April 24, 2020

The House voted 388-5 on Thursday to send a nearly $500 billion coronavirus relief bill to President Trump's desk, the third major pot of money Congress has dumped on the COVID-19 pandemic. But with socially distanced lawmakers gathered in face masks, the House also created a new 12-member coronavirus oversight committee along partisan lines, 212-182. Republicans objected to the panel, housed under the House Oversight Committee, arguing it is superfluous and would be used for partisan ends.

The new committee, led by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), will be charged with overseeing how taxpayer money is used to address the coronavirus crisis; investigating any waste or mismanagement, the effectiveness of coronavirus legislation, and federal preparedness; and keeping an eye on the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus crisis, Politico reports. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who will name seven of the 12 members, said the panel will focus less on Trump and more on people trying to exploit the crisis and misuse the unprecedented cascade of money pouring from Congress to blunt the crisis.

House Republicans noted there are already three oversight mechanisms created by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. But none of them are up and running yet. Trump fired Glenn Fine, the inspector general tapped by other inspectors general to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee overseeing the entire relief effort, and Trump's nominee for a different watchdog overseeing a $500 billion corporate loan program, Brian Miller, is a lawyer in Trump's White House, putting his Senate confirmation in doubt.

The five-member Congressional Oversight Commission does not yet have leader — Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have to agree on the chair — and until Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), and Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) were named to the panel last Friday, it had only one member, Bharat Ramamurti, a former top staffer for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). With no staff, budget, or office, Bloomberg News reported, Ramamurti started his oversight duties with the only tool he had: his unverified Twitter account. Peter Weber

8:04 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden will start introducing his Cabinet picks Tuesday, and the consensus in Washington was perhaps best described by Brendan Buck, a former top aide to Republican House Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner:

Most of the names Biden announced Monday — Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser, Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security secretary, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.N. ambassador, and Ron Klein as White House chief of staff — are career professionals little known outside Washington policy and politics circles, but well regarded within them. "By design, they seem meant to project a dutiful competence," The Washington Post reports.

Biden has also chosen some boldface names: John Kerry as international climate envoy and former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen as treasury secretary. What ties them all together is the prospect of a Biden administration "filled with people who have deep experience in government and in the agencies they will be running," Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer write at Politico.

You can expect fewer impulsive tweets and more of "a linear, plodding, purposeful, and standard policy process" run "by political professionals who aren't likely to try to burn down the White House over petty disagreements and jockeying to get in the good graces of the president," Sherman and Palmer add. "In other words, if the Trump White House was like downing a vat of Tabasco sauce over the past four years, the Biden White House will be like sipping unflavored almond milk."

The selection process hasn't been entirely without drama, but "the relatively uncontroversial nature of these picks has been by design," Politico's Ryan Lizza reports. "Internally, Biden officials have been instructed to emphasize to reporters how normal the picks are, how 'these are tested leaders.' It's seen as a success if the Biden staff and Cabinet announcements don't make much news." Peter Weber

6:23 a.m.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Monday it's "in the final development phase" of a mobile "digital passport" app that would tell airlines if international travelers had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The app would help "get people traveling again safely," IATA's Nick Careen said in a statement, by "giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements."

Australia's Qantas announced Monday that it's on board with requiring a "vaccination passport" for international travelers, starting next year. "We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travelers, that we will ask people to have the vaccination before they get on the aircraft," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told Australia's Network 9. Korean Air and Air New Zealand also backed the idea but said any changes would have to be coordinated with their respective governments.

In the past few weeks, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Oxford University-AstraZeneca have announced that large trials showed their respective COVID-19 vaccines to be safe and hightly effective at preventing the disease. This encouraging news "has given airlines and nations hope they may soon be able to revive suspended flight routes and dust off lucrative tourism plans," The Associated Press reports. "But countries in Asia and the Pacific, in particular, are determined not to let their hard-won gains against the virus evaporate."

