January 25, 2021

Senate Democrats are drawing a line at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) demand that a power-sharing agreement in the 50-50 Senate include a pledge to retain the legislative filibuster. "If we gave him that, then the filibuster would be on everything, every day," Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday's Meet the Press. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered McConnell "word for word" the same power-sharing agreement used in the first half of 2001, and McConnell's insistence on adding the filibuster pledge is "a non-starter."

But until Schumer and McConnell reach agreement on the Senate's operating rules, Republicans still retain much of the majority they lost last Wednesday.

"Without an organizing accord, Republicans remain in the majority of most Senate committees," and "veteran Democrats eager to seize the gavels and advance their long dormant agendas can only wait and wonder," The Washington Post explains. "Newly sworn-in Democratic senators cannot get committee assignments until an organizational deal is struck," leaving the old GOP-majority structures in place, and "Democrats can't unilaterally impose an organizing agreement because they would need Republican support to block a filibuster."

The filibuster has evolved into a sclerotic de facto requirement for a 60-senator supermajority on all legislation. Frustration with obstruction by the minority led Senate Democrats to end the filibuster for some presidential appointees and lower-court judges in 2013, and McConnell continued eroding the filibuster as majority leader, killing it for Supreme Court nominees and further easing the confirmation of presidential appointees.

A handful of Democratic centrists would prefer to keep the filibuster — for now. But there is mounting pressure from inside and outside the chamber. "There is absolutely no reason to give Sen. McConnell months and months to prove what we absolutely know — that he is going to continue his gridlock and dysfunction from the minority," said Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for the anti-filibuster liberal coalition Fix Our Senate. Peter Weber

9:43 p.m.

For her next act, Kayleigh McEnany is heading to Fox News to serve as a contributor — a hire that was met with groans inside the network's newsroom, several employees told The Daily Beast.

McEnany was former President Donald Trump's final press secretary, known for being wrong on everything from COVID-19 ("We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here," she stated in February 2020) to the presidential election (she asserted that Trump had a "one in quadrillion chance" of losing to President Biden). The Daily Beast's Justin Baragona and Diana Falzone — a former FoxNews.com reporter who settled a disability and gender discrimination lawsuit with the network — spoke with multiple Fox News staffers who said bringing McEnany on board was "upsetting" because several employees have been let go.

"It's truly disgusting that they fired hard-working journalists who did care about facts and news reporting only to turn around and hire a mini-Goebbels," one person told The Daily Beast. Fox News is "quickly becoming a very scary place and quite dangerous for our democracy," they added. "It's not even conservative news anymore. They've plunged into an alternate reality where extremist propaganda is the only course on the menu."

The Fox News audience "loves Kayleigh," another staffer told The Daily Beast, and the network's decision to hire her isn't shocking because "they have shown they don't give a damn about facts and real news." McEnany has "name recognition, notoriety, and an obvious willingness to say anything her employer desires," a third Fox News employee said. "The viewers are morons."

Fox News is trying to woo back viewers who didn't like that on election night, the network correctly projected that Biden would win Arizona. Many called for boycotts of Fox News, and switched over to conservative Newsmax. Fox News ratings dipped, with the network finishing in third place for the first time in two decades, The Daily Beast reports. To correct this, two new conservative opinions shows have been added to the lineup.

"They are grasping at straws on how to keep the viewership they built and fueled over the last four plus years with Trump at the forefront," one staffer said. "It has become about keeping viewers and they will do anything to do that, including blatantly lying and selling their souls and integrity to the devil." Fox News did not respond to The Daily Beast's request for comment. 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

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