Here is a summary of the top political issues making headlines this week.
1. Biden names health team to tackle the pandemic
With covid-19 continuing to take a devastating toll across the United States, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announced a vastly experienced team of officials to be in his cabinet to tackle the pandemic.
Biden has chosen California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be the next secretary of health and human services.
Becerra, 62, is the second Hispanic Biden has named to his cabinet. He will lead the battle to curtail the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 283,000 Americans, and nearly 15 million people in the country have been diagnosed with the virus. Becerra had led the fight among the states to protest Trump administration challenges to the Affordable Care Act.
“He is also the first Latino to lead the HHS, the son of a working-class immigrant family who came from Mexico. A true public servant who has dedicated his career to the service of the people of this country,” Biden said.
Biden also appointed Dr. Rochelle Walensky as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith as the chair of his covid-19 equity task force.
Dr. Anthony Fauci will serve as chief medical adviser to the president on Covid-19 and will also continue in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
U.S. President Donald Trump has often feuded with Fauci over the handling of the pandemic, with Trump calling it the China virus and coming late to publicly backing the wearing of masks to prevent the virus’ spread.
“This trusted and accomplished team of leaders will bring the highest level of integrity, scientific rigor, and crisis-management experience to one of the toughest challenges America has ever faced — getting the pandemic under control so that the American people can get back to work, back to their lives, and back to their loved ones,” Biden said in a statement.
Fauci told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day” Monday that he had worked with all of the other members of Biden’s health team and called them “excellent choices.”
For agriculture secretary Biden wants former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack to have the job he held during the Obama administration.
Ricardo Salvador, director of food and environment for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told NPR that Vilsack “handled an impossible job well” in his previous tenure at the USDA. But Salvador says the situation now demands someone new. “If we measure what we need against what he accomplished, he falls short,” Salvador says.
Biden also said he will nominate Representative Marcia Fudge as his secretary of housing and urban, making her the second African American to be chosen for his cabinet.
c. The Cabinet Selection Process Is Veering Off Course – The American Prospect
2. Biden’s pick to lead Defense Department raises concerns
Some opposition is being voiced over U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be his defense secretary by members of his own Democratic Party.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are raising concerns that retired Army General Lloyd Austin would need to be exempted from a law intended to preserve civilian control of the military.
The rule requires a U.S. defence secretary to be seven years removed from the military.
Austin left the military in 2016 after serving for 41 years. He has been head of the Central Command, responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East. He had previously been the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
“This is becoming a trend, and I don’t like it. It is difficult to imagine voting for a Mattis waiver and not an Austin waiver,” Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, said, referring to former Marine General James Mattis, who was granted a waiver to be U.S. President Donald Trump’s first defense secretary. “I think for everybody it’s going to be hard to justify doing it for one distinguished retired general officer and not another,” Schatz told Politico.
Both the House and the Senate must approve a waiver for Austin, who would be the first African American to lead the Defense Department.
“Sometimes it takes a retired general to say no to other generals, and that may be just what Biden wants,” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote.
a. Another General at Defense? – The Wall Street Journal
b. Slotkin raises questions about retired general as Biden’s Pentagon pick – Detroit Free Press
c. Biden picks retired general Lloyd Austin to run Pentagon – Politico
e. Lloyd Austin’s qualities may have worked for him as a general, but not as defense secretary – The Washington Post
3. Even first lady has moving decisions to make
U.S. first lady Melania Trump has been busy of late with a task anyone moving has to dread a little bit: what to put in storage, what to ship and perhaps what to discard.
Or course her options are a little more upscale than the average person’s.
In Trump’s case, she will be deciding what goes to the opulent apartment in Manhattan or to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.
She will certainly have all the help she wants in the packing and shipping department.
One friend told CNN: Trump “just wants to go home.”
When she returns there, she will have to make another adjustment.
The Trumps’ Mar-a-Lago place occupies 3,000 square feet of the property’s main building. The White House is a 55,000 square foot mansion.
So, even the Trumps will be scaling back a bit in these tough economic times.
Buf Melania Trump will leave another addition to the White House before she leaves.
There is now a new tennis pavilion that “will function as both a place of leisure and gathering for future First Families,” the first lady said in a statement issued on Monday.
d. The Mar-a-Lago Club – The Trump Organization
e. About The White House – The White House
4. Supreme Court rebuffs another election appeal
U.S. President Donald Trump has long said the U.S. Supreme Court would decide the 2020 presidential election.
The bad news for him is that the court decided not to hear an appeal from a Republican Pennsylvania congressman and several others claiming legislation allowing all registered voters to cast ballots by mail violated the state’s constitution.
The Los Angeles Times reports that might be the last Trump campaign appeal as well. “Under federal election law, Dec. 8 marks the date when a state’s results are deemed to be set and final,” the paper said.
Still, Trump reportedly said during a December 2 Christmas reception that “we are trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years.”
Trump, who has not conceded the election to Democrat Joe Biden, has said he would leave the White House if the official Electoral College vote goes in Biden’s favor. Biden leads Trump 306-236 there and by more than 7 million votes in the popular tally.
