The Note: Biden turns to insiders, but COVID relief will have to wait

The insiders are out of power another seven weeks amid a spiraling pandemic.

December 1, 2020, 5:59 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

President-elect Joe Biden is rolling out a team meant not to inspire so much as bring confidence -- or at least suggest competence.

But the insiders are still out of power for another seven weeks. They will inherit complicated political calculations that leave lawmakers essentially paralyzed amid a spiraling pandemic and a possible government shutdown.

Biden and on Tuesday will introduce a group of economic advisers, led by his treasury nominee, Janet Yellen, and would-be Office of Management and Budget director, Neera Tanden. President Donald Trump's fading chances of upending the election results are mostly background noise now, his promises of further legal action not slowing state certifications, with the transition in full swing.

PHOTO: President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet announcement event in Wilmington, Delaware, Nov. 24, 2020.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet announcement event in Wilmington, Delaware, Nov. 24, 2020.
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Back in Washington, though, dynamics that predate Trump and will outlast him leave little hope for major COVID-19 relief in the lame-duck session.

Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer say they want a bill, as does House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Trump, at times, agrees with the need to act, as the economy suffers and plans a roll out for testing and vaccination distribution.

But with COVID-19 raging even among members of Congress, many of the main legislative players are barely on speaking terms, to say nothing of negotiating. Meaningful input from the president is lacking -- not that it would even necessarily be productive at this stage.

The team Biden has assembled will have its work cut out for it. There's little to suggest Congress will make their jobs any easier come January.

The RUNDOWN with Benjamin Siegel

Facing progressive calls for an inclusive administration, but a narrowly divided Senate that will review his nominees, Biden continues to walk a fine line as he fills out his White House and Cabinet, primarily naming longtime allies or Washington fixtures with relationships across the Democratic Party and both sides of the aisle. 

"The Biden team did a good job of picking folks who have not alienated the left," Democratic strategist Rebecca Katz told ABC News. 

While Biden's earliest picks are defined by their deep Washington experience, Yellen and economists Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey, who will join the Council of Economic Advisers, have all been praised by leading progressive activists and lawmakers. 

PHOTO: Neera Tanden, president of Center for American Progress, speaks during an introduction for New Start New Jersey at NJIT in Newark, N.J., Nov. 10, 2014.
Neera Tanden, president of Center for American Progress, speaks during an introduction for New Start New Jersey at NJIT in Newark, N.J., Nov. 10, 2014.
Mel Evans/AP, FILE

Republicans have offered few specific policy critiques that could derail the nominations of Yellen and other key nominees. Tanden, a former Hillary Clinton aide and Biden's choice to lead the OMB, has emerged as the most controversial pick to date, as Republicans who will likely control the Senate next year criticized her "partisan" Twitter account, which features broadsides against GOP leaders, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressives. 

Biden's work isn't finished.  He has not put forward a pick to lead the Defense Department, along with several other key posts. Michele Flournoy, a leading candidate to run the Pentagon, has been criticized by progressives for her ties to defense contractors, while ABC News contributor Rahm Emanuel, a favored pick for transportation secretary, has been criticized for his response as Chicago mayor to the 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager killed by a police officer.  

How he handles the outstanding selections could determine how effective his administration will be at uniting Democrats around his agenda next year. 

The TIP with Quinn Scanlan

When Trump and Vice President Mike Pence come to Georgia later this week to stump for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, they'll be doing so against a backdrop of defiance from two of the state's top Republican officials.

After the president wondered aloud on Twitter why Gov. Brian Kemp wasn't using his "emergency powers ... to overrule his obstinate Secretary of State," and require signatures accompanying absentee ballots to be verified again, a spokesperson for Kemp -- whom Trump said Sunday he was "ashamed" to have endorsed in 2018 -- issued a statement saying that the governor is prohibited from getting involved in elections and that his executive orders can't override the state's top election official.

PHOTO: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger gives an update on the state of the election and ballot count during a news conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Nov. 6, 2020.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger gives an update on the state of the election and ballot count during a news conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Nov. 6, 2020.
Dustin Chambers/Reuters, FILE

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger again defended the integrity of the general election, as he faces near-daily attacks from the president and other Republicans making unsubstantiated claims that widespread voter fraud is the reason Trump lost in the Peach State.

"Once this recount is complete, everyone in Georgia will be able to have even more confidence in the results of our elections, despite the massive amounts of misinformation that is being spread by dishonest actors," Raffensperger said Monday. "There are those who are exploiting the emotions of many Trump supporters with fantastic claims, half-truths, misinformation -- and frankly, they're misleading the president, as well." 

Gabriel Sterling, one of the secretary's top deputies, also blasted two lawsuits brought by Trump-friendly attorneys, saying, "The ridiculous things -- claims in these lawsuits are just that, they're insanity. It's fever dream, made up, internet cabal."

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News' Bob Woodruff, who takes us behind the scenes at Operation Warp Speed as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention holds a vaccine prioritization vote Tuesday. ABC News Chief National Correspondent Matt Gutman explains how California and Florida are taking vastly different approaches to coronavirus restrictions. And ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce tees up key Senate battles to come as President-elect Joe Biden announces his economic team. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

FiveThirtyEight's Politics podcast. President-elect Joe Biden's 2020 electoral map was ultimately a pretty good one for Democrats. While several states may have been closer than Democrats would have liked, Biden won back the "blue wall" states in the Upper Midwest and expanded Democrats' map in the Sun Belt. He also won a record breaking 80 million votes nationally. Democrats down-ballot can't quite say the same, though. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses the challenges that the party faced in House, Senate and state legislature races. They also ask whether it was a good use of polling to survey preferences for the 2024 Republican primary before Trump has even left the White House. https://53eig.ht/3moFJDb

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will appear before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs to give a report on the CARES Act at 10 a.m.
  • Vice President Mike Pence leads a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 3 p.m.
  • President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will each receive the Presidential Daily Briefing. Later, they will introduce their nominees and appointees to key economic policy posts in Wilmington, Delaware.
  • The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) will honor National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore at 8 p.m. in a virtual ceremony.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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