The IATA and International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, have been working on a digital pass they hope to roll out in the first quarter of 2021. This app would use blockchain technology and wouldn't store user data, IATA said. Korean Air is among those in the airline industry looking at trying out CommonPass, an app endorsed by the World Economic Forum and created with the Commons Project Foundation, and International SOS's AOKpass is currently being used on flights between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan. Peter Weber

5:00 a.m.

"The president's slow-moving coup is not going that well," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. "This afternoon, the Michigan election board certified Joe Biden's win in that state, then tonight we just learned moments ago that the General Services Administration informed President-elect Joe Biden the administration is ready to begin the formal transition process." That makes it official, he said. "Our next commander in chief will be President Biden. Which means somewhere, right now, Rudy Giuliani is filing a last-ditch legal claim that our current president's name has always been Joe Biden."

"With so many people humiliated by the absolute incompetence of his legal team, the president did what had to be done and fired someone named Sidney Powell," Colbert said. "If you don't know who she is, congratulations, now you don't have to know. But I'm going to tell you anyway." And he did.

Powell "got kicked off Trump's legal team for being too crazy," Jimmy Fallon marveled at The Tonight show. "That's like getting kicked off of Real Housewives for being too crazy. Seriously, you know how nuts you have to be when Rudy Giuliani's head starts leaking and you're the one who gets fired?"

"Here's how big of an embarrassment she was to the Trump team," James Corden elaborated at The Late Late Show: "The guy who held a press conference next to a sex shop, and last week had hair dye running down his face, and who wears loafers that look like clown shoes — that guy, still on the team. But I saw this coming, I did. Any good conspiracy theorist will tell you if you rearrange the letters in Sidney Powell, you get Needy Pillows, which is obviously nod to the MyPillow CEO, who invented coronavirus to destabilize the neck-support industry. I gotta be honest, I spent a lot of time on the internet this weekend."

"Trump is concerned that his legal team is made up of fools that are making him look bad," Jimmy Kimmel laughed at Kimmel Live. "They said the same thing about you." Meanwhile, "we still haven't seen the president concede — we've barely even seen the president," thanks largely to golf, he shrugged. "I've never seen a guy try so hard to keep a job he doesn't even do." Watch another one of Kimmel's "great ideas" to get Trump to leave office below. Peter Weber

2:44 a.m.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra threw President Trump under the electric car Monday, announcing in a letter to environmental groups that GM will no longer support the Trump administration's battle to strip California of its own clean-air standards and signaling the automaker is ready to work with President-elect Joe Biden on climate policy.

"President-elect Biden recently said, 'I believe that we can own the 21st century car market again by moving to electric vehicles.' We at General Motors couldn't agree more," Barra wrote. "We believe the ambitious electrification goals of the president-elect, California, and General Motors are aligned, to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions." GM announced last week that it's testing a new battery chemistry that should bring its electric vehicles to the same price range as gas-powered ones within five years.

Barra urged Toyota, Fiat-Chrysler, and the 10 smaller automakers that had sided with Trump to flip sides, too, and Toyota said it is "assessing the situation" and mostly wants uniform fuel standards in all 50 states.

"GM's maneuvering was a public humiliation to Mr. Trump," The New York Times reports. "Barra gave no warning to the administration, but she did speak by telephone on Monday with Mary Nichols, California's top climate regulator and an architect of the Obama-era fuel economy rules." Two people familiar with Barra's thinking told the Times her actions were clearly prompted by the outcome of the presidential race, but "even so, the way she did it took analysts aback."

Trump reversed President Barack Obama's national fuel standards upon taking office, lowering the target to 40 miles per gallon by 2025 from 54.5 mpg. California then quietly reached a deal with Honda, Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, and Volvo to get to 51 mpg by 2026, enraging Trump, who then moved in September 2019 to revoke California's unique ability to set its own tailpipe emission standards. GM and its allied automakers sided with Trump when environmental groups sued to block that move. The 51 mpg compromise "is now seen as the likely model for a new, Biden-era fuel economy rule," the Times reports.

