Welcome to POLITICO’s 2020 Transition Playbook, your guide to one of the most momentous transfers of power in American history.
So you say there is a (good) chance. This appears to be what President-elect JOE BIDEN is pointing out by returning to Georgia ahead of the two January 5 runoff elections that the Democrats must sweep to regain control of the Senate and thus control of Washington’s agenda.
The transition team announced this morning that Vice President-elect KAMALA HARRIS will travel to Savannah on Sunday, while Biden plans to travel to Atlanta on Monday – the same day President DONALD TRUMP is flying to Dalton, Georgia KELLY LOEFFLER and for a rally with Republican Sens DAVID PERDUE.
Democrats are re-optimistic about JON OSSOFF and RAPHAEL WARNOCK’s chances, based on early polling numbers showing black voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate than they were in November and higher early turnout in state Democratic Congressional districts.
Voter turnout has lagged in Republican-held Congressional districts, which likely results in Loeffler and Perdue running larger pre-election day deficits than they made up on Nov. 3.
Biden transition officials wouldn’t say how bullish they are this afternoon. When asked what the trips to Georgia signal, JEN PSAKI, the new White House press secretary, said they showed that Biden’s message is resonating with voters as it was in November. But she added: “We are not naive that this is a special election in early January and we will not take any vote for granted.”
However, the time for Biden and Harris to travel there just before Special Election Day means the Democrats in the state have more than a glimmer of hope. The last Democrat to win a Senate seat in Georgia was ZELL MILLER, who won a special election in 2000.
Should the Democrats win both races and retake the Senate, that would reshape Biden’s presidency. While the Democrats had a slim majority with Harris as the tiebreaker, they controlled the Senate and allowed them to come up with bills for a vote, like legislation the House passed Monday to increase stimulus checks to $ 2,000 per person .
If Loeffler or Perdue win and Senator MITCH McCONNELL remains majority leader. “It’s not that nothing is done,” said former Senator BARBARA BOXER (D-Calif.), Who spent 16 years in the Senate alongside Biden. “But it will be very difficult for him to make that kind of change.” People voted for it. “
There is still much that Biden would almost certainly not be able to get the Senate to pass even if the Democrats have 50 votes in the Senate. Senator JOE MANCHIN (DW.Va.) said he wouldn’t vote to scrap the filibuster, so most of the bills would still need 60 votes.
But if Senator CHUCK SCHUMER becomes majority leader, Boxer believes Biden could convince enough Republicans to choose his path to pass at least some laws.
“I’ve worked with Joe for many years and he’s very convincing,” she said.
Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) speaks to a crowd during a campaign rally at the downtown park on December 29, 2020 in Woodstock, Georgia. | Jessica McGowan / Getty Images
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At his beach house in Rehoboth, Del.
Meeting with advisors after the transition.
With the center for the change of president
Which of these elected presidents – ABRAHAM LINCOLN, HERBERT HOOVER, FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT and / or JOHN F. KENNEDY – were the targets of assassinations during their transitions?
(Read to the end for the answer.)
RESCUE MISSION – United Airlines urges the Biden transition team to establish a White House task force to safely restore air traffic, reports SAM MINTZ, urging the in-depth administration to lead the way in taking on the pandemic-ravaged parts of an industry.
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GARLAND RECUSAL WATCH – A recent series of denials from DC Circuit Court Judge MERRICK GARLAND fueled the discussion that he remains a leading candidate for Biden’s Attorney General. According to JOSH GERSTEIN, an asterisk on a mandate from a three-judge DC Circuit panel issued Tuesday – an offer to block new Trump administrative rules that force hospital price data to be published – indicated that Garland was getting out of hand withdrew from the case. His absence came as a bit of a surprise as he heard arguments on the case as early as October.
A review of DC Circuit records reveals that Garland also stepped down in an order passed last week in which a Native American tribe is suing Treasury Secretary STEVEN MNUCHIN over a dispute over the funding of the CARES Act. Garland participated in oral arguments on December 4th in this case, but now appears to have used again.
And back on December 10, Garland withdrew from a life or death argument that resulted in two federal prisoners being executed. The court split 5-4 in its decision and denied postponing the executions. This paved the way for the government to execute the two men – a punishment that was carried out by lethal injections later that week.
