a mask and listening to scientists, but they were unfamiliar with his economic recovery plan. By contrast, President Trump’s simple and direct call to reopen businesses immediately resonated with many Latinos. 

Republicans in Florida have spent decades investing in communication tools, and have built loyal audiences through conservative Spanish-language TV, radio and social media. The report said Democrats' more limited approach in paid media and outreach is insufficient to mobilize a community already discussing politics through a Republican lens. 

“Now that Democrats have the majorities, they need to fully lean into their support for populist, economic ideas. They must lean in now and take credit for those and they need to continue to talk about them every day between now and the midterms of what we’re doing as a party, what we’re doing for the Latino community specifically and not let the Republicans try to block that,” Barreto said.

Barreto found that Florida precincts with 80 percent or higher Latino makeup shifted toward Trump in 2020 compared to 2016 because of longtime Republican communication networks where information is spread most effectively by word-of-mouth. That help explains what happened in Miami-Dade County, where Cuban-American communities saw large gains for Republicans. Biden won the county by just 7.3-points. That was a 23-point decrease from Clinton's margin in 2016.

The report argues that the Florida Democratic Party needs to maintain and fund the ethnic-focused grassroots groups the Biden campaign invested in to create reliable channels of communication for future elections.

And according to Barreto's team, Democrats also have two new ways to reach Florida Latinos: maintain and grow turnout among Puerto Ricans in Central Florida’s I-4 corridor, and an education campaign in South Florida that tells voters about the Democratic Party's principles. Both rely on targeting younger Latinos who tend to not lean one party or the other and are crucial for cultivating the next generation of voters.

The next election that can test the report's theories is right around the corner. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, is running for re-election in 2022. And according to this report, Democrats have an uphill battle to defeat him if they don't recruit candidates who directly address the concerns of Latino voters. 

685d ago / 1:12 PM UTC

Harris to step down from Senate seat Monday

WILMINGTON, Del. — Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will resign from her senate seat Monday, according to a transition official.

Harris, who was sworn in as California’s junior senator in 2017, has begun the process of vacating her seat and has informed California Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

Harris won't be leaving the upper chamber too far behind her, however, as she will move to the position of president of the Senate and serve as the tie-breaking vote in a chamber split evenly with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. 

And a Harris aide tells NBC she has already been working on getting support from Republicans and Democrats alike for President-elect Joe Biden's nominees and policy agenda.

“It is her hope that she doesn't have to break many ties, because we believe that we are going to garner bipartisan support for a number of these issues,” the official said, noting that Harris is in lockstep with Biden’s commitment to working in a bipartisan manner.

Image: Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivers remarks after President-elect Joe Biden introduced key nominees for the Department of Justice at The Queen theater
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivers remarks after President-elect Joe Biden introduced key nominees for the Department of Justice at The Queen theater Jan. 7, 2021 in Wilmington, Del.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Harris championed issues in the senate such as black maternal mortality, making lynching a federal crime, and protecting DREAMers. During her Senate career, she also partnered with Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul on reforming the cash bail system.

Beyond policy, Harris made a name for herself with her aggressive questioning during senate confirmation hearings for Trump officials like Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr.

Harris’ seat will be filled by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who was selected by Governor Newsom. 

687d ago / 8:00 PM UTC

Biden announces Science and Technology Policy director, elevates position to Cabinet-level

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden will be announcing one of the last major department heads on Saturday, highlighting his campaign refrain to prioritize "science over fiction."

Biden will name Dr. Eric Lander to serve as his top science adviser and will be elevating Lander's position as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to a Cabinet rank position for the first time. 

During the Saturday rollout of his science team, Biden will also announce he is keeping Dr. Francis Collins as the director of the National Institutes of Health. Collins was first appointed by former President Obama in 2009.

Lander is an acclaimed mathematician and biologist who led the Human Genome Project, and now serves as director of the Broad Institute at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Biden transition team says Lander will lead a team focused on tackling challenges from Covid-19 to climate change, racial justice and the economic downturn.

Image: US-VOTE-POLITICS-SECURITY-DIPLOMACY-TEAM
President-elect Joe Biden announces members of his cabinet in Wilmington, Del., on Nov. 24, 2020.Chandan Khanna / AFP - Getty Images

Biden further outlined the questions he wants Lander's team to address in a letter to Lander: What lessons can be drawn from the pandemic about how to better prepare for addressing health challenges in the future; how scientific breakthroughs can be harnessed to address climate change while also promoting economic growth; how the United States can maintain an advantage in developing new technologies over other nations like China; how to ensure scientific advances benefit all Americans; and how to promote science and technology education in America. 

“They are big questions, to be sure, but not as big as America’s capacity to address them,” Biden wrote.

Dr. Alondra Nelson will serve as Lander's deputy director. Nelson is the current president of the Social Science Research Council and is also a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, a research institute located in Princeton, N.J. Biden also will announce that two women: Dr. Frances Arnold, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and Dr. Maria Zuber, a geophysicist who was the first woman to lead a NASA planetary mission, will lead the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. It will be the first time two women will lead the group.

Kei Koizumi will serve as chief of staff for the OSTP, and Narda Jones will join as legislative director. 

“Science will always be at the forefront of my administration — and these world-renowned scientists will ensure everything we do is grounded in science, facts, and the truth,” Biden said in a statement announcing the lineup. “Their trusted guidance will be essential as we come together to end this pandemic, bring our economy back, and pursue new breakthroughs to improve the quality of life of all Americans.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said the past year has only “reaffirmed the importance of listening to scientists when it comes to meeting the unprecedented challenges facing the American people.”

688d ago / 4:05 PM UTC

Julia Letlow, the widow of congressman-elect who died of Covid-19, will run for his vacated seat

WASHINGTON — Julia Letlow, an education professional whose husband, Luke, passed away last year from Covid-19 shortly after his election to the House of Representatives, will run for the seat her husband had been slated to fill before his death. 

Letlow, a Republican,  announced her congressional bid Thursday in a radio interview, her campaign noting in a statement that her husband announced his race on that same platform last year. 

"Luke and I have been best friends and a team for the last eight years, and we always believed that you have to work hard for your dreams and often that requires stepping out and taking a leap of faith. “During Luke’s campaign for Congress last year, Luke and I traveled to every corner of Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District — from Bastrop to Bunkie to Bogalusa — and all points between," Letlow said in a statement. 

"I am running to continue the mission Luke started — to stand up for our Christian values, to fight for our rural agricultural communities, and to deliver real results to move our state forward."

Image: Julia Letlow
Julia Letlow.Courtesy Julia Letlow for Congress

Luke Letlow won the runoff election for Louisiana's 5th Congressional District last December, and had been set to take office in 2021 to replace Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham, who unsuccessfully ran for governor. But Letlow contracted Covid-19 and passed away days before he was going to be sworn in. 

