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Biden cabinet picks face GOP hurdles

Some Senate Republicans are refusing to commit to confirmation hearings or votes for Joe Biden's Cabinet picks while election challenges from President Trump and others continue to play out.

Why it matters: The foot-dragging could prevent the president-elect from having key team members in place on Day One — just six weeks from today.

"As long as there's litigation ongoing, and the election result is disputed, I do not think you will see the Senate act to confirm any nominee," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Axios.

  • Sen. Ron Johnson, who holds sway as chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said, "There's still some pretty troubling irregularities that haven't been explained."

The backdrop: Historically, a majority of a president's nominees receive hearings before the inauguration. That lets them be confirmed and get to work immediately when the newly minted president formally submits their appointment paperwork on Inauguration Day.

Speedy confirmations are especially important in the national security arena, where a president relies on his team at the Defense, State and Justice departments, as well as the FBI and CIA, to protect the country.

  • Some lawmakers, including many Republicans, argue this is even more important given the pandemic.
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is retiring in January, said today, “We don't need to lose one hour or one day in that distribution."
  • "I do believe a president is entitled to the team he wants to put together, unless they're completely off the mark, and so I'll give them a good read," Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told Axios contributor Glen Johnson on Tuesday.

Other senators disagree — because they want to challenge Biden's most controversial nominees.

  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said, "I don't really care" about the legal aspect," adding he cares more about "the problems" with Biden's pick for Defense secretary, retired General Lloyd Austin.
  • "My feeling is that when we have someone where you need to get something out, we need to have a hearing."

Timing: The Electoral College votes on Monday, but some lawmakers predict Trump's legal fight will continue.

  • The chatter comes as a growing number of House Republicans are backing an effort by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) to challenge Congress' election certification next month.
  • With the support of just a single senator — who Trump's fiercest House GOP allies are courting — Brooks could force the House and Senate to debate and vote on the challenge. That could drag out the typically ceremonial process of counting electoral college votes.
  • Johnson told Axios that while he met with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and a group of House members about this effort, he is still gathering information and hasn't committed to being that senator.

Why fears of a SPAC bubble may be overblown

The SPAC surge continues unabated, with 10 new ones formed since Wednesday morning. And that's OK.

Between the lines: There are growing concerns that retail investors are about to get rolled, with smart sponsors taking advantage of dumb money.

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Schumer says Democrats are "delighted" Ron Johnson is forcing relief bill to be read out loud

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) accused Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) of going to "ridiculous lengths" to show his opposition to a COVID relief package widely supported by the American public, after Johnson demanded that the entire 600-page bill be read on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Johnson's procedural move will likely add 10 hours to the 20 hours already allotted for debate, during which Republicans will propose amendments to force uncomfortable votes for Democrats. Schumer promised that the Senate will stay in session "no matter how long it takes" to finish voting on the $1.7 trillion rescue package.

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Why gas prices are back up

Data: EIA and FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Gas prices are hitting new post-pandemic highs across the country, but this isn't a story of America reopening. It's really just a function of the price of oil going up.

By the numbers: Gasoline cost $2.71 on average as of Monday, per the Energy Information Administration. The highest average price was $3.59 in Los Angeles, while the lowest was $2.33 in Houston.

  • All of these prices represent the highest level seen since 2019.

The big picture: The price of crude oil reflects more than half of the cost of a gallon of gasoline. (The rest is refinery costs, distribution costs, and taxes.)

  • Demand for oil has actually been declining, per the New York Fed, but supply has been falling even faster, with the result that prices have now topped $64 for a barrel of Brent crude.

What central bank digital currencies mean for crypto

Central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs,represent the ultimate ratification of digital finance: Its adoption by the most venerated guardians of the international monetary architecture.

Why it matters: Crypto-evangelists often talk about CBDCs in awed terms. But it's far from clear that the bitcoin-and-ethereum crowd would ultimately benefit from money going digital.

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Capitol Police asks for National Guard to stay on-site for two more months

U.S. Capitol Police on Thursday asked that the National Guard remain on-site for an additional 60 days due to ongoing security concerns surrounding the building, AP reports.

Why it matters: While many lawmakers are eager for security measures surrounding the Capitol — including fencing and an increased law enforcement presence — to be lightened, the request by Capitol Police reflects concerns about ongoing threats.

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Americans increasingly see China as an enemy

One in three Americans, and a majority of Republicans, now view China as an enemy of the United States, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

By the numbers: Just 9% of Americans consider China a "partner," while 55% see Beijing as a "competitor" and 34% as an "enemy."

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Leaked government documents spotlight Biden's child migrant dilemma

Fresh internal documents from the Department of Health and Human Services show how quickly the number of child migrants crossing the border is overwhelming the administration's stretched resources.

Driving the news: In the week ending March 1, the Border Patrol referred to HHS custody an average of 321 children per day, according to documents obtained by Axios. That's up from a weekly average of 203 in late January and early February — and just 47 per day during the first week of January.

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Mounting emissions data paints bleak picture on Paris climate goals

Researchers keep finding new ways to reveal that nations are together showing very few signs of getting on track to meet the Paris Agreement's goals.

One big question: That's whether a spate of recent analyses to that effect, and scientific reports coming later this year, will move the needle on meaningful new policies (not just targets).

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