"This huge pivot, so closely following an election result, particularly from a firm like General Motors, is a big, big deal," said University of Michigan public policy professor Barry Rabe. "This is the first big industrial step toward the next president. Are other industries going to have epiphanies and pivot?" Peter Weber

1:59 a.m.

Elijah and Zachary Wheeler enjoy basketball so much it didn't bother them that their hoop was broken — they played despite it, due to their love of the game.

The Ohio brothers had no idea that Aubrey, a delivery driver with FedEx, saw them playing all the time and decided to surprise the family with a brand new hoop, leaving the gift, along with a basketball, on their front porch. "This was just such a blessing for her to do this, and I never ever expected it," the boys' mother, Coledo Wheeler, told Good Morning America. "It really was a total shock."

Elijah, 11, is now starting every day before school shooting hoops. The Wheeler family is looking forward to the next time Aubrey is in the neighborhood, so they can let her know in person how much her gift meant to them. "This was definitely something that was special, and it was inspiring," Coledo said. Catherine Garcia

1:37 a.m.

President Trump gave what aides say is the closest he will come to conceding his loss to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday night, tweeting that while he is still fighting in court, "in the best interest of our country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same." The Emily in his tweet, General Services Administration head Emily Murphy, had already formally started the presidential transition process.

In an unusually personal letter to Biden and a separate email to her staff, Murphy said she had made the decision to finally start the peaceful transfer of power "independently, based on the law and available facts." She added: "I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision."

Murphy was looking for political cover to start the transition while Trump, with GOP backing, refused to concede, and she was afraid the angry president would "fire her and her top aides if she moved forward," The Washington Post reports. Her letter to Biden was issued shortly after Michigan certified Biden's victory, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court shot down yet another Trump legal challenge, and Republican pressure mounted for the transfer to commence.

But the ball started rolling late last week. Murphy's "team had notified the White House Counsel's Office on Friday that she planned to designate Biden the winner on Monday," the Post reports. "Murphy did not hear anything back." Trump hit his own "major inflection point" a day earlier, when his lawyers Rudy Giuliani and, especially, Sidney Powell, made wild, widely mocked vote fraud allegations but failed to present any credible evidence, Politico reports. Trump's more competent legal advisers, Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone, told him his chaotic legal strategy was getting untenable.

Still, "Trump only reluctantly agreed to let the transition begin," he "was described as angry about the situation," and he spent Monday calling political advisers "to say he had doubts about the GSA initiating the transition," the Post reports. "Despite Trump's resistance, officials throughout his administration were planning to coordinate directly with counterparts on the Biden team starting Tuesday," and "Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told other officials Monday evening it was time to begin the transition." Peter Weber

12:50 a.m.

David Dinkins, New York City's first and only Black mayor, died Monday. He was 93.

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Dinkins graduated from Howard University, and while enrolled at Brooklyn Law School, worked at a liquor store owned by his father-in-law. Dinkins became involved with Democratic politics in Harlem, first serving in the state assembly, then becoming city clerk and Manhattan borough president.

In 1989, Dinkins defeated incumbent mayor Ed Koch and future mayor Rudy Giuliani, and at the time he was elected, the city's finances were in shambles. The first few years of his term were marked by a record number of homicides and race riots. A state investigation determined that Dinkins didn't act in a timely manner to stop the racial violence, and he was narrowly defeated in 1993 by Giuliani.

After leaving office, Dinkins was active in several charities and taught public affairs at Columbia University. In 2013, he published an autobiography, A Mayor's Life: Governing New York's Gorgeous Mosaic. Dinkins and his wife, Joyce, had two children: Donna and David Jr. Joyce Dinkins died on Oct. 11. Catherine Garcia

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