Julia Letlow previously worked for the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Tulane University, according to a biography sent out by her campaign. 

A handful of candidates had already announced their bids, but USA Today Network reports that a group of Republicans all have decided not to run now that Letlow is seeking office. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has set the special primary election for March 20 and the general for April 24. 

Shortly after Letlow's announcement, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise endorsed her, saying that she "shares the same commitment to public service" as her husband and "I can't think of anyone better to carry on Luke's legacy in representing Louisiana's 5th Congressional District." 

688d ago / 3:22 PM UTC

The GOP impeachment defectors by the numbers

WASHINGTON — Ten House Republicans voted to impeach President Trump on Wednesday. Here's what you need to know about them by the numbers: 

Less than one percentage point: The closest margin of victory in 2020 for any of those 10, for Rep. David Valadao, who won his California seat back from Democrat TJ Cox after being defeated by a narrow margin in 2018.

44 percentage points: The widest margin of victory in the 2020 general election for any of those 10, for Wyoming at-large Rep. Liz Cheney.

Eight out of 10: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment who won their 2020 general election by more than 10 percentage points.

Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shows the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump after signing it in an engrossment ceremony
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shows the article of impeachment against President Donald Trump after signing it in an engrossment ceremony, at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 13, 2021.Leah Millis / Reuters

Eight out of 10: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment whose congressional districts were won by Donald Trump.

Three out of 10: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment whose states (Washington and California) have a nonpartisan top-two primary process.

1: The number of people in American history to successfully impeach two presidents (Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who voted to impeach former President Bill Clinton, and then to impeach Trump on Wednesday. Upton did not support the first impeachment of Trump.)

1: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment who also objected to certification of the electoral votes last week.

On a historical note, 46 members who voted Wednesday were also serving during the impeachment of former President Clinton. Of those, nine are Republicans who voted for impeaching Clinton but voted no on impeaching Trump (the other two Republicans who served during both impeachments are Upton, who voted to impeach both, and Texas Rep. Kay Granger, who did not vote on Wednesday and has Covid-19). And 35 are Democrats who opposed impeaching Clinton but voted to impeach Trump. 

689d ago / 3:22 PM UTC

Putting Trump’s House GOP defectors into historical context

WASHINGTON — In 1998, five House Democrats broke with their party to impeach Bill Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky. 

And in 2019, zero House Republicans defected from Donald Trump when he was impeached over the Ukraine matter. (One GOP senator, Mitt Romney, voted to convict Trump in the Senate trail.) 

That’s the modern-day historical context to evaluate the number of House Republicans who might eventually vote on Wednesday to impeach Trump over his role in last week’s insurrection at the Capitol.  

As of publication time on Wednesday, there are at least five House Republicans who said they will vote for Trump’s impeachment today. 

How high will that number eventually be?

690d ago / 7:32 PM UTC

More than $50 mil spent on political cable TV ads in D.C. this cycle, many targeting Trump

WASHINGTON — One unique repercussion of having a president who is an avowed cable news watcher is that a massive amount of money was spent in the Washington D.C. cable market in the 2020 election cycle, much of it targeting Trump himself. 

Analysis from AdImpact shows that advertisers spent $30.3 million on political TV ads on Washington D.C. cable in 2020 and $21.5 million in 2019. Those figures don't even include spending on national TV spots still aimed at the president's viewing habits, and also exclude spending by congressional candidates for districts that include a piece of the D.C. market. 

That kind of spending is significant — the 2020 sum alone is more than was spent on traditional advertising for any House race this past cycle (New Mexico's 2nd District had $29.4 million in total TV/radio spending, although it should be noted that D.C.'s media market is far more expensive than most). 

And a deeper dive at the top spenders and their content indicates that many of these ads were directly aimed at reaching Trump, who regularly tweeted praise and criticism of the various news shows he watched, primarily on cable. 

Image:
President Donald Trump walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Jan. 12, 2021.Gerald Herbert / AP

The Lincoln Project, the anti-Trump group started by former Republican campaign hands in exodus, spent more than any other group on D.C. cable with $5.7 million. Many of their spots directly criticized the president for his handling of coronavirus or civil unrest, but it also spent money running spots specifically attacking top Trump campaign hands and criticizing the president for associating with them.

The ads were tailored directly at Trump, sometimes calling him out directly. And the tactics prompted responses from the president, who tweeted about the Lincoln Project ads on at least one occasion.  

Over the past few days, the Lincoln Project also started running a spot using Trump's comments refusing to accept the 2020 election and putting them alongside violent imagery and rhetoric from last week's pro-Trump rally and subsequent attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The group's strategy prompted at least one Republican group to give them a taste of their own medicine — the conservative group Club for Growth Action ran a spot of its own in D.C. criticizing the Lincoln Project and its founders. 

Other groups directly called on the White House to make specific policy changes (sometimes targeting the president by name), like this spot from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on drug pricing' one from Americans for Tax Reform specifically asking "Mr. President, please reject socialist price controls for Medicare Part B."  A similar spot from Americans for Limited Government criticized a Trump executive order on health care as "every socialists' dream" and accused the president of adopting socialism. And one from the Pebble Limited Partnership asked "President Trump" to "continue to stand tall and don't let politics enter the Pebble mine review process."

And Trump's presidential campaign spent $1.8 million on cable ads in Washington D.C., despite the fact that the city votes almost universally Democratic in presidential elections and that most Republicans all-but wrote off neighboring Virginia in the 2020 presidential election. That spending sparked questions as to whether the campaign was running the ads so that Trump could see them while watching television

One other thing the spending figures don't include: Those who targeted Trump while he visited his Mar-a-Lago getaway in Florida.

It's not new to see groups spending on the airwaves in Washington D.C. in the hopes of trying to influence decision-makers. But what's been a new feature of the Trump era is how directly many groups targeted the president himself, thanks to his well-known TV diet, to either try to convince him or rattle him. 

694d ago / 7:40 PM UTC

Biden said his Cabinet 'will look like America'. Here's his final slate.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden promised that his Cabinet would be the most diverse in history and that it would "look like America." And Biden addressed that pledge on Friday when announced the final round of Cabinet selections.

"This will be the first Cabinet ever with a majority of people of color occupying this Cabinet. And it has more than a dozen history-making appointments," Biden said.

Image: US-POLITICS-BIDEN
President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., on Jan. 8, 2021, to announce key nominees for his economic and jobs team.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

Of 21 Cabinet-level positions that require Senate confirmation, Biden will nominate four Latino secretaries:

  • Alejandro Mayorkas, Department of Homeland Security 
  • Xavier Becerra, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Miguel Cardona, Department of Education
  • Isabel Guzman, Small Business Administrator 

If confirmed, Mayorkas and Becerra would be the first Latinos to lead their respective departments. 