A DC Circuit spokesman did not respond to messages asking for comment on the denials, but a Garland court ruling last year could provide clues. The court sentenced a military judge for looking for a job as an immigration judge with the Justice Department while he was ruling on applications in a military court in Guantánamo.
Garland recently joined at least one decision in civil proceedings against private parties. This suggests that he may have concluded that ethics and optics dictate that he should stay away from cases where the federal government is involved until the president-elect officially makes his election for the AG.
Biden’s interim officials confirmed on Wednesday that the president-elect did not plan to make any further cabinet announcements until after the new year.
MEANING IN THE PENTAGON: Biden will appoint KATHLEEN HICKS, a former Pentagon official under President BARACK OBAMA, as Deputy Secretary of Defense, reports LARA SELIGMAN. Hicks has been the rumored leader for the Pentagon # 2 job for months. She would be the first woman to hold the job. (MICHÈLE FLOURNOY was Minister of Defense for Politics.)
Biden has also chosen COLIN KAHL, another former Pentagon official who later served as vice president as national security advisor to Biden, to take on Flournoy’s old job.
… AND IN THE WHITE HOUSE: Biden’s team also announced 27 additional White House employees. Among the notable names: JESSICA HERTZ, who is currently serving as General Counsel of the transition, becomes Personnel Secretary; and KATIE PETRELIUS, who was the national finance director for the Biden campaign, will be a special assistant to the president to the president’s staff.
Hertz’s appointment as General Counsel of Transition, where she oversees the enforcement of ethics rules, has been criticized by progressives for her work as a regulatory attorney for Facebook.
Would you like to know who is in, who is out and who is still in the mix for cabinet positions? Bookmark our Biden Cabinet Tracker.
STANDOFF AT OMB – YOHANNES ABRAHAM, the executive director of the Biden transition, reiterated this afternoon what Biden said earlier this week: The Pentagon and the Bureau of Administration and Budget are not making the transition easy.
During a virtual press conference with reporters, Abraham addressed the aftermath of OMB’s alleged non-compliance by the transition team, arguing that the agency was hampering Biden’s ability to have an effective economic response to the coronavirus pandemic and its huge financial impact.
“OMB leadership’s refusal to work together fully affects our ability to identify opportunities to maximize relief for Americans during the pandemic and leaves us in the dark when it comes to Covid-related spending and critical loopholes” said Abraham.
JAKE SULLIVAN, Biden’s new national security advisor, addressed transition issues with the Pentagon on Tuesday. “In all fairness, there has been no really significant progress since the transition officers spoke to the intransigence of the division’s political leadership earlier this month,” Sullivan told NPR’s SCOTT DETROW. “Earlier this week, the Pentagon had not granted a meeting with the transition team since Dec. 18. As we speak, there are literally dozens of written requests for information pending.”
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Senator JOSH HAWLEY (R-Mo.) Pledged Wednesday to question Biden’s win in Pennsylvania and possibly other states on Jan. 6 if Congress is due to confirm the 2020 election results.
As KYLE CHENEY reports, Hawley’s announcement guarantees that both houses will be forced to debate the results of at least one state and vote on whether to accept Biden’s victory, a process that McConnell urgently avoided for Republicans.
It’s up to Marty Walsh or Julie Su as the Labor Secretary (Bloomberg Law)
Biden Asks Democratic Senators To Recommend Forensic Candidates (HuffPost)
Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge supports Mayorkas (The Wall Street Journal)
Biden will inherit huge backlog of Afghan Iraqi interpreters awaiting US visas (The Washington Post)
Kathleen Hicks, Biden’s election as assistant secretary of defense, explained how to cut defense spending earlier this year (Foreign Affairs)
It’s a little late for Oppo on Biden himself – he was elected almost two months ago! – but we couldn’t resist discovering this passage from “What It Takes”, RICHARD BEN CRAMER’s beloved book about the 1988 presidential campaign. At the time, Biden could be found in the Senate gym for hours every day, Cramer writes:
“Well, actually, you couldn’t find him – that was the point. No staff, no outsiders allowed. Joe’s schedule said at least once a day, usually twice, “staff time,” and that meant fitness time. Somehow he had to blow [off steam].
TRANSITIONAL TRIVIA ANSWER:
All of them. You can wrap up this grim year by reading about each assassination attempt that failed.
CORRECTION: The newsletter has been corrected to reflect the fact that Zell Miller was the last Democrat to be elected to the Senate in Georgia.