January 20, 2021

The Biden administration held its first press briefing on Wednesday evening, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki promising that every weekday, there will be a news conference.

"There are a number of ways to combat misinformation," Psaki said. "One of them is accurate information and truth and data and sharing information, even when it is hard to hear." She added that her daily briefings will include COVID-19 updates from health officials.

Psaki said President Biden's first call with a foreign leader will be on Friday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and she expects "they will certainly discuss the important relationship with Canada as well as the decision on the Keystone pipeline that was announced today." Shortly after taking office on Wednesday, Biden signed an executive order halting construction on the pipeline, meant to transport crude oil from Canada to the Midwest.

Biden is expected to spend the next several days calling "partners and allies" of the United States, Psaki said, because "he feels that's important to rebuild those relationships and address the challenges and threats we're facing in the world."

Psaki was also asked about the letter former President Donald Trump left for Biden, which he earlier described as being "very generous." Biden said because it was "private," he will "not talk about it until I talk to him." Psaki reiterated that the letter was "generous and gracious," but she does not believe a call from Biden to Trump is imminent. Catherine Garcia

7:38 p.m.

The White House announced on Tuesday evening it withdrew the nomination of Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

In a statement, President Biden said he accepted Tanden's request to have her name withdrawn, adding that he has "the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience, and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work."

The White House also released a letter from Tanden, who wrote that she appreciated Biden's support, but it "now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities."

Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, faced criticism from Republican senators who accused her of having made "thousands of negative public statements" about people like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). After Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced last month that he would not be backing Tanden, she needed the support of at least one Republican in order to win confirmation. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she was considering whether to vote for Tanden, and on Tuesday told reporters she was still undecided. Catherine Garcia

7:00 p.m.

The Senate on Tuesday voted 84-15 to confirm Gina Raimondo as secretary of commerce.

In this role, Raimondo will work to promote American business and industries and ensure fair trade. The Commerce Department is also home to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Raimondo could play a big role in crafting the Biden administration's response to climate change.

Raimondo was the first woman to serve as the governor of Rhode Island, and after the confirmation vote, sent her letter of resignation to Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee (D), who will be sworn in on Tuesday evening as the state's 76th governor. Being governor was "the honor of my lifetime," Raimondo said, and it was "the people of Rhode Island that inspired me and kept me going." Catherine Garcia

6:29 p.m.

Bunny Wailer, the reggae legend and last surviving member of The Wailers, died on Tuesday in Jamaica. He was 73.

His manager, Maxine Stowe, said he died of complications from a stroke he suffered last July. Born Neville Livingston, he formed The Wailers in 1963 with childhood friend Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. They gained international fame in the early 1970s with their albums Catch a Fire and Burnin', but Wailer and Tosh left the group in 1974, with Wailer launching a solo career.

Wailer performed and released records for the next four decades, and won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 1991, 1995, and 1997. For more than 30 years, he was the only living Wailer, as Marley died in 1981 of a brain tumor and Tosh was shot and killed in 1987 during a home invasion robbery. Catherine Garcia

5:51 p.m.

President Biden delivered some exciting news Tuesday, promising the United States will have enough COVID-19 vaccine supply by the end of May for every American adult to get a shot.

Just a few weeks ago, Biden had set the end of July as the target date for universal availability, but the timeline has been expedited, largely thanks to the addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the arsenal. Biden couldn't account for the third shot when he last addressed the situation because it hadn't been granted emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration at the time.

But that's where the caveats come in. Tuesday's announcement was primarily focused on an increase in supply, which is just one aspect of vaccine distribution. At least some of the hurdles that the U.S. currently faces in terms of actually getting people vaccinated could still be there in May. For example, Biden himself acknowledged that "it's not enough to have the vaccine supply, we need vaccinators — people to put the shots in people's arms," and, as Stat News points out, the president didn't highlight any new efforts to increase the number of vaccinators.

That said, even though it's still unclear if every adult will actually be able to receive a vaccine by the end of May, the U.S. does appear to be consistently increasing its vaccination pace, so the supply increase may have come at the right time. Tim O'Donnell

4:33 p.m.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Tuesday that effective next Wednesday, "all businesses of any type" in the Lone Star state will be allowed to fully reopen. Additionally, he's ending the statewide mask mandate.

Those in the room where Abbott broke the news applauded the decision, but plenty of skeptics took note, as well. Coronavirus cases have receded greatly across the country over the last several weeks, but it's unclear if that decline is now plateauing. On a related note, Houston, Texas' largest city, is the one city in the United States to have reported finding at least one case of every known variant of the coronavirus, which are believed to be more transmissible and have experts on the alert for another uptick in cases as they become the dominant sources of infection. It's unlikely Houston is actually alone in this regard, but it's still cause for concern.

Texas is also lagging behind in vaccinating its population, which is the second largest in the nation. Only Utah and Georgia have slower per capita vaccination rates.

Abbott, it turns out, wasn't the only governor to ease restrictions Tuesday — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) actually beat him to the punch, announcing that businesses can operate at full capacity and county mask mandates will be lifted starting Wednesday. Tim O'Donnell

3:38 p.m.

Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) apparently doesn't hold back against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in his new book — and one particularly brutal quote made the back cover.

The former Republican leader has a new memoir set to be published in April, and Punchbowl News on Tuesday revealed the back cover, which includes selected quotes about Cruz, former President Donald Trump, and more politicians.

Boehner is particularly unsparing when it comes to Cruz, though, saying in reference to the Texas senator, "There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless a--hole who thinks he is smarter than everyone else."

Another quote is about Trump, who Boehner says called him "fairly often" when he first became president, though not as much later in his term.

"The calls came in less and less as his tenure went on," Boehner writes. "That's probably because he got more comfortable in the job. But I also suspect he just got tired of me advising him to shut up."

Boehner also describes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as someone who "holds his feelings, thoughts, and emotions in a lockbox," recalls House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) having "gutted" someone "like a halibut," and describes an unnamed lawmaker who "dropped off the couch and was on his knees" on Boehner's rug with his hands "together in front of him as if he were about to pray" — apparently a story about former Republican lawmaker and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Axios previously reported that Boehner has been "going off script" while recording his audiobook, as when he reportedly at one point ad-libbed, "Oh, and Ted Cruz, go f-- yourself." Cruz hit back against Boehner's reported audiobook insult at CPAC, asking, "Who's John Boehner?" Prior to his audiobook dig, Boehner ripped Cruz in 2016 as "Lucifer in the flesh" and a "miserable son of a bitch." Brendan Morrow

3:08 p.m.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments by Arizona Republicans in defense of two voting restrictions they are looking to keep intact. At one point, Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Michael Carvin, a lawyer representing the Arizona GOP, what the party's interest in maintaining the policy of discarding ballots cast at the wrong precinct was. Carvin answered, without hesitation, that removing the rule would prevent Republicans from competing in the state.

"It puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats," he told Barrett. "Politics is a zero sum game. Every extra vote that they get through unlawful interpretations of Section 2 hurts us. It's the difference between winning an election 50-49 and losing an election."

Critics argued Carvin was essentially admitting some Republicans believe "it is okay to manipulate elections to gain partisan advantage."

Per Reuters, part of the reason voting rights activists have targeted the precinct rule is that voters sometimes inadvertently cast their ballots at the wrong polling station because their assigned location is not always the closest one to their homes. However, Reuters reports the high court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, is likely to uphold the restriction, as well as another that makes it a crime to hand over someone else's ballot to election officials during early voting. Tim O'Donnell

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