And nearly half of Biden's announced Cabinet will be women. In addition to Guzman:

  • Janet Yellen, Department of Treasury
  • Jennifer Granholm: Department of Energy
  • Deb Haaland: Department of Interior
  • Gina Raimondo: Department of Commerce
  • Marcia Fudge, Department of Housing and Urban Development 
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.N. Ambassador 
  • Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence
  • Neera Tanden, Office of Management and Budget Director 
  • Katherine Tai, U.S. Trade Representative 

Yellen and Haines would be the first women to hold their positions and Haaland would be the first Native American to serve in a presidential Cabinet. 

Biden also chose four Black members to serve in his Cabinet: Fudge, Thomas-Greenfield, Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin and Michael Regan.

If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black secretary of Defense, and Regan would be the first Black man to head the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Biden's pick to lead the Transportation Department, Pete Buttigieg, would be the first openly gay member of a Cabinet confirmed by the Senate. President Trump's former acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, was the first openly gay Cabinet member. 

694d ago / 2:00 PM UTC

Kamala Harris continues to build out staff with new hires

WASHINGTON — Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced additional staff hires Friday morning including economic and policy advisers as well as additional communications staff. 

Mike Pyle, who served on former President Obama's economic policy team, will serve as Harris' chief economic adviser. He is a former clerk for President-elect Biden's attorney general-designee, Merrick Garland.

Harris also announced her deputy chief of staff will be Michael Fuchs, who currently works at the Center for American Progress, and served as a foreign policy adviser to Bill Clinton. Fuchs will work closely with Harris’ chief of staff Tina Flournoy, who also comes from the Clinton orbit.

Image: Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivers remarks after President-elect Joe Biden introduced key nominees for the Department of Justice at The Queen theater
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivers remarks after President-elect Joe Biden introduced key nominees for the Department of Justice at The Queen theater Jan. 7, 2021 in Wilmington, Del.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

“These deeply experienced public servants reflect the very best of our nation, and they will be ready to get to work building a country that lifts up all Americans,” Harris said in a statement. “Their counsel and expertise are grounded in a commitment to making sure our economy works for working people and all those looking to work. And their leadership will be critical as we work to meet the challenges facing the American people — from the coronavirus pandemic to this economic recession to our climate crisis and long-overdue reckoning on racial injustice.”

Harris’ speechwriting director will be Katie Childs Graham, who led the speechwriting team for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, and worked as Sen. Amy Klobuchar's, D-Minn., communications director. 

Also joining Harris’ office are Sabrina Singh as deputy press secretary, Vincent Evans as deputy director of the office of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs, Deanne Millison as deputy policy director and Peter Velz as director of press operations. Singh, Evans and Velz all worked for Harris during the general election campaign and Millison comes from Harris’ Senate office.

Some of Harris’ hires could be an indication of where her policy focuses will be as Biden's V.P. One incoming policy adviser, Dr. Ike Irby, specializes in marine science and is an expert in climate change. 

“President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have a bold agenda that will build our nation back better than before. These appointees will work tirelessly for the American people, and I am proud to have them join our White House team,” Flournoy said.

695d ago / 6:02 PM UTC

Biden likely to be inaugurated with no confirmed Cabinet secretaries

WASHINGTON — When George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump took their initial oath of office, they did so the same day that several of their Cabinet secretaries were confirmed by the Senate. President-elect Joe Biden will likely not have that reality. 

Senate confirmation hearings routinely happen before a president-elect's inauguration because the Senate has been sworn in and in session before Jan. 20. And in most cases, that means that the newly inaugurated president will be able to start work with at least some key Cabinet secretaries in place to receive briefings and lead departments.

Image: US-VOTE-POLITICS-SECURITY-DIPLOMACY-TEAM
President-elect Joe Biden announces members of his cabinet in Wilmington, Del., on Nov. 24, 2020.Chandan Khanna / AFP - Getty Images

In President Trump's case, his secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security were both confirmed on Inauguration Day. And confirmation hearings for his picks for attorney general, and to lead the departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation and Treasury all began prior to Jan. 20. 

It was a similar story for Obama's first term. Obama's secretaries for six departments were confirmed on Inauguration Day: Agriculture, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, Interior and Veterans Affairs. Hillary Clinton, Obama's first secretary of state, was confirmed the day after inauguration, and Obama's first secretary of defense was a holdover from the Bush administration and was able to start work on Jan. 20 because he had already been Senate confirmed. 

Even Bush, whose presidential win wasn't confirmed until nearly six weeks after Election Day, was able to start work with a partially confirmed Cabinet. 

Bush's secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, State and Treasury were all confirmed on Jan. 20, 2001. And unlike the process for Obama and Trump's nominees, many of Bush's nominees received hearings when the Senate stood at a 50-50 split with the opposing party in control

Republicans did not hold control of the Senate until Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney were inaugurated.

And that's a similar position Biden's secretary-designees find themselves in. Control of the Senate was decided on Jan. 6 after Georgia Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won their respective runoff races. But the Senate does not need to wait for the new Congress to take control and be sworn-in to begin hearings.

Last November, Biden called for his picks to go through the Senate confirmation process before Senate control was determined.

While Biden has announced his secretary-designees for nearly all of the Cabinet positions, no confirmation hearings have been scheduled in the Senate. And after a day of riots in the Capitol on Jan. 6, current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjourned the Senate, announcing that the Senate would reconvene for just three pro forma sessions before the inauguration — on Jan. 8, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15.

The Senate is not set to reconvene in full until Jan. 19.

695d ago / 4:50 PM UTC

Illinois Republican joins more than 100 congressional Democrats to call for Trump removal

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WASHINGTON — Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger became the first Republican member of Congress to support President Trump’s removal from office, as calls mount primarily among Democrats for Trump to be removed for ginning up the rioters that broke into the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday.  

According to an NBC News count, more than 100 House and Senate Democrats have called for either impeaching President Trump or enacting the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. Kinzinger is the only Republican, and the count includes 101 members of the House and seven Senators. 

The highest-ranking Democrat to join the call is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who did so in a statement Thursday morning that said he supports either method of removing Trump. 

Many have done so in bulk — all 17 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Vice President Pence asking him to invoke the 25th Amendment.

“Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides the vice president and a majority of sitting Cabinet secretaries with the authority to determine a president as unfit if he ‘is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,’” the letter read. 

They added, “President Trump’s willingness to incite violence and social unrest to overturn the election results by force clearly meet this standard.” 

