President Joe Biden, joined by Counselor to the President and White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, receives a briefing from Director of the NIH Dr. Francis Collins and Chief Medical Adviser to the President and Director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, at the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)February 24, 2021
At 4:42 p.m., exactly a year ago, then-President Trump tweeted: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
On February 7, Trump had told journalist Bob Woodward something very different. “This is deadly stuff,” he said. The coronavirus is “more deadly than your, you know, your, even your strenuous flus.”
And now, here we are. As of February 24, 2021, the United States has suffered more than 503,000 official deaths from COVID-19. We have 4% of the world’s population and have suffered 20% of deaths from coronavirus. On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, blamed political divisions for the horrific death toll.
Vaccinations rates are picking up, and now nearly 1 in 5 adults have had their first shot. Today, the Biden administration announced it will be distributing “no cost, high quality, washable” masks to community health centers and food pantries across the country, supplying masks for 12-15 million Americans. Dr. Fauci announced $1.15 billion in funding for studying those whose Covid-19 symptoms are not going away.
The pandemic has crippled the nation’s economy, and a new The Economist/YouGov poll reveals that 66% of Americans said they support Biden’s $1.9 billion American Rescue Plan; 25% of Americans said they oppose it. This means it is the most popular piece of legislation since the 2007 minimum wage hike. Also popular is the proposed $15 minimum wage hike, which is supported by 56% of Americans and opposed by 38%, making it more popular than anything former president Trump did while in office.
More than 150 of the nation’s business leaders are now backing the rescue plan, saying it is necessary for “a strong, durable recovery.”
And yet, Republicans are, so far, united against the proposal. While the party remains split, party leaders appear to be lining up behind Trump and the big lie that Biden stole the election, entrenching them as a hostile opposition rather than giving them any room to work with Democrats to move the country forward. They are devoting their energies for the future primarily to voter suppression.
Studies of Republican voters suggest that they continue to support former President Trump and are turning against anyone who accepts Biden’s victory as legitimate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) popularity has dropped 29 points among Kentucky Republicans since he broke with Trump.
Republicans appear to be solidifying their identity with the former president, at the state level, at least. In Virginia, Republicans have decided to nominate candidates for November elections simply with a drive-up convention held on May 8 on the campus of Liberty University, a private evangelical Christian school founded by Jerry Falwell, Sr. Voters will choose candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general at that time and location.
The internal fight over the swing into Trump’s corner was on display today when Republican House leadership was asked whether they thought Trump should speak at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Committee conference (CPAC). Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) responded: “Yes, he should.” Immediately, Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY), who voted to impeach Trump in January over his incitement of the insurrection, said: “That’s up to CPAC. I’ve been clear on my views about President Trump. I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.”
Trump is scheduled to speak at CPAC, where there will be seven panels echoing his insistence that voter fraud plagues our elections. And yet, as Trump and his supporters continue to insist that the election was stolen, news broke this week that two separate audits of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, Arizona, found no fraud.
Today, in the interest of stopping voter fraud, which is virtually nonexistent, the Iowa Senate passed a bill shortening the period of early voting and creating a strict cutoff for absentee ballots. All the Republicans voted in favor; all the Democrats voted against.
Georgia lawmakers, too, are advancing measures to slash mail-in voting to protect against voter fraud, even as two counties in the Atlanta area want attorneys’ fees from Trump and the chair of the Georgia Republican Party for frivolous lawsuits designed to overturn the 2020 election. “Given the number of failed lawsuits filed by the former president and his campaign, petitioners apparently believed that they could file their baseless and legally deficient actions with impunity, with no regard for the costs extracted from the taxpayers’ coffers or the consequences to the democratic foundations of our country,” wrote lawyers for Cobb County.
In Congress today, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump backer whose reorganization of the United States Postal Service last summer appeared linked to an effort to hamper the delivery of mail-in ballots, testified about those delays. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), whose approach to hearings is generally to try to manufacture sound bites for right-wing news shows, accused Democrats of attacking DeJoy to score points before the election. “It was all a charade,” he said. “It was all part of the predicate for laying the groundwork for the mail-in balloting, and all of the chaos and confusion the Democrats wanted.”
Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) noted that a number of federal judges prevented DeJoy from implementing the changes he wanted, and that Trump had lied to supporters for months that mail-in ballots would create fraud. Then he pushed back angrily against Jordan’s accusations of partisanship. “I didn’t vote to overturn an election,” Connolly said, referring to Jordan’s objection to counting electoral votes on January 6 and 7. “And I will not be lectured by people who did.”
News broke today that a close friend of new Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Anthony Aguero, was part of the January 6 insurrection, breaching the Capitol. “We were all there,” Aguero said in a video posted the day after the riot. “It was not Antifa and it was not BLM. It was Trump supporters that did that yesterday. I’m the first to admit it, being one myself.”
He said: “We need to stand up for our country. So patriots stand up for their country and they come out here to physically try to take back their house. The House of the people…. Now you have people on the right acting like they’re holier than thou, holier than holy…. ‘Oh, I’m appalled. I don’t condone this.’ What the h*ll do you expect conservatives to do? Do you want us to continue to sit there? Complacent, continue to take the higher route and keep getting f**ked in the a**. I’m sorry for using that language, but I’m sick and tired of the hypocrisy.”
“I stand with people like Marjorie Taylor Greene proudly,” Aguero said. “That woman has more courage than most of the men that were in that building. No, not most. That woman has more courage than every single man that was in that Capitol yesterday.”
Although Republican lawmakers might not admit publicly that Biden is president, they met with him today in the Oval Office to discuss something of interest to members of both parties: bringing vital supply chains home. Today, the president signed an executive order to review our national supply chains of vital materials to bring outsourced chains back to the US Both Biden and Republican lawmakers spoke highly of their meeting. Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX) told the Wall Street Journal: “It was very substantive and they want follow-up meetings to move with some speed on this.” Moving supply chains home from China, among other places, should create jobs.