The TAKE with Rick Klein
Biden's COVID-19 relief bill is getting taken up in the Senate with no real hope of getting Republican buy-in, and with signs of restlessness about the pace of pandemic recovery. It leaves the president maneuvering with no margin for error -- literally needing every Democratic vote to advance his highest legislative priority.
Biden's message to his party, privately and publicly, is to stick together. Yet the Democrats' progressive wing is pushing an ambitious slate of bills -- impacting everything from the minimum wage to voting rights to gun control -- even while moderates seek to trim back elements of the $1.9 trillion COVID package.
In a call with Senate Democrats Tuesday, the president "noted the urgency of passing the bill to speed up vaccinations and the safe reopening of schools," according to the official White House read-out.
That focus is notable in this moment. Optimism around vaccinations is contributing to what could be a too-soon approach to dropping mask mandates and reopening businesses; "now is not the time to let up," the president warned Wednesday.
On the schools front, first lady Jill Biden -- a teacher herself -- visits Connecticut and Pennsylvania on Wednesday along with the newly confirmed education secretary, Miguel Cardona. The president is now setting a goal of vaccinations for all educators by the end of March -- an ambitious objective, and yet another deadline against which progress will be judged.
Biden now needs to navigate the inside game, in a way that will matter for the crisis that's still nowhere near over.
The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema
"We're now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May," the president said, while adding that hurdles could still exist with administering the vaccine. "It's not enough to have the vaccine supply. We need vaccinators, people who put the shots in people's arms, millions of Americans' arms," Biden said.
The president also appeared to issue a warning across the aisle by publicly reiterating the importance of mask wearing and saying, "now is not the time to let our guard down," just hours after the governors of Texas and Mississippi announced they would be dropping their states' mask mandates.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also announced that as of next Wednesday, "all businesses of any type can reopen, 100%." Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said businesses will be able to operate "at full capacity without any state-imposed rules or restrictions" as soon as Wednesday. Although the governors specify that masking and social distancing measures are still recommended across both states, their decisions to do away with pandemic-era requirements are already facing pushback from Democrats and are at odds with guidance from health experts.
"I'm hoping that the businesses, and the community, and people in Texas, the mayors, the county will rethink this. I hope the governor rethinks this," Andy Slavitt, the senior adviser for the White House's COVID-19 response team said Tuesday on CNN. "It's only a small piece of cloth that's needed, so, I don't think it affects the economy of the state."
The TIP with Meg Cunningham
Organizers looking to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California are closing in on their goal of 2 million signatures to send their recall efforts to a statewide ballot. The group has surpassed 1,825,000 signatures with days to go until their self-imposed March 10 deadline.
Recall organizers need just over 1,495,000 valid and certified signatures to send the effort to a statewide ballot, but are hoping to give themselves an extra cushion to account for signatures which will not be verified. As of early February, the state had 668,202 valid signatures out of the 1,094,457 submitted to them at that point. Joshua Spivak, a recall expert, told ABC News that he believes organizers will reach enough signatures to make it to a ballot judging by their acceptance rate so far.
"Six million people voted for Donald Trump (in California)," Spivak said. "So with one-third of those 6 million signing this petition, forgetting Democrats, forgetting independents ... there's a good chance that will get on the ballot. That is not some crazy barrier."
ONE MORE THING
Evanston, Illinois, is like a lot of American cities. The city just north of Chicago appears picturesque, updated and grand on one side -- but not far away, one can see the signs of economic and racial segregation, despite the city's proud, diverse and liberal reputation. What sets Evanston apart from other cities, however, is its groundbreaking plan to address the impact of that segregation and Black disenfranchisement: Reparations. Here's how the first U.S. city to fund reparations for Black residents is making amends. Watch "Soul of a Nation" Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. Episodes will be available on Hulu starting Wednesday.
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Wednesday morning's episode features ABC News Senior Washington reporter Devin Dwyer, who recaps Tuesday's Supreme Court oral arguments over voting rights. ABC News' Eva Pilgrim explains why Johnson & Johnson is turning to the competition to manufacture more vaccine. And ABC News' Alex Mallin tells us what we learned from FBI Director Christopher Wray's testimony on the Capitol attack. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, the authors of "Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency" talk with ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl. https://bit.ly/3oMKdUP
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