The calls haven’t just come from lawmakers — the head of the National Association of Manufacturers called for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment in a statement,

696d ago / 3:55 PM UTC

How Democrats overperformed in the Senate runoffs from November

WASHINGTON — With Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock projected to win and Democrat Jon Ossoff in the lead, the story from Tuesday's Georgia Senate runoff is that Democrats improved their vote margins in many of Atlanta's most-populous counties. 

That dynamic is especially true in counties with a significant Black population, like Clayton and DeKalb, where they hit or exceeded President-elect Joe Biden's winning margins from November. 

Image: U.S. Senate run-off election, in Marietta, Georgia
Voters line up early in the morning to cast their ballots in Marietta, Ga., on Jan. 5, 2021.Mike Segar / Reuters

The easiest comparison to make is in the race between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Ossoff because the two faced off one-on-one on November's ballot and again in January (the special election between Warnock and GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler had a jungle primary in November, with all candidates on one ballot regardless of party). 

With at least 95 percent or more of the expected vote in from each county, here's a look at some of those margins in November and where the margin stands now:

The Atlanta suburbs

  • Fulton (the most vote-rich county in the state): In November, Ossoff won 69.8 percent to Perdue's 28.1 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 71.6 percent to Perdue's 28.4 percent.
  • Gwinnett (outside Atlanta's city limits): In November, Ossoff won 56.8 percent to Perdue's 40.6 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 59.9 percent to Perdue's 40.1 percent.
  • Cobb (another Atlanta suburb): In November, Ossoff won 54 percent to Perdue's 43.4 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 55.8 percent to Perdue's 44.3 percent.
  • DeKalb (contains about 10 percent of Atlanta; majority black): In November, Ossoff won 81.2 percent to Perdue's 16.8 percent. Now, Ossoff is at 83.3 percent to Perdue's 16.7 percent.
  • Henry (Atlanta suburb): In November, Ossoff won 58.8 percent and Perdue won 39 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 61.3 percent to Perdue's 38.7 percent.
  • Clayton (was represented by the late Democratic Rep. John Lewis): In November, Ossoff won 84.4 percent of the vote to Perdue's 13.4 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 88.4 percent to Perdue's 11.6 percent.
  • Douglas (another Atlanta suburb that was reliably GOP until 2008): In November, Ossoff won 61.1 percent to Perdue's 36.5 percent. Now, Ossoff is at 64.7 percent to Perdue's 35.3 percent.

Savannah

  • Chatham (Georgia's most populous county outside of Metro Atlanta): In November, Ossoff won 57.6 percent of the vote here to Perdue's 40.2 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 59.1 percent to Perdue's 40.9 percent

The big, GOP-leaning counties

  • Cherokee (exurban Atlanta): In November, Perdue won 69.2 percent to Ossoff's 27.8 percent. In the runoff, Perdue is at 70.6 percent to Ossoff's 29.4 percent.
  • Forsyth (exurban Atlanta): In November, Perdue won 66.8 percent of the vote here to Ossoff's 30.6 percent. In the runoff, Perdue is at 68.1 percent to Ossoff's 31.9 percent.
  • Hall (exurban Atlanta): In November, Perdue won 71.1 percent to Ossoff's 26.2 percent. In the runoff, Perdue is at 72.4 percent to Ossoff's 27.6 percent.
  • Paulding (exurban Atlanta): In November, Perdue won 63.3 percent of the vote to Ossoff's 34 percent. In the runoff, Perdue is at 63.4 percent to Ossoff's 36.6 percent.
  • Columbia (outside of Augusta): In November, Perdue won 62.9 percent to Ossoff's 34.7 percent. In the runoff, Perdue is at 63.3 percent to Ossoff's 36.7 percent.
697d ago / 5:30 PM UTC

Georgia's runoff rules are in part thanks to state's segregationist past

WASHINGTON — With the 2020 race for the Senate heading into overtime eight weeks after Election Day, casual observers may be asking themselves: Why?

Both Senate races in Georgia headed to runoffs because no candidate in either contest received more than 50 percent of the vote in November. But the state’s election laws are unique in the United States, and their origins — at least in part — lie in the South’s segregationist past. 

While several other states require candidates to receive 50 percent plus one in many federal and state primary contests, Georgia is alone in requiring that share for both primaries and subsequent general elections.

The law requiring the threshold was signed in 1964, a year after being introduced by a Democratic state lawmaker named Denmark Groover from Macon, Ga.

Groover was a vocal segregationist also known for his work to include the Confederate flag in a redesign of the state flag of Georgia, in defiance of federal desegregation efforts.  

Groover understood the electoral power of the Black vote, having lost a race in 1958 when his strength with white voters was outmatched by the 84 percent of the Black vote that went for his opponent. 

Here’s what an Interior Department report on voting rights, published in 2007, had to say about Groover’s reaction to that loss: 

“The Macon politico blamed his loss on 'Negro bloc voting.' … Groover soon devised a way to challenge growing black political strength. Elected to the House again in 1962, he led the fight to enact a majority vote, runoff rule for all county and state contests in both primary and general elections.” 

Groover was a Democrat before a massive political realignment in the South scrambled traditional racial political alliances.

Now, with Black voters firmly in the Democratic coalition, the 50 percent plus one rule has largely been a stumbling block for the party. 

In fact, since 1988 — the first year for which Secretary of State records are available — Democrats have won just one of eight statewide contests that went to a runoff in Georgia, despite receiving more votes in the initial general election contests in several cases. 

The only race they won: A Democrat’s campaign for Public Service Commissioner in 1998. The same candidate later switched parties and will also compete in a runoff on January 5 — as a Republican.

698d ago / 6:58 PM UTC

Georgia Senate elections set new ad spending records powered by massive outside spending

WASHINGTON — Election day in Georgia's Senate runoffs is Tuesday, and both races have already seen enough TV and radio spending to become the two most expensive Senate contests (by ad spending) in U.S. election history. 

Combining runoff spending with the general election, both contests (GOP Sen. David Perdue v. Democrat Jon Ossoff, and GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler v. Democrat Raphael Warnock) easily clear the record of $251 million spent on the airwaves in North Carolina’s 2020 Senate race.

The Perdue-vs.Ossoff race is set to have about $382 million spent on TV and radio, and the Loeffler-vs.-Warnock race is set to have about $284.3 million in TV and radio spending (this total includes money booked to be spent on Monday and Tuesday), per AdImpact.

The majority of that spending has come in the compressed runoff window — $250 million in the Perdue/Ossoff race and $235 million in the Loeffler/Perdue contest. 

Another trend that's common across both races since the runoff began is that Democratic candidates have been consistently outspending their GOP rivals on the airwaves, but GOP outside groups have more than filled the void to give Republicans a final spending edge. 

