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The political storyline shifts back to Biden after impeachment trial

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: U.S. President Joe Biden departs the White House in Washington
President Joe Biden leaves the Oval Office as he heads to Camp David on Feb. 12, 2021.Carlos Barrai / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Think of last week’s Senate impeachment trial as the final chapter of the Trump presidency.

And now we return to your regularly scheduled programming, as President Biden works to sell and pass his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, as well as get millions more Americans vaccinated over the coming months.

Later this afternoon, Biden heads to Milwaukee, Wis., for his first official trip as president, where he participates in a CNN town hall airing at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Tomorrow, Vice President Harris does an exclusive interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on “Today.”

On Thursday, Biden travels to Michigan to visit a Pfizer facility that produces the vaccine.

And on Friday, he participates — virtually — in the Munich Security Conference and a G-7 discussion on the pandemic.

Also on Biden’s to-do list: the tricky issue of school re-openings, getting the rest of his Cabinet confirmed (more on that below), and now an immigration bill for later this week.

Whether it was during the 2020 campaign, or the transition, or even the first month of Biden’s presidency, the former president always had a knack for overshadowing the current one — usually deliberately.

But now that the impeachment trial is over and now that Trump no longer has a Twitter account, we’re back to Biden — who faces a global pandemic, a major legislative test, an opposition party ready to pounce on any misstep and higher stakes than ever before.

Then again, Trump and memories of Jan. 6 aren’t going away, especially with the news that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for a 9/11-style commission on the Capitol attack.

The Sixth Censure

Another reminder that Trump hasn’t vanished from our politics: On Monday night, the North Carolina GOP voted — unanimously — to censure retiring Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who voted to convict Trump in the Senate impeachment trial.

“It is truly a sad day for North Carolina Republicans," Burr said in a statement responding to the censure. "My party’s leadership has chosen loyalty to one man over the core principles of the Republican Party and the founders of our great nation.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

2 million: The number of households without power in Texas amid a brutal winter storm.

At least 30: The number of law enforcement officers who took part in the rally that preceded the January 6 Capitol riot

52 percent: The share of Americans who have heard of “cancel culture,” according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll.

27,807,409: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 50,416 more than yesterday morning.)

488,364: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,069 more than yesterday morning.)

65,455: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus in the United States.

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

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

Lagging the competition

When former Presidents Trump and Obama made it to the one-month mark of their respective first terms in office, they both had near-full Cabinets.

By Feb. 20, Trump had a confirmed attorney general and secretaries of Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs.

A confirmation for his Commerce nominee, Wilbur Ross, came soon after on Feb. 27.

It was an even fuller Cabinet table for Obama in 2009. He had a confirmed attorney general and secretaries of Agriculture, Education, Energy, DHS, HUD, Interior, State, Transportation, Treasury and the VA. Obama’s Defense secretary, Robert Gates, was a holdover from the Bush administration and didn’t require a confirmation vote.

So why is President Biden’s Cabinet still mostly unconfirmed?

After Democrats won control of the Senate on Jan. 5, the tie-making senators from Georgia weren’t sworn in until Jan. 20. And then it took weeks for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to agree on a power-sharing agreement that officially handed the Senate committee gavels over to Democrats.

But now, similar to Obama’s first term and Trump’s term, Biden’s nominees will face a friendly Senate and pathway to near-certain confirmation as long as Democrats continue to vote on nominees together.

And the number of the week is: 57 percent

For Presidents’ Day, we looked back at presidential job approval through history, and how the last four years compared to other popularity rollercoasters.

Check it out here.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Mitch McConnell says he’s willing to get involved in primaries to try to win back the Senate.

Democrats in Nevada are moving toward a potential threat to the existing primary calendar.

Politico writes that Ron DeSantis’s Covid response and combative style are giving him lots of political juice in the GOP.

Recently defeated David Perdue is taking a first step towards a possible challenge to Raphael Warnock.

Andrew Cuomo admitted that his administration’s lack of transparency about how it calculated Covid deaths in nursing homes was an error.

Nancy Pelosi wants a “9/11-type” commission to look into January 6.

The American Federation of Teachers is giving its thumbs up to new CDC recommendations for school reopenings.

Democrats and the Biden administration will unveil a new immigration bill this week.

Who’s afraid of inflation?