December 8 was the deadline for states to certify results.
The Electoral College will meet on December 14 to cast the determining votes.
Although there is no constitutional provision or federal law requiring electors to vote in accordance with the election results in their state, electors typically vote for their state’s popular vote winner.
a. In Defense of the Electoral College – National Affairs
c. Trump: Supreme Court Should Decide Election – Newsmax
5. New York attorney general says Trump to resign to get a pardon
New York Attorney General Letitia James said she thought U.S. President Donald Trump will resign before his term ends so that now Vice President Mike Pence could assume his office and pardon him for any federal offenses that he might be charged with.
“The vast majority of legal scholars have indicated that he cannot pardon himself,” James said of Trump this week on ABC’s “The View.” “What he could do is step down and allow the vice president — Vice President Pence — to pardon him.”
“I suspect at some point in time he will step down and allow the vice president to pardon him,” she added later.
James’ office has been investigating Trump’s businesses and their connections to Deutsche Bank in a civil matter.
James also predicted on “The View” that Trump would issue pardons to his children, son-in-law, members of his administration and close associates before stepping down to be pardoned by Pence.
The New York Times reported that Trump has discussed the pre-emptive pardons with advisers, expressing fear that his successor, Joe Biden, would unjustly target them when he assumes office in January. The pardons involved Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, as well as Ivanka husband, Jared Kushner.
Fox News host Sean Hannity said Monday that Trump “needs to pardon his whole family and himself” as he goes “out the door.”
“I assume that the power of the pardon is absolute and that he should be able to pardon anybody that he wants to,” the conservative commentator said on his radio show.
Biden has stated that he will not grant such pardons after he becomes president.
e. What will Mike Pence do next after Trump’s election loss? – The Guardian
g. New York Attorney General Opens Investigation of Trump Projects – The New York Times
i. Who Has Been Pardoned by Trump So Far? – The New York Times
k. Fox News host Sean Hannity suggests Trump should pardon himself and his family – Business Insider Australia
6. More women coming to help run the House
Stephanie Bice is one of at least 26 women who will be part of the freshmen class entering the U.S. House of Representatives in January.
Bice, an Oklahoma Republican, will join 17 other Republicans and 9 Democrats at this counting in the freshmen class. Several races are yet to be decided. The record high for new women House members is 36 (35 Democrats and one Republican), set in 2019.
Women, who make up 50.52% of the U.S. population. will be at least 27% of the House and 24% of the Senate. There will be at least 36 Republican women serving in the next Congress, compared to 22 now.
“Following the record-setting 2018 midterm elections, we’ve been cautiously optimistic that we were seeing the emergence of a new normal, rather than a one-time surge. With record levels of candidates and nominees in 2020, that optimism seems justified. Early indications are that we are also likely to surpass records for officeholders,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, said
“But successes like these don’t just happen. They require the dedicated attention of parties, donors, activists, and voters, as is particularly evident from the expanded number of Republican women candidates this year. It takes hard work. And the work continues.”
With Kamala Harris leaving her Senate seat for the vice presidency come January, it will be a historic year for women in power in U.S. politics.
“For me, to see Kamala in this big position, it’s like all immigrant mothers, all Black mothers, all Asian mothers can breathe, and know that the excellence that they dream for their daughters is possible. The ceiling is now broken because somebody has broken it,” Flavia Magala, a 57-year-old voter from Jenks, Oklahoma, told Time magazine.
a. The year of the Republican woman – The Hill
d. United States – Population, Female (% Of Total) – Trading Economics
e. Sortable List of Women in the 117th Congress (January 2021-January 2023) – Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics
7. McAuliffe seeks to return to Virginia governor’s mansion
Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe wants his old job back.
He did not lose it in an election, having been governor 2014 to 2018.
Virginia and New Jersey are the only two states that do not allow governors to serve consecutive terms.
Should he win the 2021 election McAuliffe would be the first Virginia governor to serve a second term in nearly a half century.
“We have a huge opportunity to address the inequities of the past,” McAuliffe said. “But it’s going to take big, bold, proven leadership to get it done.”
His political ties are vast. He was chairman of the Democratic National Committee 2001 to 2005, co-chair of President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign and chairmen of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Virginia’s African American lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, has said she plans to run for governor as well.
a. Why Terry McAuliffe Endorsed Joe Biden – New Yorker
b. Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe Announces He Won’t Run For President – Huffington Post
8. Hunter Biden being investigated regarding taxes
Hunter Biden, whose business dealings became the focus of Republicans during his father’s presidential campaign, is being investigated for his taxes by the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware.
“I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors,” the son of President-elect Joe Biden said in a statement.
Biden’s transition office said in a statement that the president-elect “is deeply proud of my son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger.”
A New York Post story in October accused Hunter Biden of corruption regarding his work as an adviser to the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
“Nothing was unethical,” Joe Biden said of Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma. “My son has no made money from China. The only guy who has made money from China was this guy,” he said, directing his comments at U.S. President Donald Trump.