Through Tuesday, Ossoff is expected to spend about $87 million to Perdue's $50 million, compared to Warnock's $70 million and Loeffler's $50 million. But in both races, GOP outside groups have outspent Democratic outside groups by more than 3 times — with Democratic groups spending about $26 million in each race to the GOP's more than $80 million.

698d ago / 3:34 PM UTC

Biden taking longer than most former presidents to name his attorney general

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden still hasn't announced his attorney general designee. With Election Day being 62 days ago, Biden is on track to announce his attorney general pick later than the last 7 seven presidents. 

According to Senate confirmation records that date back to former President Jimmy Carter's Cabinet picks, Biden has taken longer to announce his attorney general designee than most. Prior to Biden, Carter had the longest gap (48 days) between Election Day and announcing his attorney general designee.

President-elect Joe Biden introduces key Cabinet nominees and members of his climate team in Wilmington, Del., on Dec. 19, 2020.
President-elect Joe Biden introduces key Cabinet nominees and members of his climate team in Wilmington, Del., on Dec. 19, 2020.Alex Edelman / AFP - Getty Images file

Here's how that looks by the numbers: 

Biden's incoming press secretary Jennifer Psaki told reporters to expect more Cabinet announcements this week, but didn't clarify if that would include Biden's designee for attorney general. However, outgoing Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and former deputy attorney general and acting attorney general Sally Yates are all rumored to be under consideration.  

Biden also hasn't named his picks to lead the Commerce and Labor departments, the Small Business Administration and the CIA director. 

703d ago / 8:57 PM UTC

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp dismisses Trump's call to resign

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LAWRENCEVILLE, GA. — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp dismissed President Trump's call for him to resign on Wednesday and said that any pressure to challenge the 2020 presidential election results should be focused in Washington D.C., not in Georgia.

“There is a constitutional and legal process that is playing out, and I'm very comfortable letting that process play out,” Kemp told reporters. “But that horse has left the barn in Georgia and it's headed to D.C. right now. The next vote is going to be there, not here. So people need to focus on the vote that is happening here.”

Trump tweeted on Wednesday that Kemp should resign from office and called the governor an "obstructionist".

Kemp said that his constituents would rather him be focused on distributing the Covid-19 vaccines and helping keep the Republican Senate majority, not on the president's tweets. 

“That's what everybody else, quite honestly, should be focused on while the rest of the process is playing out," Kemp said. 

He added, "I've supported the legal process that [the president] or any other campaign can go through in this state, but at the end of the day I also have to follow the laws and the Constitution." 

Image: Georgia Gov. Kemp Visits Chatham County Health Department As First COVID Vaccinations Are Administered
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks to the media before health care workers receive the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine outside the Chatham County Health Department on Dec. 15, 2020, in Savannah.Sean Rayford / Getty Images file

Ahead of the Jan. 5 Georgia Senate runoffs, Republican Sen. David Perdue said on Wednesday that Trump's criticism of Kemp and other Georgia officials wasn't making his race more difficult. 

"I think that what the president is doing is exercising his rights,” Perdue said during a Fox News interview.

Perdue also defended the president's claims of voter fraud in Georgia.

“We know there are potentially some improprieties there and the president has done nothing but asking for some questions to be answered," Perdue said.

Georgia's secretary of state's office released a signature match audit of Cobb County's absentee ballots which found "no fraudulent absentee ballots". 

Kemp said he would continue to support both Perdue and fellow Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, but hasn't  been invited to President Trump's Jan. 4 Georgia rally

"I don't want to wake up on January the sixth and wonder what else I should have done. I'm doing everything I can with the time that I have to support sending them back up there," Kemp said. 

704d ago / 8:48 PM UTC

Georgia breaks runoff turnout record for Senate races

WASHINGTON — Georgians have already broken the state's runoff turnout record in the dual Senate runoffs that will decide control of the U.S. Senate, new numbers show Tuesday, a mark reached about a week before the day of the election. 

More than 2.3 million voters have cast their ballots, with more than 800,000 voting absentee by mail and 1.5 million voting early, in person, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. The previous runoff turnout record was set in 2008, when Georgians cast 2.137 million total ballots in the entire election.  

More than 78,000 Georgians who did not vote in the general election have already voted in the runoff race, according to the analysis of early vote data by the Democratic political data firm TargetSmart. Tom Bonier, TargetSmart's CEO said Monday that a majority of those voters were voters of color, with African-Americans making up a strong portion. 

Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock have been holding GOTV rallies targeting key constituencies within the Black, Latino, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities, as well as young voters with key surrogates like President-elect Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama.

Republicans have been rallying their supporters with key figures as well, and President Donald Trump will rally for Republicans Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler on Jan.4 (the day before the election) in the northwest Georgia congressional district of Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Green, a Republican who has been amplifying Trump's unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud.

Some Republicans are anxious that Trump's false claims and repeated undercutting of the state's election results could turn off voters the party needs in January. 

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office tells NBC News 3,283 absentee ballots have been rejected as of Tuesday morning. Those voters have until the Friday after Election Day to cure their ballots.

710d ago / 10:41 PM UTC

Andrew Yang files paperwork for New York City mayoral bid

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WASHINGTON — Former Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang has filed paperwork with New York City to run for mayor, marking the next political chapter for the entrepreneur who mounted an underdog bid for president in 2020. 

Yang, who had been reportedly eyeing a bid for New York City mayor, filed on Wednesday with the city's Campaign Finance Board. An affiliated committee, Yang For New York, which is associated with a top Yang aide, also registered with the city board.

Yang has not yet commented on the filing, but a source close to Yang told NBC that the filing is "just procedural" and that "no decision has been made," but that since Yang was "seriously considering it" that filing "was the necessary next step."

Image: Presidential Candidates Attend Gun Safety Forum In Des Moines
Andrew Yang speaks during a forum on gun safety in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 10, 2019.Stephen Maturen / Getty Images file

With New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio term-limited, the mayoral race is expected to be wide open. 

New York Democratic Rep. Max Rose, who lost his re-election bid this year, is exploring a bid. Other prominent candidates include New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former de Blasio aide and police oversight board head Maya Wiley (a former MSNBC legal analyst), former Housing and Urban Development Sec. Shaun Donovan, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia.

Yang announced his 2020 presidential campaign in late 2017, far before almost any other major candidate. And while he was initially viewed as a long-shot, his campaign caught a jolt of momentum as he pitched his plan for all Americans to receive monthly $1,000 checks as part of a universal basic income.

He ultimately dropped out of the race after the New Hampshire primary and started a nonprofit aimed at advancing his ideas, including universal basic income. He endorsed President-elect Joe Biden in March.

For the first time, New York City will be running the mayoral primary races with ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank a slate of candidates. If no candidate wins a majority vote, the votes for the lowest-finishing candidates will be reallocated to their next preferred candidate, with the process repeating until one candidate hits a majority. 

711d ago / 10:01 PM UTC

DNC will elect new chair at Jan. 21 virtual Winter Meeting

WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee will pick its new chair during its virtual Winter Meeting on Jan. 21, NBC News has learned, one day after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. 

The party informed committee-members today of the date of its Winter Meeting, one of the seasonal gatherings where it conducts party business, a DNC aide told NBC. 

The centerpiece of the Winter Meeting will be the party's officer elections, which will include the election of a new chair. Current DNC Chairman Tom Perez has said he will not serve another four-year term, opening the vacancy at the top of the organization. 

With Biden entering the White House, he'll have significant sway over who leads the party. While there are no official candidates yet, former South Carolina Senate nominee Jaime Harrison has expressed openness to running, telling The Washington Post last month "If that's something that they are interested in me doing, I'll definitely take a good look." 

Harrison proved to be a strong fundraiser during his failed bid for the Senate this past cycle, raising more money in a single fundraising quarter than any candidate in American history. He ultimately lost that race to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham by about 10 points. 

The Democrat has sought to lead the party before — he ran for DNC chair after the 2016 election, and Perez tapped him to be the DNC's associate chairman after that election. Before that, he led the South Carolina Democratic Party. 

And he's close with one of Biden's key allies, South Carolina Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, after having worked as one of his top aides in the House. 

While other DNC seasonal meetings include various caucus forums and committee work, including the work that helps to shape the party's rules, the party will just focus on electing its new officers during the January session. On top of the chairperson's race, the party will also be electing vice chairs, secretaries, treasurers and national finance chair. 

Image: Tom Perez
Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez speaks before the start of the Democratic presidential primary debate on Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C.Patrick Semansky / AP

Perez will leave the party after one term as its leader, in which the party won back both the House and the White House in the 2018 and 2020 elections respectively. The former Labor Secretary during the Obama administration, he inherited a DNC in turmoil after the party's loss in the 2016 presidential election, as well as after hacked emails showing some key party leaders deriding Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders were released. 

Perez faced criticism from some Democrats and DNC members for the party's fundraising in the early years of his tenure. And even as the party won back the White House in November, Democrats lost ground in the House and underperformed its targets in the Senate (control of that body will now be decided in the two runoff Senate elections in Georgia). 

But Perez and top Democrats have pointed to the steps taken to dig the party out of its 2016 hole to help its eventual nominee, Biden, defeat President Trump, including investments in organizing staff and its voter file, emphasizing targeting key constituencies, and helping to fund expansive voting-rights litigation effort across the country. 

711d ago / 5:45 PM UTC

Iowa Democrat Rita Hart files challenge to six-vote defeat in the House

WASHINGTON — Iowa Democrat Rita Hart is officially contesting Iowa's Second Congressional District election, asking the House of Representatives to recount ballots and arguing that she would have won but for lawful votes left uncounted. 

Hart ran against Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks in November's election, and the state's election officials certified the Republican's narrow victory, by just six votes, late last month.

But in an official "notice of contest" filed with the House, Hart's campaign claims it has identified "at least 22 lawful ballots" that were left out of the count (the vast majority of those votes, but not all, were for Hart). The campaign says that if those votes were correctly added to the tally, the Democrat would have won.

The request goes on to request a "hand recount of every ballot" to be sure all votes are captured. 

"We believe that in a democratic system, that it is important that this process be abided by, and that every vote be counted. It is better to get it done right than to simply ignore the fact that voters have been disenfranchised because it might be more convenient," Mark Elias, the Hart campaign's lawyer, said in a briefing with reporters. 

Miller-Meeks and fellow Republicans slammed the decision.

"Every vote has been counted under Iowa law, and recounted under Iowa law. The canvas of votes was approved unanimously by a bipartisan board, and certified by the state of Iowa. I'm proud that a narrow majority of you elected me," Miller-Meeks said in a video statement Tuesday

"Unfortunately, Rita Hart now wants Washington politicians to override the will of Iowa voters and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Iowa voters." 

And in a statement, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Bob Salera called the decision to petition the House a "naked power grab."

The challenge is the latest twist in what's slated to be one of the tightest House races in modern American history. First, the state's unofficial results found Hart 47 votes behind Miller-Meeks, but the margin narrowed to six votes after a recount requested by Hart. 

Ultimately, the House has control over who it decides to seat, so it will be up to the Democratic-controlled body as to whether to investigate and ultimately decide who should be seated. One high-profile example of the process happened in 1984, when the House conducted a recount that ultimately overturned the results in Indiana's 8th Congressional District. 

The request for the House to weigh in comes as Democrats have criticized President Donald Trump for claiming, without evidence, that he is the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election, even despite all votes being certified and electoral votes already cast.

The 176-page challenge from the Hart campaign specifically identifies ballots the campaigns believe should have been counted, and includes affidavits from those involved in the counting process, as well as from voters. The campaign says the votes weren't counted for a variety of reasons, including an error by an election worker, a misplaced signature, and ballots not being sealed properly. 

Asked about the GOP criticism of bringing the challenge to the Democratic-controlled House, Elias said that the move wasn't partisan, but that they were only following the process laid out in federal law to contest federal elections. And he added that while the ballots he identified were not counted for a handful of reasons, he’s not suggesting any animus. 

“Elections are, under the best of circumstances, challenging to administer. In the middle of a pandemic, they are even more challenging,” he said.  

711d ago / 12:59 PM UTC

Larry Hogan celebrates bipartisan Covid relief deal in new 'No Labels' ad

WASHINGTON — Maryland RepublicanGov. Larry Hogan is appearing in a new ad campaign applauding the "bipartisan leadership" that led to Congress passing a Covid-relief deal over months of stalemate, NBC News has learned. 

The new ad campaign is from No Labels, the moderate advocacy group that champions bipartisanship, which named Hogan its national co-chairman earlier this month. 

In the ad — on which No Labels says it will spend $350,000 to run on cable and digital across the country — Hogan pitches a hopeful message about Congress' way forward, calling the agreement "how our government needs to work," by putting partisan "labels aside and put the country first." 

"This is what real, bipartisan leadership looks like. This relief package will save lives, save businesses and save jobs. It's what Americans have been waiting for," Hogan says in the ad. 

"So many people are hurting, and I know it's hard to see our way through this. But if we unite as Americans and work together, I promise you, we can come out of this stronger and better than ever." 

Lawmakers have been struggling to reach a consensus on a new round of relief for months, but broke the logjam over the weekend. But a deal materialized over the last few weeks, and Congress ultimately passed an almost $900 billion relief package late Monday. The deal includes new stimulus checks and an extension of the expanded unemployment benefits, and also provides more funds for areas including the vaccine rollout, for schools and for businesses. 

No Labels supports the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group that has been pushing for compromise in the House on Covid relief and other issues. A handful of the top negotiators in the latest round of Covid relief in the Senate are allies of the group too.  

In a statement to NBC, Ryan Clancy, the chief strategist for No Labels, applauded those allies who "kept working" when "congressional leaders weren't talking, and a deal seemed impossible" because "they knew the stakes and that millions of Americans desperately needed help.

"This deal simply would not have happened if not for the work of this group. So No Labels wanted to highlight this rare and welcome act of bipartisanship but just as important, to let Americans know we can see a lot more of this in 2021 if we demand it," Clancy said. 

The new ad appearance comes in the early weeks of Hogan's term at the helm of the organization. The Maryland Republican has sought to stake out an independent lane in recent years within a GOP dominated by support for President Donald Trump. 

The former head of the National Governor's Association, Hogan has been out-front on his state's response to the coronavirus pandemic, and told "Meet the Press" in July that he's a "lifelong Republican who has not been afraid to stand up and disagree with the president on any number of issues."

"I don't know what the future holds in November, but I know that the Republican party is going to be looking at what happens after President Trump and whether that's in four months or in four years. And I think they're going to be looking to, “How do we go about becoming a bigger tent party?” he said at the time. 

712d ago / 5:07 PM UTC

Here's where Joe Biden fell short with critical Hispanic voters

WASHINGTON — In the early days of the 2020 Democratic primaries, former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign began polling to learn why their candidate was struggling to gain traction with Hispanic voters, in comparison to primary rivals like Bernie Sanders. Their data found that many Hispanics knew little about Biden — remembering him as Barack Obama’s vice president, and almost nothing else. 

That lack of familiarity spelled trouble once Biden became the Democratic nominee, and left him vulnerable to President Trump and other Republicans' campaign to paint Biden and other Democrats as supporting socialist policies that could hurt Latinos economically.  

Nationally, Biden fell just one percentage point behind 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton among Latinos, 65 to 66 percent respectively per exit polls. But several factors — like varying ideologies, countries of origin and where they live in the U.S. — influence the political leanings of Latinos, especially in key battleground states where Republican investment and communication infrastructure are prominent. 

Among Latino men: Biden won 59 percent, a drop-off of four points from Clinton in 2016. The Trump campaign had prioritized outreach to them after identifying Latino business owners could be persuaded by Trump's economic message.

Image: Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Biden campaigns in Las Vegas, Nevada
Joe Biden speaks about the disproportionate ways coronavirus has impacted Latinos in Nevada during a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Oct. 9, 2020.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

The Biden campaign also did little door-to-door campaigning during the pandemic, which may have also affected his ability to persuade a group that doesn't have a set party affiliation. 

Biden advisers insist the campaign jumped into action when they realized Biden wasn't gaining ground with Hispanic voters. They allotted millions for paid media to micro-target Latino communities. And Biden still won an overwhelming majority of voters against Trump nationally. 

Matt Baretto, whose polling firm Latino Decisions assisted the Biden campaign, said the campaign had done a good job reintroducing the candidate to Hispanic voters by describing his nearly-five decade political record and his commitment to his family and Catholic faith.

But he said the campaign, and the Democratic Party broadly, needed to do much more.

“You can only give the campaign so much criticism and credit. This is something that the party as a whole needs to be engaged with consistently from now on starting the day after inauguration,” Baretto said.

The Biden campaign’s chief strategist Mike Donilon echoed that point in a recent press briefing, noting that the party and Biden’s White House “are focused on and fully intend to strengthen” their outreach to the Latino community.

In Arizona and Nevada, investments and cohesion between Hispanic grassroots groups and state Democratic parties helped put Biden over the top. And Hispanic turnout also jumped in other battleground states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

But Biden saw a concerning dip in Hispanic support in Florida where Republicans worked to convince Miami-Dade County’s Cuban-American community that Biden was sympathetic to socialism. Biden won the county by just 7.3 points, a 23 point swing from Clinton’s total in 2016. And in south Texas, the once heavily Democratic Rio Grande Valley along the border with Mexico saw a steep drop in support for Biden compared to Clinton in 2016. 

Strategists there said Trump's law enforcement message turned many voters in the region away from Biden even as Biden publicly stated that he didn't support the "defund the police" effort.  

“A lot of the border patrol, law enforcement are heavily Latino in the Rio Grande valley. So when you are talking about ‘defunding the police’ and you don’t stand up to those types of rhetoric, then it leaves an opening for Republicans,” Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), said during a post-election virtual press conference in November. 

Image: People promote the importance of the Latino vote in Maryvale, Phoenix
Joe Biden's supporters promote the importance of the Latino vote in the majority Hispanic neighbourhood of Maryvale in Phoenix on Oct. 31, 2020.Edgard Garrido / Reuters

Hispanic grassroots operatives and campaign officials told NBC News the campaign and party lacked a firm effort to combat attacks and misinformation spreading about Biden. 

Advisers also saw Biden fall victim to a trend they believe has badly served Democrats for some time: Assuming Latino voters would support them because of Trump and Republicans’ anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

While Trump’s attacks on illegal immigration and his effort to build a border wall with Mexico may have alienated many Hispanic voters, others were attracted to his economic record and warnings that Democrats would slow the economy. Trump’s messages were quickly and repeatedly disseminated through established conservative Spanish language T.V., radio and social media channels, as well as messaging platforms like WhatsApp.

Multiple aides said they pushed Biden to forcefully disassociate himself from socialism, which he did often when pressed in interviews. But he mentioned his record of taking on dictators in Central America just once in a speech in Miami — a missed opportunity, they say, since he gave nine speeches in Florida ahead of Election Day.

Former campaign officials, Hispanic operatives and state party leaders also said Biden needed to convey a much stronger economic message to voters who liked Trump’s record. And Biden’s support for strict regulations to control the pandemic, including the temporary closures of some businesses, left many voters fearing that they would lose their jobs if he were president, strategists said.

“I think it’s deeper than saying Biden needed to do more. It’s that the Democratic Party needs to assess how we can more effectively communicate our answers to misinformation,” Baretto said. “So let’s find that message and have other Latino Democrats communicating and sending the leaders of your party to do that. They should be echoing it.”

716d ago / 2:59 PM UTC

Biden cuts ad with Warnock and Ossoff for Georgia Senate runoffs

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WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Democratic Senate hopefuls Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are out with a new ad featuring none other than President-Elect Joe Biden as they look to give Democrats their second statewide win in a span of a few short months. 

The minute-long ad opens with Biden speaking straight to camera, telling Georgians that while "things are tough right now," that “help is on the way,” outlining his plan to combat COVID, get folks vaccinated, and help business.

But Biden pivots to the Senate race, connecting Democratic success next month to his agenda. 

“Let me be clear, I need Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the United States Senate to get this done," he says, adding: “There are folks in Congress threatening to do everything in their power to block our efforts,” and implorign Georgians to vote for the Democrats in their respective races. Ossoff is running against GOP Sen. David Perdue and Warnock against GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler. 

While former President Barack Obama narrated an ad in support of both candidates, this is Biden's first, and it comes days after the president-elect joined the pair for a rally in Georgia.  

717d ago / 7:45 PM UTC

Inauguration committee announces limited attendance amid Covid-19 pandemic

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration will look more like a State of the Union, with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announcing Tuesday that they'll limit tickets and guests for lawmakers. 

In a statement released Wednesday, Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt noted that the JCCIC has concluded alongside public health and medical experts that they will strictly “limit attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live audience that resembles a State of the Union” address.

Image: US-POLITICS-INAUGURATION-PREPARATION
Workers construct the stage for the presidential inauguration in Washington on Dec. 1, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images file

While the JCCIC traditionally gives out 200,000 tickets for members of Congress to distribute to constituents, the committee will now only distribute tickets to members of the 117th Congress and one guest to see the ceremonies on the Capitol’s West Front. Constituents, however, can still request memorabilia tickets and program packets, but they will not allow for access to the Capitol grounds.

The latest safety protocols follows the Presidential Inaugural Committee announcement Tuesday that they are also planning a largely virtual inauguration and parade to encourage supporters celebrate at home rather than gather in Washington, D.C.

718d ago / 10:50 PM UTC

State Department to receive first Covid vaccines this week

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WASHINGTON — The State Department will be receiving its first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine this week, according to internal agency communications obtained by NBC News. 

The “very limited number,” of the vaccines received by the department in the first tranche will be administered to a small prioritized group of staff undertaking “mission critical” work, according to an email sent to employees Tuesday by Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao. He did not say how many doses would be immediately available to diplomats, but noted more would arrive “incrementally over the next several months.”

Frontline medical personnel are among those first to receive the vaccine as well as State Department employees serving on the frontlines in Kabul, Afghanistan; Baghdad, Iraq and Mogadishu, Somalia, where poor healthcare systems put them even more at risk. Diplomatic Security agents in Washington, D.C. performing critical operations and coming into close contact with the Secretary of State will also be a priority for vaccinations.  

Image: A vial of Pfizer?EUR(TM)s COVID-19 vaccine that receive emergency use authorization is seen at George Washington University Hospital, in Washington
A vial of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine that receive emergency use authorization is seen at George Washington University Hospital, in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 14, 2020.Jacquelyn Martin / Pool via Reuters

“While we would have preferred to vaccinate our entire Department workforce at once, we will have to do so incrementally based on vaccine availability,” Bulatao said in the State Department-wide email. In the meantime, Bulatao advised employees “to continue to wear face coverings, physically distance, and follow [Department] guidance.”

Bulatao noted the State Department is working closely with Operation Warp Speed, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services, and will “deploy the Covid-19 vaccine to the broader workforce as soon as it is made available.”

A State Department spokesperson declined to expand on the timing or logistics of agency’s plan due to “operational sensitivity,” but said vaccine distribution “will allow the Department to advance U.S. national security interests and ensure America’s essential diplomacy continues unimpeded.”

The State Department prioritization comes as officials across the U.S. government, in particular at national security agencies, are working to decide how and when to dole out the vaccine to critical staffers while avoiding the perception that government workers are skipping the line. 

President Donald Trump has said White House staffers should get it “somewhat later in the program” and that he isn’t currently scheduled to do so until “the appropriate time.” Two sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday that Vice President Mike Pence will get the vaccine by week’s end. Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller received the Covid-19 vaccine on camera on Monday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

718d ago / 9:26 PM UTC

Nina Turner announces bid for potential Ohio House special election

WASHINGTON — Former Ohio state senator Nina Turner announced her campaign for Rep. Marcia Fudge's, D-Ohio, seat on Tuesday. Turner was the co-chair of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign. 

Fudge's seat will become vacant if she is confirmed as President-elect Joe Biden's Housing and Urban Development secretary. Biden announced Fudge as his choice to lead HUD on Dec. 8

Turner touched on her Cleveland roots — a large part of Ohio's 11th district — in her announcement video. 

"I am a daughter of Cleveland. I was raised in this community by parents who worked very hard. My mother was a nurse's aid, my father a truck driver. I can relate to people who live in the 11th Congressional District from all walks of life," Turner said. 

The district has been represented by just two representatives since 2000: Fudge and former Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones. Turner, like Fudge and Jones, is also a woman of color. 

Turner served as a state senator from 2008 to 2014 in the Cleveland area, and was on the Cleveland city council prior to that. She has already amassed support from Sanders campaign alums like California Rep. Ro Khanna and the progressive group, Our Revolution, that was created after Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign. 

Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, will call a special election if and when Fudge formally leaves her seat to lead HUD. 

718d ago / 7:32 PM UTC

GOP holds spending edge five weeks into Senate runoffs

WASHINGTON — Republicans hold a narrow TV and radio spending edge in the Georgia Senate runoffs, an edge powered by a big boost from outside groups. 

There's already been about $220 million spent on the airwaves in both races combined, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact, with more than $400 million in total already slated to be spent over the two-month runoff period. 

That type of spending, in such a small period, means that Georgians have already been inundated with TV ads — AdImpact estimates that as of last Thursday, every Georgian adult (aged 35 or above) had seen about 328 Senate runoff ads already. 

Republicans overall have a larger spending advantage in the special runoff, which pits GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler against Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock. Republicans have spent $60.9 million through Monday to the Democrats' $50.4 million. 

The GOP spending edge in the race between GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff is smaller — $55.7 million to $53 million. 

Image:
Supporters of Sens. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga., wait for the arrival of Vice President Mike Pence at his Defend the Majority Rally on Dec. 10, 2020, in Augusta, Ga.Curtis Compton / AP

Under the hood, both races are following similar trends, with the Democratic candidates the largest individual TV ad spenders in their races, but with Republican outside groups filling the gap, and then some. 

Warnock leads the pack in his race with $37.3 million spent on TV and radio ads, with Loeffler at $25 million. But the GOP-aligned American Crossroads is right behind her at $24.8 million, with the top Democratic outside group Georgia Honor at $11.8 million. 

Ossoff similarly is outpacing Perdue, spending $41.1 million to the Republican's $22.7 million. Senate Leadership Fund, the GOP-aligned group, spent $22.5 million, with the Democrat-aligned Georgia Way spending $10.6 million.